I’ve been a sports fan for nearly all my life. I’ve avidly followed all 4 major professional sports teams in my city, and even some of the minor ones … and believe me when I say that it’s really tough to be a fan of any of the Philadelphia sports teams, especially considering that none of them have brought the city a championship since 1983 – probably a topic for another blog post.
What I’m really concerned about is the “health” of the “big 4.” Think about it – each of them has had to deal with some sort of hardship or scandal over the past few years.
• Major League Baseball has been wrestling with the steroid/human performance enhancing drug situation – a problem that has jeopardized the integrity of the entire sport, a sport that relies heavily on stats and “magical” legendary numbers. Thanks to such players as Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, Barry Bonds, and even Roger Clemons, not to mention the implicit encouragement by the league in the 1990’s, it’s hard to take the numbers and stats seriously anymore, let alone root for the “big-name” players without openly wondering how long they’ve been juicing up.
• The NFL has been struggling with the whole “Spygate” scandal in recent months, prompting many to wonder out loud if the New England Patriots ever legitimately won their three Super Bowls this decade. A potential government investigation could blow the roof off of this (probably not, though), but fans still have lost some faith in the game.
• Basketball is also dealing with integrity issues, as the NBA is in a struggle with a former basketball referee over an alleged gambling scandal. Just a few days ago, a particularly damaging story surfaced about the possibility of a few playoff games being “fixed” by NBA officials. Thankfully, the Sixers sucked in those years, so it didn’t affect the Philly team as much.
• The NHL emerged from a lockout a few years ago, and chose to sign a contract with a fringe “sports” network that many Americans are unable to even get on their cable systems. The league is dangerously close to becoming irrelevant, and expansion into cities where ice is only found in cold drinks has done its part in eroding the league’s “legendary” status.
Sadly, “sports” like NASCAR and the World Series of Poker have benefitted from this. Heck, even horse racing has grown in popularity in recent years. So, my question is – what needs to be done? Does the government need to take a closer look? Is there room for competition from upstart leagues the answer? Does anybody really care?