NFL's 500-Pound Gorilla Wants More

Professional football rules the professional sporting roost, and for good reason. With its history and iconic figures, and compelling draft and regular season, the NFL makes headlines all year. And now, the NFL is ready to devour MLB and the NBA.

The Celtics and Lakers have won more than half of the NBA's championships. So, they'll meet again this year. Yawn.

Game 1 of the NHL's championship series was aired in the purgatory that is Saturday night television. It was a highly entertaining game but the poorly run league has been mostly irrelevant since a lockout meant the cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

The Yankees, with money trees and a monster local TV contract, have bought a fair percentage of their record 27 world championships.

Yeah, the NFL is the 500-pound gorilla on the U.S. sports landscape.

And that gorilla is eager to grow his dominance.

For the first time, the NFL is going head-to-head against a prime-time World Series game, with a showdown pitting the last two champions, New Orleans and Pittsburgh, going opposite Game 4 of the World Series.

"The rationale is that ‘Sunday Night Football' has become a staple," commissioner Roger Goodell said on NFL Network on April 20. "People want to watch football for the entire season. We didn't feel like it was appropriate to take it off any more.

"We felt like it was best to continue on with that great franchise (‘SNF') every night of the season and allow the consumer to be able to choose whether they want to watch Sunday Night Football or the World Series."

Next on the NFL radar? Perhaps the NBA.

The NFL is likely to go to an 18-game regular season (and two-game preseason) as a way to smooth over labor differences with the union. That, however, doesn't mean the regular season will begin two weeks earlier.

With too many people vacationing rather than watching television during Labor Day weekend, it's almost a given that Week 1 would continue to be played the following weekend. If the 18-game schedule were to go into effect for the 2011 season, there almost certainly would be another bye to give the players' bodies some much-needed time to heal. That would push the Super Bowl back three weeks, from Feb. 5 to Feb. 26. That's the same date as the NBA All-Star Game.

The NFL has everything going for it, starting with NFL Films and its iconic treatment of Vince Lombardi and classic games like the Ice Bowl. From a smart commissioner to a compelling draft to an impactful regular season in which every game means something to the parity that gives most teams a chance to contend, it's no wonder why the NFL rules the sporting world.

The popularity of the college game has made the NFL draft a sensation and provides a rookie class filled with household names. Baseball, with a rare exception like a Stephen Strasburg, doesn't have that. Nor does basketball, with many of the best players turning pro after just one year or coming from Europe.

And the NFL is just smarter, with news filling the 12-month calendar. The Super Bowl is played in February. The Scouting Combine spans the end of February and the start of March. Free agency begins in late March. The draft is in late April. Offseason practices fill May and June. The hype for the season begins ahead of the start of training camps in late July or early August.

The NBA Finals could end on June 17, with the draft exactly one week later. That leads to a gigantic lull before the far-too-long regular season tips off in early October.

Who cares about baseball's monotonous 162-game season, especially in a league in which half of the teams enter the year with absolutely no chance of even reaching the playoffs? Free agency is fun — at least for the big-market teams — but starts shortly after the World Series, leading to baseball falling out of the headlines for a couple months.

Almost nobody cares about the NHL draft or free agency or its 82-game season.

That's why it's critical that the NFL and the NFLPA hammer out an agreement. The NFL is the biggest thing going, the ultimate reality show or television drama. If the owners and players can't end their squabble over millions upon millions upon millions of dollars, there might not be football next year.

The NFL, from Pete Rozelle to Paul Tagliabue to Goodell, has been run brilliantly. Only greed can kill the golden goose and ruin the NFL juggernaut.


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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