With President Obama delivering the annual State of the Union address last night, I figured this would be the best time to deliver my Sports State of the Union. I am going to be strict on the state of sports in 2012, so if it isn’t all good news and high-fives, you’ll have to excuse me. And if you disagree with anything I say, leave me a note and tell me why.
Here we go … there better be a standing ovation at the end of each of my points.
The State of the Sports Union is not very strong. We live in a country that is absolutely infatuated with sports, and seemingly everyone — man or woman, child or adult — has at least one team that they support, no matter what. Yet it seems every time I turn on my television, there is a sporting event being played in a half-empty stadium.
Major League Baseball, once the nation’s pastime, seems to be more of a punchline during the long, hot summers. The Florida Marlins play in front of less than 10,000 fans on a regular basis, and only the most die-hard baseball cities regularly sell out their games. Either the stadiums are too big or tickets are too expensive these days. Or maybe there’s too many games. Whatever the reason, it’s sad to see empty baseball stadiums.
College football is marred with scandal these days. Let’s not mention the Jerry Sandusky issues, because that was not directly related to college football even though it was a football coach and the allegations occurred in a locker room. I’m talking about the dirtiness of the sport these days — multiple programs are under investigation or are currently being punished for improper benefits or other rules being broken. The NCAA has no idea how they’ll clean up the problems, but there’s always the option of paying the players. And don’t even get me started on the problem of schools jumping from conference to conference.
College basketball isn’t much better. The scandals don’t seem to be as rampant, but the sport is slowly being destroyed by players being forced to come to college for one year before they can declare for the NBA Draft. All these one-and-dones are killing the image of a team building toward something after years of jelling. Instead, the best teams seem to be reloading every year because they have to. Imagine if players like LeBron James and Derrick Rose had to attend college for four years? NCAA Basketball would be so great.
The NBA is a race to establish four or five “super teams.” Every superstar seems to have some grand plan to team up with one or two other superstars in a major media market to win a championship the easy way. It worked with Kobe and Shaq in the 2000s. It hasn’t worked yet for the Miami Heat, but I’m sure it will. You have Chris Paul and Blake Griffin with the L.A. Clippers. Amare Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony with the Knicks. Will Dwight Howard be joining any of those duos? Who cares! Meanwhile, you have about 18 franchises playing in front of virtually nobody, because they know they have no chance at landing one of these superstars or winning anything worthwhile. Wasn’t the lockout supposed to put a stop to that? Who knows.
American soccer is on the rise, but until USA Soccer makes a move in a World Cup, I fear there won’t be much attention from the American sports fan. Hockey is still in trouble, except for the traditional hockey towns. American tennis is also not looking great. Just look at how few Americans are left in the Australian Open — this country needs a star that’s more like Pete Sampras and less like the whiny Serena Williams, who threatens umpires and line judges, sometimes with violence. What a role model for the young boys and girls of the nation.
OK, I saved the best for last — the NFL. There’s little doubt about what sport is king in America these days; all you have to do is look at nearly all of the jam-packed stadiums on Sundays to know that pro football is this nation’s passion in 2012. Even after a long lockout over the summer, the fans all came back to the NFL immediately. And why wouldn’t they? It’s the best sport on the planet.
These are our sports leagues. Clearly, some of them need to step their game up.