Do you remember which sport dominated the turn of the 20th century? Polo, surprisingly enough. Of course, boxing was around, too. After polo faded away, boxing ascended. Once upon a time the heavyweight champion of the world was an international celebrity. Nowadays, you’d be hard pressed to find a soul outside of Las Vegas to name a single heavyweight contender.
Boxing gave way to baseball. Baseball, which strikes me as a relic of another time, hit its stride during America’s postwar boom. All of our parents obsess over that boring sport because it was all they knew as kids.
Then at some point in the 80’s football took its place as the king of the hill. There is no question that the NFL, National Football League, is the dominant professional sport in the US. Look at their revenue streams compared to the other leagues. Check this out from http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1707663-nfl-is-the-most-popular-sports-league-in-the-usa-really-too-big-to-fail:
For now, the National Football League is doing quite well. The league brings in an annual revenue of $9.5 billion. To put that number into perspective, Major League Baseball, the second-highest grossing league in the USA, had an annual revenue of $7 billion in 2012 and the NFL more than doubles the National Basketball Association and their revenue of “just” $4 billion (h/t CNN Money).
If you’re about 40 years old or younger, then you likely only remember a world in which the NFL is king.
That being said, all empires fall eventually. Once upon a time people thought it was crazy to think that boxing would fall. Yet, there it lies in its own crapitude in the gutters of Las Vegas. The corporate world is the same. There were generations of people who thought that GM, PanAm, and other industry giants were immortal. You may remember GM’s bankruptcy in 2008. You may not remember PanAm at all.
The first defect in the NFL’s pads may be the ongoing revelations coming out of the concussion scandal that the league can’t seem to juke. In short, there is a growing amount of evidence that football generates so many severe concussions that men face early dementia and drastically reduced life expectancies. Cynics can laugh and say, “Well, duh, it’s a contact sport.”
Media affects decisions. Call it propaganda. Call it marketing. Your free will is largely influenced by the words of those with the biggest megaphones. The NFL stands tall because it has the best athletes in the world. Its athletes are the fastest and strongest in any sport. Many of them could easily play another sport professionally but chose to go with football for whatever reason.
Imagine a world where parents funnel their children into other sports at the peewee level. All it takes is a few of the best athletes to venture into basketball, baseball, or even soccer and then the NFL loses some of its glamour. If the best are somewhere else, then the NFL’s quality of play will drop. At first, the drop will be insignificant. After a while people will question why the old records never get broken anymore.
Competing in the NFL is like being a Jedi. You have to be trained from a very young age in order to stand a chance. It’s a hyper-specialized game in which the only winners are those who master a narrow band of skills like a monk. If parents decline to enroll their children in that intensity of training, then the sport will suffer in the long run.
So, what will replace the NFL? Is it finally time for the reign of soccer? Or the return of baseball? The answer is potentially nothing. There may not be anything out there to replace the NFL. Today’s entertainment landscape is radically different from 30 years ago. Tonight you have the ability to go home and watch TV and movies on demand from the comfort of your home. Or you can play one of thousands of video games.
Sports compete for your dollars. If you’re spending your dollars on comics, then you’re not spending them on movies. If you purchase a boat then you’re not purchasing tickets to Europe. Except for the very wealthy, there are always tradeoffs. So, since we live in a world saturated with entertainment, the demise of the NFL may not lead to another king. We may simply see the emergence of greater stratification in the entertainment industry.