On Sunday November 24, 1963, the NFL decided to play a full slate of games only two days after president John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas. As the shocked country was dealing with questions it couldn’t answer, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle stated:
“It is traditional in sports for athletes to perform in times of great personal tragedy."
This decision has been the subject of debate every time there is a national tragedy and sport is put in perspective. Do they play games or not?
The past few months have seen us edge perilously close to the Fiscal Cliff, and we've been witness NFL player tragedies in Kansas City and Dallas. The inexplicable violence in Newtown, Connecticut, and Aurora, Colorado and too many other communities has stopped us in our tracks and forced a national re-examination of what places are considered safe havens in our daily lives.
Sports has often been cited as a salve for our fears, emotional pain, loss, angst, and even a cleaning-agent for the fog of war. Games, especially those played in the pros and college, often seem to be an acceptable security blanket when we don’t know where to turn for solace as a larger community.
Will there ever be a set of circumstances that take sports away from us for an extended period of time? Can there ever be a “depression” in sports similar to what has occurred in other realms of our life?
SARS or some other form of contagion could force government regulations on the size of public gatherings. Sooner or later, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) is going to run into a flu that it can’t control.
The Great Depression of 1929-33 and the Great Recession of 2007-2009 caused havoc with disposable income, which is the lifeblood of sports. We live in a time of increasing economic uncertainty where even the most brilliant economists don’t know what our future will look like, and that’s not good news for sports.
Breakdowns in common human decency in our society and our sports venues are celebrated and in many cases even rewarded with a Reality Show, Twitter bomb, and the in-your-face Youtube video. We used to subscribe to the mantra, It is what you do when nobody is looking that reveals character. Now it’s let's see what ridiculously brainless thing we can do that can get us a shot at our 15 minutes of fame, shame or blame.
The NFL is the only major North American Sports league that requires all fans to pass through metal detectors at all of its games. At many other sporting events, a stern warning from security (a pat here, a wand there), isn’t going to stop someone bent on violence.
Metal detector policy in Big Four Sports:
NBA-50% of games
MLB-0%- May include selected major events.
NHL-0%- May include selected major events.
There are 2,138 NFL retired players pursuing a class action lawsuit against the league. The language from the retired players lawsuit lays out a challenge that the NFL is taking very seriously: “The NFL, like the sport of boxing, was aware of the health risks associated with repetitive blows producing sub concussive results and the fact that some members of the NFL players population were at significant risk of developing long term brain damage and cognitive decline as a result.”
With $28 billion dollars worth of guaranteed media contracts the NFL, TV network partners, team owners and sponsors will be following this case with baited breath understanding what the financial implications of a player's victory could mean.
THE WORLD OF HYPERMEDIA
Millions of fans spend more time at games looking at their iPhones, Android communicators, and HD megavideo boards with little interaction seen from fans sitting right next to them. "I paid good money for this ticket and I can do whatever I want."
WAR ON OUR HOME TURF
The unthinkable, let’s skip this one.
It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature. Hurricanes, Tornadoes and “Hundred Year Floods” seem to be becomiing more prevalent as the rumor of global warming becomes more of a reality. On October 17,1989, the Loma Prieta Earthquake interrupted Game 3 of our Bay Bridge Series causing a 10-day interruption until the Bay Area was ready to play ball.
I’m not attempting to channel Nostradamus, but the world of sports is not impervious to the stark reality that is playing out in our everyday lives.