Football mania

At the beginning of football season, here’s my rant.

Since I’m always one to take a 180 degree position—just to stir things up—why don’t we consider putting less emphasis on sports in this country?

It’s not like we don’t have a lot of things that are much more interesting and certainly more important to discuss over our morning coffee.

In New Orleans, which used to be a ho-hum sports market pre-Saints Super Bowl win (and I admit, that was a great thing for New Orleans), we had the usual enthusiasm for our football team. It took a lot of marketing dollars and PR for us to say “I’m in” to keep the Hornets from leaving the city. But now, football mania rules in New Orleans.

Football frenzy is now almost similar to the total bonkers insanity you see in cities like Baton Rouge for the LSU Tigers, or in all those little towns spread across the country whose only  form of entertainment is Friday night football. I mean, really: if the highlight of your life revolves around football games, all I have to say is maybe you live in a town where there are no good restaurants, no music or nightclubs, no cultural activities, no bars, no  theaters, nothing else to do.


It’s not that I don’t like sports; I did enjoy playing sports as a kid.  When I got out of grammar school, I was more interested in intellectual pursuits. Don’t get me wrong: I think involvement in sports gives one an appreciation for team spirit and working together as a team. I think that sports also is instructive in the nature of competition and strategy. But that’s kind of where it ends for me.

Sports now is the major form of entertainment, much more than it was when I was younger. It’s an industry that generates huge bucks for its participants, mainly because there are people who have been lulled over the years into spending a lot of money on buying tickets for the events, team merch and revenue from sponsors and advertisers who will pay huge amounts of money to air sports events on major media, specifically television.

The thing that really bothers me about big sports is that we seem to be paying more attention to it (all the while enriching sports franchises) than to the impact this focus on sports has on other types of entertainment. I don’t have any statistics to prove this, but with the way the music industry’s revenues have imploded over the last 15 years, I’d venture to say that the sports industry’s revenues far exceed music’s.

The bigger issue, though, is how our sports-crazy populace, and the effort it takes to keep them focused on sports, is affecting education. I suppose this is related in large part to the undue emphasis that schools and universities place on sports. For the most part, universities with high-profile sports teams generate a lot more revenue from alumni than those without; this is particularly true for public universities. I think it’s shameful for universities to bolster their sports presence at the expense of having to cut faculty and staff and programming. What does this say about where our priorities are?

It’s just crazy. Sports is, in effect, dumbing us all down.

I listen to NPR ‘s Frank DeFord’s opinion on sports and he said something interesting this morning that made me think my thinking might not be so contrary after all:

“All of this is being done for the big networks, who will pay big for the rights to air football games. This, at a time when studies continue to show that headball, uh, football, is dangerous to your mind, and that boys are falling behind girls in almost every academic measure, and that the United States is plummeting in college rankings around the world. Maybe what we should do is not try to export democracy, but, instead, export college football conferences, thereby diverting other nations’ interest in higher education to higher football, like here in the United States — or, as I call it in football season: the Big United States.”

Read the entire column here.

At minimum, why don’t we require that a minimum amount of revenue and taxes be returned to our educational system (not the athletics departments, not into programs that are going to produce more sports fanatics), so that we can produce some more well-rounded citizens of this planet?