Could baseball re-emerge as our national pastime? Doesn’t seem possible with the NFL brass predicting their game could take in 20 BILLION a year by the time the new 10-year labor deal expires.

And it sure doesn’t feel possible in our town as the Orioles stagger to their 14th straight losing season playing before 30-thousand empty seats on most nights. Across the parking lot Purple Passion, a sold out stadium and a Ravens team expecting to get into the playoffs for a fourth straight year.

Despite all the numbers that tell us that football owns the American sports landscape the Golden Goose’s long range future has some serious issues.

Lets start with player safety, specifically head injuries. Today’s players are bigger, faster and stronger than ever. Seldom playing on grass the NFL’s artificial surface’s make the game faster and the collisions have never been more violent and damaging.

In September 2009, a study commissioned by the NFL reported that Alzheimer’s disease or similar memory-related diseases appear to have been diagnosed in the league’s former players vastly more often than in the national population — including a rate of 19 times the normal rate for men ages 30 through 49. This is the same NFL that would prefer cracking heads 18 times a year instead of 16.

Is this something you’d want to sign your kids up for? When I was growing up a lot of Mothers had to be talked into letting their son’s play football. As we learn more about head trauma there will be a lot of Fathers who may not want this risk for their son’s.
And if young boys don’t play football they are less likely to be fan’s of the game.

I’ve also heard from a lot of fans who say they won’t take their kids to Ravens games because of the environment. Excessive drinking, off-color language, and fist fights sadly have become part of the “game experience.”

I understand there’s a worst segment aspect at work here as we saw with the shootings following the 49ers and Raiders game and the You Tube video in Baltimore with Ravens jersey clad fans slugging it out in the M&T Bank concourse Friday night.

How many times do you need to pay 40 bucks to park the car, have the know-it-all sitting behind spill a beer on a you, the woman in front jumping up for four quarters yelling “F” this and “F” that before you realize that HD-TV at home and a few people you actually like make for a better day. I get it, this isn’t Sunday school but the NFL has to do a better job to control the environment.

Then there’s the disconnect between the league and the fans who love the game and pay the freight. With so many families battling lay-offs, cut-backs and getting by with less ticket prices continue to go up.

Doesn’t matter how bad the economy gets, every two years you can count on paying more to watch your favorite NFL team. They call it staying competitive, I call it excessive.

They can do it because so many of us love NFL Sunday’s and Monday’s and Thursday’s and some Saturday’s. The Networks will continue to pump Billions into the NFL because they know it gets the nations eyeballs.

The NFL will continue to own the American Sports public but the shield isn’t bulletproof. Player safety and taking fans for granted could challenge the Golden Goose.


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