Earlier this week, I posed some sports-world questions that fans would seek answers to in the coming months. Obviously, several had to do with the outcome of the MLB season. Today, I want to present potentially interesting story lines for the rest of the MLB season. The reason to do that is that half of the division races are over already and will provide no drama at all. Do you realize that the Giants have been eliminated from the NF West race and have been for more than a week? And August still has a week left in it… So, consider these storylines:
- NL West: Can the Dodgers win 117 games and set an MLB record? Will both NL wildcard teams come from this division?
- NL Central: Can the Cubs make the playoffs to defend their championship this year? Even though Joey Votto plays for a bad team, will he get attention as a serious candidate for MVP?
- NL East: Could the Nats win this division if they sent their entire squad down to Triple A and brought up the Triple A guys to finish out this season?
- AL West: Can the Mariners make it as a wildcard team marking the first time they have been in the playoffs since 2001? By the way, that was the year they set the MLB record for wins in a season at 116 games.
- AL Central: Are the Indians primed for another World Series appearance? Are the Tigers in total freefall?
- AL East: Where has Rafael Devers been all year? Can Aaron Judge return to his pre-All-Star Game form? Can the last-place Blue Jays rally to be a wildcard team?
Those questions ought to hold your attention for a while…
According to a report at ESPN.com, starting in 2018, MLB will have a “universal code of conduct for fans who attend games”. This matter became an issue that got the attention of owners after the incident in Boston involving Adam Jones being the recipient of racial slurs from fans. Evidently, the owners have been discussing this code of conduct at their regular meetings since last May.
Unlike the silly move by ESPN I wrote about yesterday that reeks of political correctness, the MLB owners need to be sure that attendance at MLB games is an enjoyable experience for fans. “Enjoyable experience” cannot be defined exactly for every fan in every situation but it must contain the elements of safety/security and freedom from obnoxious behaviors. At the moment, all 30 MLB clubs have some form of a fan code of conduct; the idea here is to take the best elements of those 30 different codes and to make them into one that can apply to all the ballparks.
According to various reports, the NFL owners and Roger Goodell are closing in on a contract extension for The Commish through the end of the 2024 season. With all the controversy that accompanies most of his actions/decisions and the fact that the NFLPA is talking about a work stoppage 3 years in advance of the end of the current CBA, one might wonder how he keeps his job – let alone gets a contract extension. Here is why…
As I have tried to point out many times before, Roger Goodell’s job is to grow the NFL. He has done that very well; and by so doing, he has made the owners a ton of money. Forbes rates the Dallas Cowboys franchise to be worth $4.2B. For that reason, the owners have to like the job he has done. [Aside: He has also made the players a ton of money too. Remember that approximately half of the NFL’s national revenue goes back to the players in terms of salaries; it is that increased revenue that has mandated the increased salary cap figures for all the teams.]
The NFL is the 800-lb gorilla of entertainment in the US. The NFL provides NBC, CBS, FOX, ESPN and NFL Network with each network’s highest rated TV broadcast and has done so for several years now. That is why the networks pay the rights’ fees they do for NFL games.
Roger Goodell performs another important function for the owners. There are times when the league is the target of outrage and derision from fans or the media or the NFLPA; Goodell takes those hits for the owners and does it in a way where he does not lash out at those who are throwing rocks at him or at the league. To be sure, Goodell’s role as the league disciplinarian will be a point of contention in the upcoming CBA negotiations, but I suspect that the NFLPA would want changes in those clauses of the CBA no matter who The Commish is at the time.
To be sure, the NFL has some serious issues facing it. Roger Goodell is not the source of these problems so the owners cannot “blame him” for them. Their question should be if they believe he is capable of charting a course for the league that will resolve those problems. For example:
- CTE: Some folks say this is an existential issue for the NFL. I think that is overblown but I also think that anyone who would brush it aside as a trivial nit is a nitwit.
- “Cord-cutting”: The NFL revenue juggernaut is driven by television rights’ fees. People are now in the process of watching television differently from the ways they have done it in the past. The NFL will need to adapt how it presents its product to the public in a new environment without losing revenue in the process.
- Social-justice causes: The very nature of these causes creates tension and adversarial positions among the populace. As more players and/or coaches take up such causes, the NFL could find itself in the position of walking a fine line to avoid alienating fanbase members on both sides of such issues.
- The next CBA negotiations: With 3 years left on the current CBA, there are already noises about a “work-stoppage” and the current head of the NFLPA has said that it does not matter to him if the league is in existence 20 years from now. His focus is clearly on bettering the lot of the current players and all else is secondary.
The last point on that list deserves a bit more examination. The NFLPA needs to assure that the NFL continues to exist. If the NFL were to “go out of business”, what would happen to all those CTE payments that have been promised to former players and where would they come from for the current players who develop symptoms 15 years from now? The same goes with the health insurance benefits that the players get; many of them would pay huge premiums for health insurance on the “open market” because of injuries sustained playing football. That sort of short-sightedness might be dismissed as nothing but rhetoric; all I can say is that it had better be.
The other issue about the upcoming CBA negotiations is the willingness of the players to be talking about a “work-stoppage” already. I am old enough to remember the last time the players walked out; the NFL responded with “replacement players” and those games were painful to watch. Even when the “real players” returned, it was clear that some of them had not maintained themselves in “football shape”; it was not a fun season. Fans also witnessed the infamous “replacement refs” in 2012. No one wants to see “replacements” – – call them the junior varsity – – on display again.
Finally, here is a comment from Brad Rock in the Deseret News from a while back:
“Mike Gundy, the Oklahoma State football coach who made himself famous with his ‘I’m a man! I’m 40!’ rant turns 50 on Aug. 12.
“Gundy’s new slogan: ‘I’m AARP-eligible! I’m 50!’”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………