When I periodically express disdain for sports other than football, I’m not kidding about it.
I followed baseball religiously when I was a kid, listening to Bob Prince calling games via transistor radio onto which my grandpa periodically sprayed tobacco juice while aiming for the makeshift spittoon that was in reality an upright Tupperware container with a paper towel saturated by the stuff that didn’t otherwise didn’t land on the ground. Or my shoes.
After Sid Bream time-traveled from second base on a routine single to cap Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS, I knew in my heart that the Pirates wouldn’t be worth a damn again in my lifetime.
So far, I’m right.
I’ve never really liked basketball, either. Playing it can be fun, as long as no one all that, you know, good shows up at the gym. My dad told me when I was five that watching more than the last four minutes of a basketball game is a complete waste of time, and it’s the only thing he ever told me with which I agreed unequivocally at the time he said it.
Hockey, I like. But only in the playoffs, and only if the Penguins are still alive.
Then there are the other supposedly “major” sports. Soccer, boxing, and that relatively new full-contact sport which best can be described as pro wrestling that isn’t fake.
I watched it once. And one phrase kept coming to mind.
“Dude, get a room.”
But, hey, plenty of people watch it, and plenty of people love it. They are the modern day gladiators, with a system for victory far less subtle than the obtuse points system characterizing a “sweet science” that never was a science, and that no longer is particularly sweet.
Still, we can’t imagine UFC ever attracting the kind of widespread, mainstream, all-encompassing popularity and attention the NFL enjoys.
That isn’t stopping the guy who runs the sport from making like Vince McMahon.
“When you look at the world of
sports right now, nothing in this country is bigger than the NFL,”
UFC president Dana White said, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “There was always that big argument whether baseball was
bigger than football or whatever. There’s no argument. The NFL is huge.
I don’t [care] if you didn’t watch one football game all season,
everybody watches the Super Bowl.
“But I know for a fact — I don’t think — that we’re going to be the biggest sport in the world.”
Really? Bigger than football in the “U.S. and A.“? Bigger than futbol in the rest of the world?
White simply thinks that the NFL will never establish itself in other countries, and that UFC already has.
“The NFL has been spending billions
of dollars trying to break into other countries, and it’s not
happening,” White said. “You know why? Because nobody [cares] about football in other
countries. They didn’t grow up playing it, they don’t understand the
rules, and they’re not invested in the teams.“
Though White claims he’s not trying to come off as a promoter (fail) or a lunatic (semi-fail), few if any businesses reach their full potential with a captain who dabbles in such overt promotion and/or semi-lunacy. The connection between the leader’s oversized personality and the ultimate ceiling on the sport’s growth might not be obvious or linear; but the reality is that a guy who would be so foolish as to publicly challenge Goliath to a slingshot-free cage match will, eventually, say, do, or fail to do something that will necessarily put a finite limit on the success of the endeavor.
Think of it this way — pro football became America’s true pastime without loudmouthed personalities challenging baseball to a duel or proclaiming that the sport will take over the known universe. And the same wisdom reflected by that deliberate, discreet approach helped gradually position the NFL to become what it is today.
So, basically, the chances of UFC trumping the NFL in my lifetime are slightly less than the chances of yours truly riding the Buccos’ bandwagon again in anything other than an urn.