The League

Jim McCormick
Blitz Magazine Publisher

Jim McCormick

The editor and publisher of Blitz Magazine

Baseball Is History and History Is Passé

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Sports are defined by eras -- points throughout history where lasting shifts occur that change the nature of a league or a sport.

The NFL, for instance, only became a nationwide league after the '70 merger. Television, NFL Films, free agency, the spread and fantasy football have all augmented the landscape of the game as well. While there have been some hiccups during the development of the NFL, such as the '87 strike, it's clear that the league's milestones have all had an overwhelmingly positive affect on the sport.

Baseball, more than any other American sport, is defined by its time-line. From the days of "Inside Baseball" and the Dead Ball-era to Ruth's Ruthian feats and into World War II, when we saw the Star-Spangled Banner emerge as an enduring pregame ritual, the maturation of professional baseball has long been tied to the country's growth as well. Few can name the first African American NBA, NFL or NHL player, or even the first senator. But Jackie Robinson? We were all intimately familiar with his story as early as elementary school. Baseball's history is taught in history class.

While professional football has enjoyed some historic moments, it's not the history of the sport that we hold sacred, as our love affair with the NFL is a relatively modern advent. NFL franchises, with few exceptions, simply aren't rich in history. And those that are -- the Packers, for example -- can only hearken back as far as the 50's to celebrate their legacy. In MLB, though, we find that nearly every longstanding franchise has some defining historic moments and characters that continue to play a role in the climate of that team. Most Phillies fans know who Richie Ashburn was and are familiar with the collapse of '64, but I'd assume that few Eagles fans could tell you much about Norm Van Brocklin or the team's three championships to close out the '50s.

The explanation, then, for the vast difference in the public perception of performance enhancing drugs that we see between MLB and the NFL is the vast difference in the quality and foresight of their curators.

From Pete Rozelle to Paul Tagliabue and now Roger Goodell the NFL has been deftly managed and crafted over the past 40 years into the most dominant presence in professional sports. The NFL was born playing catch-up with baseball, and has since passed it thanks to their progressive and proactive approach. Baseball, for whatever number of reasons, has for far too long rested on their laurels. The powers that be in baseball have taken advantage of their incredible historic capital and this modern steroids era is the result. Baseball, like our current economy, has been run as an institution that thought itself impervious to decay and decline.

The complacency of MLB and their extreme aversion to self-evaluation and modernization has left the sport grasping for legitimacy. The difference in perception between the two leagues in terms of PEDs is equal to the difference in the ways that the two leagues handled their emergence. The NFL early on instituted an effective drug policy, or at least it's been effective in satisfying the fans. Baseball, though, the ultimate era sport, allowed steroids to resuscitate the game after the 1994 lockout paused the league's progress.

Simply put, the NFL never allowed performance enhancing drugs to define the game for any extended period of time, therefore we don't find that steroids are a defining element of the sport. Baseball, sadly, sat back and tried to reap the rewards of what was an obviously tainted era and are now subject to our disdain and distrust of their product.

By Jim McCormick  |  February 9, 2009; 2:36 PM ET  | Category:  Green Bay Packers , Medical , NFL , Philadelphia Eagles , Steroids Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Some interesting thoughts here - yes, there are notable differences between the cultures of the two sports and their historical roots.

I don't know about the relative presence of drugs between the two sports, but here is one difference that is very notable - all the hot dogging and ridiculous acting out on the field that is rampant in the NFL. What a bunch of clowns! What has that to do with sportsmanship?

Baseball has kept much of that out of their realm, but nevertheless it is increasing.

I suppose that I am naive. I was brought up by a father who was an athlete and who believed in sportsmanship. Both the NFL and the MLB need to ELIMINATE the acting and get back to PLAYING the game.

Posted by: sonofbill | February 9, 2009 9:33 PM

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