MDH Off-Topic: Stop Invoking the NFL

Friday, May 22, 2009

Perhaps you have not noticed, but baseball tends to have an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the NFL (Okay, there's no way you haven't noticed that, I'm sorry for suggesting otherwise). The source of this is quite clear: Major League Baseball, once America's Pastime, makes less money and generates less interest (but more controversy), than the NFL (or "King Sport," as Greg Cote puts it fondly). Because of this inferiority complex, it is not uncommon to see baseball scribes invoke the NFL when discussing any of MLB's biggest sources of criticism. This week, on the subject of scheduling inequities as a result of interleague play, ESPN's Jayson Stark writes,

Baseball isn't the only sport with schedule inequities. The NFL is loaded with them. Just a quick for-instance: The Jets and Patriots will play 14 games against common opponents (or each other) this year. But in the other two games (that's one-eighth of the schedule, remember), the Patriots draw the Ravens and Broncos, while the Jets get the Raiders and Bengals. Have you heard one complaint about that? From anybody? So how come baseball takes all the heat?
This is not the only subject in which the NFL gets invoked as a kind of smokescreen. Whenever the subject of competitiveness comes up, many writers gladly point out that MLB has seen a higher percentage of its teams make playoffs and win championships than the NFL. In January, Steve Caimano at Dugout Central wrote:
The NFL has more parity than MLB. Really? In the last ten years there have been eight different Super Bowl winners. There have also been eight different World Series winners. In the last ten years 15 different teams have played in the Super Bowl. There have also been 15 different teams in the World Series. In the last ten years 23 different teams have played in the AFC and NFC Conference Championship games. There have also been 23 different teams in the AL and NL League Championship Series. The NFL has made it a priority to sell parity and they’ve succeeded. They would have you believe that every team has a chance to win in their league. Tell that to the fans in Kansas City, Oakland and Detroit.
Then there is the subject of steroids, of course. The NFL has seen its share of steroids problems, and sportswriters are happy to let you know. Take Hat Guy, for instance (apropos of this, Jesus do I miss FJM...):
Barry Bonds couldn’t get a contract endorsing hemorrhoid cream, but guys who tested positive in the NFL, which Bonds never did in baseball, are valued pitchmen for Nike and video games.

Can you say hypocrisy?
I get it, the NFL isn't perfect. But isn't setting the NFL up as a straw man when discussing any of MLB's numerous shortcomings a bit overdone by now? I propose we retire this practice once and for all, and move on. Who's with me?


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