World Series magic spotlights NFL's lost luster

predicting world series three years early reiter astros_00000825
predicting world series three years early reiter astros_00000825

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Story highlights

  • Mike Downey: Amid a magical World Series, I am one of lots of fans who are loving baseball and leaving football
  • From concussions to protests to obnoxious owners, the NFL is losing out to the new spring in the step of America's national pastime, Downey writes

Mike Downey is a former Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune columnist and a frequent contributor to CNN. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his.

(CNN)I don't know how folks feel in YOUR house, in front of YOUR wall-to-wall television screen, but right now there are a whole lot of sports fans out there -- I am among them -- loving baseball and leaving football.

With a madcap, magnificent World Series coming to a climax Wednesday night with a winner-take-all, November-to-remember Game 7 between the Houston Astros and Los Angeles Dodgers, baseball once again seems more than ever like the game that became America's "national pastime" -- heroics, human error, slugfests, strategy, an 18-man chess match.
Mike Downey
And then there's football.
    Concussions. Protests. Obnoxious owners.
    I don't know about you, but that's what has me changing the channel.
    In recent years, baseball seemed on the outs. Football was the challenger turned champion, the new national pastime. Baseball was too slow, had too many games. Football was only once a week, ha ha ha.
    Little did they know how we'd soon be footballed out. As the greed grew, they even tried to stuff Thursday Night Football down our throats like pie after turkey with cranberry sauce -- come on, have some more! There's plenty! Including a bold attempt to make us watch (or find) something called The NFL Network to see some of those midweek yawners.
    I am tired of watching young, physically fit men being carried off football fields, limbs broken into pieces, skulls rung like bells. I am tired of reading about older men, former players, experiencing dementia, donating their brains to science so that future generations of football players can judge for themselves whether they care to place their lives at risk to score or block six points.
    Aren't you sick of this carnage? I sure am.
    I also am tired of a football stadium being a forum for social protest and political posturing, creating rifts between playing performers and paying customers, dividing fans who can't distinguish a complaint over racial injustice from a stand against patriotism. The fans on both sides, either for or against athletes who could choose to protest in some different fashion, are being egged on by those with more power, including world leaders who spin the circumstances in their own politically convenient direction.
    Aren't you sick of the arguments? I sure am.
    Just as I am tired of NFL owners shooting off their big mouths, particularly shooting them off in Texas, like the Houston Texans' sanctimonious owner Bob McNair comparing players' behavior to "inmates running the prison," or the Dallas Cowboys' ornery owner Jerry Jones kneeling with players one week, then threatening to bench them if they do it again the next week. I am as sick of that attitude as I am of that topic.
    I am sick of it during Monday Night Football, during Thursday Night Football, during college football on Saturday morning, noon and night, during Sunday morning NFL games played in England and afternoon doubleheaders, game after game after game.
    It always makes me laugh to hear Carrie Underwood sing how she's "been waiting all day for Sunday night."
    Maybe you have, lady, but a bunch of the rest of us sure haven't. We can't wait all day for football when all we've been doing all week is watching football.
    Television ratings for football are falling. Meanwhile, Game 5 of the World Series -- whose 5.5 hour slugfest lit Twitter on fire and was widely described as "epic" -- gave a good thumping to Sunday night's NFL contest. Monday night's game between Kansas City and Denver was reportedly down 9% from the previous week's game -- and there was NO baseball game played that night.
    At a function in New York recently, even CEO of 21st Century Fox James Murdoch astutely addressed "the proliferation of football" and how omnipresent this sport now seems to be. The chairman of NBC Sports, Mark Lazarus, also was quoted in an interview about how "by the time you get to Sunday, there could be a fatigue."
    Fox and NBC are networks seriously into football, but overexposure of their product is not exactly good for business.
    Baseball isn't always easy to find on the big networks, either, no matter how many games there are. (And there are a lot.) The once-popular "game of the week" is barely a flicker now on TV compared to the NFL. Certain teams -- the Dodgers, in particular -- have become entangled in cable disputes that keep many fans from seeing them play.
    In terms of controversy, though, baseball currently has little compared to football. Baseball veterans with brain trauma? Not many. Baseball players taking a knee during national anthems? Hardly any (though, admittedly, the one Major Leaguer to do so has become a little notorious).

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    From an entertainment standpoint, all should be well with both. A thrilling 2016 World Series won by the forever-sad Chicago Cubs was followed a few months later by a thrilling Super Bowl won by the never-bad New England Patriots. I thought both acts hard to top, but this 2017 World Series has been a treat from beginning to end.
    Here's the truth: I couldn't wait for any of the games in this series to begin.
    And I couldn't tell you when or where the next football game is, or who's playing in it.