by Kevin Burton
Remember the interjection song from Schoolhouse Rock?
The song says interjections are “generally set apart from a sentence by an exclamation point, or by a comma when the feeling’s not as strong.”
Well I was feeling pretty sheepish about this, but I said the sentence “Yay! Football is back” deserved that exclamation point, even if it was only Raiders-Jaguars pre-season.
Then came a rain delay in Canton, Ohio before the start of the Hall Of Fame Game Thursday night. That divided my mood even more. That was me, clicker in hand, thinking of tuning out already. I ended up walking to my office to dig through e-mails, keeping my ears peeled for that whistle that would tell me the game had started.
I got busy with something or other and missed the first few series and the Raiders’ first field goal.
The game turned out to be mildly interesting. After further review, I ditched the exclamation mark in favor of the comma. The NFL-is-back feeling definitely was not as strong.
But there was some feeling. This was the first televised NFL product of the year and therefore highly anticipated. Raiders won 27-11, in case you missed it.
Yesterday I talked about baseball on the radio, on the occasion of the 101st anniversary of the first game to be broadcast (“Baseball And Radio, A Perfect Pairing,” Aug. 4).
I mentioned without speculation on the reasons why, that football had supplanted baseball as the favorite sport of Americans.
I think baseball is what the United States used to be, rural, measured, cerebral. I think football is what the United States is now, urban, frenetic, confrontational.
That’s a major oversimplification but I think there is a nugget of truth in there somewhere.
The concentration of the US population has trended toward urban at more or less the same time as the rise of football and the demise of baseball.
In a 2017 Gallup poll, 37 percent of Americans identified football as their favorite sport, to only 9 percent for baseball. I did not realize the gap was that wide.
Consider also, basketball registered 11 percent in that poll. Basketball being ahead of baseball was unthinkable when I was growing up.
To me, Thursday’s rain delay speaks to the differences between the two sports.
In baseball a rain delay is a chance for local announcers to talk about memories of players and championship teams of the past who we remember fondly. They can talk to coaches or the other teams’ broadcasters. The Royals have been known to trot out a tape of an interview with former manager Whitey Herzog conducted by Denny Matthews, the voice of the Royals.
The fever pitch of NFL football doesn’t do well when dampened by a weather delay. It’s just a totally different vibe.
Having said all that I am more of a football guy now. Baseball is more nostalgia to me these days.
I will watch some bottom-feeder NFL teams play a week three game in mid-September before I watch a baseball game with pennant race implications.
This was true even before I started playing fantasy football last year. Now, forget about it! It’s football every time.
Fantasy football has all the statistical intrigue that baseball used to hold for me before steroid cheats warped the baseball record books.
This week I read articles about players to watch in the Hall of Fame game. I scrolled unapologetically past all the linebackers and defensive backs reporters wrote about, looking for news about players who might be “fantasy relevant” such as Jags rookie third-string running back Snoop Conner.
Conner was playing because of injuries to the first two backs. He did a decent job, but he’s not on anybody’s fantasy draft board just yet.
More interesting was speculation that the Raiders might go to a running back by committee strategy under new head coach Josh Daniels. How much does that take away from alpha running back Josh Jacobs as a fantasy asset?
I can’t believe I even know who Jacksonville’s third-string running back is! Thing have changed for sure.
Thursday I went looking for a copy of my former favorite magazine Sports Illustrated, at a large supermarket. It was nowhere to be found.
But there were no fewer than seven different fantasy football magazines available, including one published by Inside Sports magazine, a competitor to SI.
No I did not buy seven fantasy football magazines, or even one, not because I don’t want the intel, but because I already have it, from a five-days-a-week podcast that I found last year.
So it’s one muted cheer for pre-season football, three big cheers for the regular season to come.