As the saying goes, nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. Can the same be applied to sports? Do all sports have a certain shelf life? The games of the Roman gladiators are long gone. Try to find a chariot race or a joust these days. But are any current sports on the cusp of dying? Here is a look at three top contenders:
The call for a ban on the boxing has existed just about as long as the sport itself. Too barbaric, opponents have long cried. More recently, many have predicted the eventual death of the sport without a ban even being necessary. Indeed, the popularity of boxing has declined massively in the last thirty years. It has become a niche sport. A few weeks ago, one of the biggest matchups of the year – Canelo Alvarez versus Sergey Kovalev – was put on hold until well after midnight on the East Coast so that viewers could enjoy the conclusion of UFC 244. Suddenly, by being pushed aside by a fringe sport, boxing fans realized theirs was a fringe sport.
America’s original pastime is in trouble. The main culprit is the length of the games, which is further complicated by the dwindling attention span of today’s iPhone-obsessed young fans. But baseball has many other problems. It still suffers from a lack of trust after the PED scandal erupted nearly two decades ago. Also, the current lack of interest in the sport has diminished its star power. All-world Mike Trout can’t hold a candle to Ken Griffey Jr.’s heyday popularity.
The NFL has long surpassed the MLB as America’s sport of choice. Going head-to-head against baseball, it regularly crushes its hardball nemesis in TV ratings. Yet, the sport has also found a way to dig its own grave over the course of the Patriots dynasty. Concussions and CTE research take center stage in the drama of the NFL’s public relations battle. But Commissioner Roger Goodell continues to cook up other ways to appall just about anyone who’s ever heard of the NFL. One gets the sense that he and his bosses (the ancient and grossly rich owners) have no concern over the direction of the league. It’s all about the almighty dollar, future be damned.
What kills a professional sport? Fundamentally, the answer would be a lack of viewership or a lack of participation – or a combination of both. If Vegas had a number on it, boxing would probably be the odds-on favorite to be the first of these three sports to die.
However, pugilism, like its fighters, has displayed an indefatigable resiliency since its origins. As mentioned earlier, it’s now a niche sport. But it will survive because it has a passionate audience, however small. And, it has many participants who view the sport as their way out of poverty.
Baseball might die someday, but, if it does, it will be a long, slow death. Up until now, rule changes to speed up the pace of the game have been band-aids, though they’ve proven to be cheap ones since they rarely stick and are often not enforced. But once people stop showing up to the ballpark and there starts to be an impact on revenue, real changes will be made to make the action more fluid and bring game times more in line with what they were fifty years ago.
Football has a more uphill battle to remain relevant. As long as the game remains basically the same, the viewership will be there because, like it or not, people like violence. Ask the Romans. However, participation is likely to decline drastically. Ask any mother. The NFL continues to try to make the game safer via rules and equipment changes. However, the league is faced with an impossible conundrum. Players are getting bigger, faster, and stronger, offsetting its goal to improve safety. If pro football becomes touch football, it will lose its allure. That’s why it’s likely to be outlasted by sports more dangerous (boxing) and more boring (baseball).
By: Peter Mooney CruelFan.com