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                                                     AMERICA'S GAME

                                      AMERICA'S GAME IV - THE DILEMMAS
   

What is happening to our country?  What is happening to this game we all love?  Is it becoming a victim to the decaying culture around it?  When I was young, the biggest concern regarding professional sports was how much tickets cost and if the New Orleans Saints could actually find a way to win.  When I was a kid, the sports page was entirely its own entity; it was completely separate from the news page, and rightly so.  So everybody and I mean everybody loved the sports page/ sports section.  Even up until recent years, sports and leisure has been just that, sports and leisure.  What I have absolutely adored about America's game is this:  During a good football game, I could focus on football and football alone, and at least for a while, forget both my problems and the world's problems.  I am afraid that day may be rapidly coming to an end.  With the onset of huge money media such as the NFL Network, ESPN, NBC, FOX, CBS, Showtime, and the list goes on, time are a changing, and America's great arena of sport is not exempt. 

When I was a kid, there were no politics in football -- at least none that I could easily recognize; we were all just Saints o
r Falcons.  It was simply us versus them in a game of strategy, athleticism and fun.  Today, things are not the same and it is becoming more painfully obvious with each passing season.  With the increasing influence of big money media and the advent of the sport's first openly homosexual player(s), there is an unmistakable and disturbingly increased politicization.  It is getting harder to be a fan these days, and in some cases it is nearly impossible.  The formerly unifying factors of raw athleticism, teamwork, courage and just plain fun are being sucked from the sport -- and like a vortex, they are being sucked from the sport at an increasing rate, more and more, every year.  This year we have our first "gay" players and new rules disallowing more types of end zone touchdown celebrations.  No more dunking the goal posts, it could bend them after all, and upset the field crew.  What comes next year?

I am not interested in the homosexual bedroom behavior of a large defensive lineman (and to be brutally honest, I'd rather not know), but like so many other issues in our increasingly polemical world, the mass media is going to give these stories huge publicity and by default, ram them right down our collective throats.  I am concerned that Roger Goodell, his political cronies and the mainstream media may finally be taking America's game to a place were it simply isn't fun anymore.  NFL Great Fred Dryer said similar things in a recent interview.  He said the NFL was becoming "government football."  From the looks of things, he might very well be right.  Click on link, here, for the text and full audio of the recent Fred Dryer interview. 

-- Posted by Ted Baccich, 24 March 2014        
                         
                                       AMERICA'S GAME III - THE DILEMMAS   

I am neither the author nor the brain child behind these two articles, but they were so spot on accurate, I had to post the links.  Highly recommended reading here, Click on Link, and here.  Click on link.  What  is happening to America and her favorite game?     
                 

                                         AMERICA'S GAME II - THE DILEMMAS

What is the future of our Nation and its cherished national pastimes?  Specifically, what is the future of the game all real Americans love – America’s game – football?  What will that game look like ten and twenty years from now?  Will it retain its luster, its bravado, its longevity?  Will it be even better, faster, more athletic, more exciting?  Will the all pomp, pageantry and human drama of athletic competition somehow improve?  Will it remain the same?  Or will it perhaps decline?  Will other phenomena such as greed, pride, violence and corruption take center stage?  I have been a football fan as long as I can remember and if you are reading this you probably have too.  I literally cannot remember a time when I did not love the game.  I love to play it and to watch it played.  I can still remember Tom Dempsey’s record breaking field goal that was kicked at Tulane stadium when I was only five years old.  

In my short lifetime of 46 years, football truly has become America’s game.  It is part of our culture and we love it.  It is interwoven into the very fabric of our High Schools and University Systems.  It unites us across racial and political divides; it inspires us, entertains us and it motivates us to be better than we are.  When we participate as either spectators or players, we are no longer black, white or Hispanic, democrat or republican, Christian or other; we are one united team as either Saints, Broncos, Vikings, Packers, Patriots, Cowboys, Steelers, Giants and the list goes on.  Football, as any student of the game will tell you, is like an athletic chess match; it is a thinking man’s game where one opponent tries to outwit, out muscle, out man, out match and out finesse the other.  Thus football is a game that combines very best of athletics, war and intellect.  It is a type of non lethal combat/ pseudo war game, where each team’s ultimate goal is to demoralize and crush the other.  It is as about close to real combat as one can get without introducing elements of lethality such as guns, bayonets and hand grenades.  

What is the future of football?  Will the next generation – the generation of our children – enjoy the goodness of sport, specifically this sport, in the same manner as we have?   Herein lies the reason for this blog.  I believe the answer is uncertain at best.  Why? 

Super Bowl I, referred to in some contemporary reports as the Supergame, was played on January 15, 1967.  It was the only Super Bowl in history that was not a sellout in terms of attendance, despite a TV blackout in the Los Angeles area (at the time, NFL games were required to be blacked out in the market of origin, even if it was a neutral site game and if it sold out). Days before the game, local newspapers printed editorials about what they viewed as a then-exorbitant $12 price for tickets (for the “good” seats), and wrote stories about how to pirate the signal from TV stations outside the Los Angeles area.  Times have changed greatly, and they are still changing. 

Lets look at this from another angle.  If you wanted to get into the very first Super Bowl in 1967, which pitted the Kansas City Chiefs against the Green Bay Packers, you would have paid as little as $6 to $12 for a ticket, or an average of $9 per ticket. By Super Bowl XV, the average ticket price had quadrupled to $40.  Fifteen years later at Super Bowl XXX, the average price had nearly octoupled (multiplied time EIGHT) to $300.  (What do you think the 1967 sports writers would have said about $300 tickets?)  Then, after another 15 year interval, by the time the Green Bay Packers lined up against the Pittsburg Steelers on Feb 4, 2011 – On StubHub, the average sale price was about $3600 per ticket, while the previous three Super Bowls hovered at around $2500 (although the face value of the tickets was as “low” as $500 per ticket, for the “cheap seats” in Super Bowl XLIV, Saints versus Colts).  So the final 15 years of NFL/ Super Bowl history saw yet another exponential increase, this time TIMES TWELVE (for all practical purposes).  Finally, four days before Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, tickets for the game were being sold for an average of $4,683. 

The salaries of the athletes and revenues of the sport have experienced similar exponential and astronomical growth.  The NFL is now a hugely successful and massive money making enterprise.  And because of these things, viewing the sport in the great arena is starting to become cost prohibitive for the average Joe.  So what is a football fan to do when some of his favorite athletes make literally enough money in two weeks to feed a quadrant of starving Africa for a solid year?  It has been said the Capitalism is the worst economic system in the world, except for all the others.  I firmly believe this assertion to be true and I believe that any “solution” to this problem would be as bad or worse than the problem itself, because it would most likely involve some form government CONTROL.  Noblese oblige say the French and it is true.  And it is time to bring that great ethos back into to the collective unconscious of our great nation.   It is now highly applicable for professional sport and thank God there are some who, like Drew Brees and Tim Tebow, do their best to return unto God and His people the incredible gift of great wealth, success and popularity/ power.  And don’t get this writer wrong, if I were Drew Brees or Tim Tebow, I would try to make as much money as I could too.  

I freely admit that I am part of the problem and I share in the guilt of supporting the very possibly soon to be cost prohibitive (or at least pseudo cost prohibitive) past time of being an NFL football fan.  The average Joe simply cannot afford “good” seats to a football game anymore.  I still remember a buddy telling me he would have to sell both kidneys and his spleen just to afford one Chicago Bears game.  The average cost of an NFL ticket, across the NFL (according to the Bleacher Report of September 1st 2010), was approximately $252 US dollars.  Therefore for a family of six, like my family, to go and enjoy just one game, the cost just to get into the stadium can be as high as $1500 or more.  Is this really good for the sport and where does it all end?  What is the future of sport?  What is the future of football?   Why bother with these unpleasant questions and not just pony up some bucks, shut up and enjoy the game like everybody else?  Well, it is getting to the point that both myself and others simply cannot afford to pony up the bucks any more.  It seems that the gap between the “elite”/ super rich and the middle class is growing.  Again, I am part of the problem in many ways, I go to the games when I can, I watch all of them on TV, I purchase NFL products and the NFL Network is among my favorite channels, so I share the “guilt.” 

But the questions have got to be asked, where is the ceiling and are we as a society doing ourselves any favors when we are willing to spend inordinate sums of money to be entertained?   How high will tickets, salaries, egos and building projects go?  How much will the next great stadium cost and who will top Dallas’ Jerry World (that nauseating monument to self)?  Will professional football become not only cost prohibitive to the average Joe, but also just not “worth it”, just not “fun” to the masses anymore?  And if the sport does become cost prohibitive, increasingly greedy, politicized, and even violent in the stands … as it seems to be headed in that direction, what does this say about the sport?  Would it still be worth participating, even as a spectator?  Would it still be enjoyable?  Could we still go home feeling good after our favorite team won?  Is the future of America’s game truly good?  Will the potential for EVEN MORE REVENUE and an 18 game season make things even more cost prohibitive?  Will bigger, better, more expensive and more gaudy stadiums like Jerry World eventually take the good nature out of the sport?  Will the sport be able to sustain itself in a way that still inspires without adding to the ever increasing societal problems of vice, greed, violence and class envy?  I really do wonder, and perhaps all of the NFL should wonder too.  At the end of the day, we watch and play the sport for fun – for the love of the game, and we want it to stay that way.  Here is to hoping that people will begin to seriously ponder these concepts and acknowledge these problems openly.  Here is to hoping the NFL simply acknowledges this problem because a problem well defined, is generally half solved.     

What is the conclusion of the matter?  Scripture says the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Pride is the original sin and probably the most subtle and deceptive.  Here are the problems as this spectator sees them: 1. Pride.  2.  Out of control riches/ greed. 3.  The vanishing middle man.  4. The wrongful politicization of the sport.  5.  Wrongful prioritization across the cultural/ societal spectrum.  What happens when an arena of culture that was once accessible, becomes exclusive, elitist and cost prohibitive?  Generally it declines, maybe not noticeably, maybe not tangibly, maybe not even in ways that could easily be defined.  The decline happens slowly, and in the soul of that arena.  What was once done for the glory of God or the love of the game, is now done out of pride, greed, power and vainglory.  What once may have been done for sport and noble purposes is now done for the love of money, hedonism and ignoble self advancement.  So what can realistically be done to address these issues?  Not much except to pray, speak and write and hope to have some tangible effect as salt and light.  We have got to get away from the win at all costs mentality.  We have got to remember that Vince Lombardi’s “winning is the only thing” ethos, even though it is inspirational, it is not fully Biblical (or true).  Instead we have to remember the ethos that built the country and subsequently built the sport.  We have got to remember a more Biblical (and true) ethos that is embodied in these words: “For when the One Great Scorer comes to write against your name, He marks – not that you won or lost – but how you played the game (Grantland Rice).”  We used to believe that, and we need to believe it again.  

As for the NFL, I suspect that their issues will probably self correct, at least to a degree, in the future.  This ever astronomical cost of “doing business,” will either become unsustainable, or it will drive the future of the sport to extreme politicization, corruption and decreased popularity.  Another possible scenario is ever increasing pride and greed leading to eventual economic loss and implosion.  The economic foundations of our country already have gaping hole in them, and simple greed could ultimately destroy the sport (at least on a professional level).  Football's issues are about more than football, they are about the moral fiber of our country -- the invisible glue that holds us together.  In any case, the sport will likely decline and (to a degree) self correct.  At least that is what we can hope for:  A sport whose future is like its chivalrous past – truly glorious, fun, exciting, participatory and sustainable for the long haul. 

As an epilogue, this is being written at a very difficult time for my hometown team, the Saints.  I was born and raised in New Orleans, LA.  If you are an NFL fan, no doubt you know of the recent bounty allegations/ scandal.  I have always and will always support my city.  And I will always support the Saints.  I stand with them and all their fans in this difficult time. 

-- by Ted Baccich, 14 March 2012, from an undisclosed location somewhere in Southwest Asia

                                             AMERICA'S GAME I - MY STORY

I was born in New Orleans in 1965, and my beloved Saints were born on Willow Street two years later.   I have been listening to, watching (on TV), and going to games since I was a toddler.  I can still remember my father and his old, brown, AM/ FM, 9 volt battery operated radio listening to games on Sunday afternoons in New Orleans as he washed his car.  I can still remember listening to Tom Dempsey’s NFL Record 63 yard field goal over the Lions in 1970.  It was November 8, 1970.  I was 5 years old at the time, and I remember it like it was yesterday. <<READ MORE>>


MEET THE NEW AMERICA'S TEAM


Well football fans of America, the New Orleans Saints have officially erased their names off that tiny list of teams to have NEVER played in a Superbowl.  And if you are a Saints fan like me, you are THANKING GOD FOR IT.  The late New Orleans Sportscaster Buddy Diliberto promised to wear a dress if the Saints ever made it to the Superbowl; this because the Saints had a history of -- as Buddy once said -- being the "loosingest franchise in the history of the world."  The original post (above) was first written just after the Saints suffered their first loss of the season, dropping their record to 13-1.  It turned out to be more prophetic than I thought.  As the post pointed out, one of the few proud moments in franchise history was Tom Dempsey's NFL record making 63 yard field goal to beat the Lions way back in 1970.  It is a record that, although once tied, has never been broken.

Truth is stranger than fiction, and it is highly ironic that another field goal will go down in Saints' history right along that record breaking 63 yarder by Dempsey.  I am speaking, of course, about Garrett Hartley's kick that put the Saints in the Superbowl (click on link to watch).  It was a thing of beauty, almost perfectly executed, and I have watched it again, and again, and again.  I can't stop watching it.  Garrett Hartley talked about a premonition he had the night before the game,
“I called my dad (in Texas) at 2:15 in the morning,” Hartley said. “And I told him I had a feeling I was going to hit the game-winner from 42 yards on the right hash mark. I think I was 2 yards off." Hartley described the situation as "surreal" and said it was like "never never land" that he didn't believe in such things, etc.  But apparently such things were true in this case.  Could God have been speaking to Garrett Hartely?  Does God care about football?  Doesn't God have more important things to worry about than football games?  Conservative Christian America says that God cares about EVERYTHING, and if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that 7 million highly zealous Saints fans, in a formerly very depressed region, can escape His attention?

Conservative Christian America salutes the New Orleans Saints and their leader Drew Brees, who is also a Christian.  His
Christian testimony is not to be missed and can be heard by clicking here.  Conservative Christian America is not crazy about all the "Breesus" nonsense and would like to see the Saints' success kept in proper perspective.  But this blogger finds it almost impossible not to pull for his hometown team when they play like the Champions they are.  Miami, Payton Manning (New Orleans native), the Colts and Superbowl XLIV awaits.  GO SAINTS!      

Ted Baccich

Posted, 26 January 2010



MIRACLE ON THE GRIDIRON


If you are anywhere near my age, you will no doubt remember the 1980 Olympic Hockey Team who overcame impossible odds to defeat the vaunted and feared Soviet Union in Lake Placid.  The Soviets were, for all practical purposes, a professional hockey team.  Some of them had played together for several years.  They had played against and defeated NHL teams.  And now a bunch of college kids with a dream would go against the mighty Soviets in a game that was more than just a game.  Broadcaster Al Michaels said a word came to him during the game's closing moments, "miracle," and thus we now have the famous call "Do you believe in Miracles?! Yes!!"

It was one of those extremely rare moments in sport where the world stood back and took notice.  Something spectacular had happened against almost impossible odds.  We defeated the mighty Soviet Union, went on to win the Gold Medal, and I'll bet you can remember where you were when it was happening.  A group of zealous college kids had accomplished a feat that was destined to be remembered as perhaps the single greatest sporting achievement of the 20th Century.  What made it great?  Were they playing for money?  No, not directly; they were college kids.  Were they playing for power?  No, not exactly.  They were playing a game that came to symbolize the struggle between world powers and they were playing for ideals that were greater than just a hockey game.  They played for a nation.  They played for the godly kind of pride that is epitomized in the spirit of American freedom.  And I believe it is fair to say they had a little help from the Man Upstairs.  

In a similar way, the New Orleans Saints accomplished a feat that I believe will be long remembered as one of the greatest NFL victories.  Yes, they are professionals, and many of them were indeed playing for money -- lots of it too.  But all 32 NFL teams play for money and only one wins a Championship.  Some of the highest paid "super star" players are on really mediocre teams.  Terrell Owens comes to mind. Money cannot buy heart.  

New Orleans has long been a city of defeat, and Hurricane Katrina symbolized that defeat and humiliation as well as any other catastrophe the city had ever endured.  The city was nearly annihilated and the football team very nearly packed its bags and DEPARTED.  I was stationed in Alaska when it happened and all I could do was watch helplessly and think to myself, "I don't want my city destroyed." 

Richard M. Nixon once described a depression as "anytime people lose confidence in the future."  It is as good of a definition as any and quite possibly the most accurate (even though it uses virtually no economic analysis).  What the Saints did for the city was about more than football.  It was about giving the people something to cheer about, and they needed it very badly.  It was about restoring hope to a formerly hopeless region.  It was about demonstrating that nothing is impossible.  If the New Orleans Saints, the formerly "losingest franchise in the history of the world," can win on the biggest stage of sport, then maybe there is hope for all of us, even against the most daunting of odds.  If college kids can defeat the mighty Soviet Empire's best professionals, then anything is possible.  If a city of defeat can become a city of victory, then maybe it can happen on a personal level too.  The city of mold has become the city of black and gold, and maybe there is just a little bit of gold in all of us.
   

God bless America. God bless New Orleans, and God bless you.

Ted Baccich

Posted, 16 February 2010
      

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