Let's take a second to think about the current United States sports landscape.
LeBron James is on the verge of going to his 5th straight NBA Finals while the Splash Brothers are making a case for being the best shooting duo in NBA history. Major League Baseball is in full swing, as many intriguing storylines are taking place. For example, the Astros stand atop the AL West standings by a landslide and are tied for the most wins in the entire MLB as of this writing. The Jordan Spieth vs. Rory McIlroy rivalry has begun in the sport of golf, captivating golf fans that were once turned off by Tiger Woods' recent failures as well as young fans around the country. The final three tennis majors are nearly here and include legendary players like Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray on the men's side while Serena Williams continues her unprecedented dominance on the women's draw. NASCAR continues to grow, as people are starting to realize that there's more to winning than turning left for hundreds of laps.
However, everyone is thinking about a deflated football and specifically about the punishment levied against legendary Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and what might actually come out of it following an official appeal. Yes, a deflated football.
Three-pointers, home runs, birdies, aces and last-second checkered-flag finishes have been trumped by the unit of measurement called Pounds Per Square Inch (PSI's).
And don't think the NFL is upset about that in any way.
The old adage of "any publicity is good publicity" has certainly remained relevant this offseason (note that Tom Brady's jersey sales have doubled since the "Deflategate" suspension was announced). While a number of troubling stories involving NFL players have emerged and have been dealt with during the offseason (Greg Hardy, Ray Rice, Adrian Peterson, etc), the fact of the matter is that the NFL is on the minds of the average American sports consumer on a 24/7 basis.
According to Forbes, the Dallas Cowboys are the first U.S. sports team to reach a $3 billion valuation. The average NFL team is worth $1.43 billion, up 23 percent from 2013. This is the result of a direct correlation of the league's overwhelming popularity and the revenue that it brings in on a yearly basis.
There are reports that commissioner Roger Goodell made $44 million in salary last year, a dramatic increase from his paltry $11.6 million made in the period ending in March of 2011. It was Goodell that said back in 2013 that he wants NFL revenue to reach $25 billion by the year 2027.
Since the NFL is projecting revenue of more than $12 billion this year, that number is certainly in reach, as television deals have massively increased, local team revenues have jumped, and sports betting is on the precipice within the next three years or so. To put that into perspective, the MLB brings in about $9 billion annually, and the NBA comes in at $5 billion followed by the NHL's $3.6 billion.
Going back to this offseason's negative newsworthy events, it's perfectly reasonable to hold the assumption and thought that this attention is negative, especially concerning the serious topics of domestic violence and child abuse. However, and as bad as this sounds, these issues simply don't matter in the eyes of the NFL. If they did, offenders like Greg Hardy and Ray Rice would be fired and have a hard time finding employment as they would in any other profession. After Hardy's 10-game suspension (which he disgustingly appealed), he will make millions of dollars playing for the Cowboys this season, while Rice is free to sign with any team following a ridiculous program that expunges the despicable domestic violence charge off of his record. It's all about the on-field product. The game is simply better to watch and becomes more intriguing with a player of Hardy's caliber on the defensive line and with Rice's presumed media circus wherever he signs. (P.S., gotta love the American judicial system right? That's a topic for another time...)
It was legendary NFL head coach Vince Lombardi who said: "Winners never quit and quitters never win." The NFL as an entity has lived by these words, as the most powerful league in American sports. When adversity comes its way, the NFL pushes through it and eventually squashes it, mostly because the on-field product is just so damn good. There's nothing that comes close to comparing to NFL Sunday. If there is, the American sports consumer certainly doesn't show it.
The NFL kicks off its season on Thursday, September 10th as the Steelers ironically take on the perhaps Tom Brady-less Patriots in Foxborough. But, something tells me we will have a plethora of storylines to talk about until then, good and bad. And the NFL will keep laughing its way to the bank.