There was a time in this great land when baseball was king, a time when boxing and horse racing mattered. It was a time when when people actually read printed newspapers and a lot of Catholics went to daily Mass.
It's all gone now, of course. Boxing's been replaced by ultimate fighting and race tracks have succumbed to rot and indifference. Baseball is holding its own, despite a steroid scandal and big-market dominance. But we all know that in 2010 the sport of kings in America is professional football. Nothing else is close.
The NFL finally got kick-started over the weekend and tonight is the first Monday Night Football special, featuring the Baltimore Ravens and the super-hyped New York Jets. Exhaustive NFL network weekend shows are back, the Swami is back, and fantasy football geeks once again have true purpose in their lives.
All football all the time. Nothing else matters.
Tom Brady is a handsome guy and a pretty good football player, right?
He's won three Super Bowls and threw 50 touchdown passes when the Patriots went 16-0 in 2007. He's also married to supermodel Gisele Bundchen.
Brady was involved in a car accident in the tony Back Bay section of Boston last Thursday morning, and if you lived in Greater Boston you would have thought that the Hancock Tower had been attacked by terrorists.
Brady walked away from his accident (a driver in the other vehicle was hospitalized), declined medical attention, and went straight to football practice. This didn't stop Boston television stations from mobilizing for instant saturation coverage. Two local TV outlets dispatched helicopters to Patriots practice so we could see aerial images of Brady throwing passes to Wes Welker.
In this century, Brady is New England's Michael Jackson. He is Brady Gaga. He is the biggest newsmaker of our region. Even if he's not involved in real news.
And a lot of that is because he is a star quarterback in the golden days of the NFL.
The late commissioner Pete Rozelle would be amazed to see his league in 2010. Rozelle was on the job when the World Series was still the greatest show on earth. Now we live in a Super Bowl world. NFL television ratings shred those of all other sports. Baseball keeps the World Series away from Monday nights because it doesn't want to be embarrassed to have World Series game trumped by an NFL regular-season game.
We love TV and the NFL is the ultimate television show. No other game translates so well from the field to the plasma. Baseball and hockey suffer badly on television. Football only gets better. When you consider crappy weather and the cost of parking, it's amazing that any fans actually choose to attend NFL games. It's so much easier and better on television.
Football also has hitting. It's like NASCAR with human beings. You get to see collisions up close. Hard Knocks and all that.
Football is great for bettors. Point spreads. Over-under. All great for football. Every game is a three-hour scratch ticket.
Football has revenue sharing and a unified group of owners.
Unlike baseball, the game is not run by its players association. This is not necessarily good for the athletes, but it's great for the fans (no lockout talk allowed here -- this is the Fun Zone).
In football, big markets don't necessarily dominate. Little guys can compete. It's all about competence, and you don't get the same teams in the playoffs every year. The Kansas City Chiefs get as much money from CBS, ESPN and Fox as the New York Giants. Pro football can afford to operate without a team in Los Angeles, without a team in New York City. It's just one big TV studio.
No sport lends itself to quick turnarounds more than football. If your team is bad, it can make the playoffs next year. So there is always hope. Unless of course, you root for the Lions.
Football is king in my town for the rest of this year. The Red Sox are toast, the Patriots are 1-0 after Sunday's demolition of the Cincinnati Bengals. Here in New England, we can't wait to watch the Jets on Monday night so we can tee it up for next Sunday's steel cage match involving Rex Ryan and Bill Belichick.
This season's Super Bowl will be played on Feb. 6 in Arlington, Texas, in the House That Jerry Jones built. We will spend the next five months speculating, watching Red Zone TV, and texting our friends to tweak them about the successes and failures of our teams. The NFL is back.
Think Brett Favre will return for one more year in 2011?
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Boston Globe. Read more of his columns here.