Replacing the NFL: A Thought Experiment (with Chris Moore and Sam Mulberry)

The English Premier League

The EPL LogoChris: “The English Premier League does not shift its season at all, though a few EPL matches are played in American stadiums… Foreign players with foreign names playing a game most Americans don’t understand? Hey, it worked for hockey!” (<1% chance of achieving NFL-level popularity in this country)

Sam: “This is kind of like betting on England to regain the imperial dominance which it had in days of yore (whoops… I used that one already)… Ultimately, this is just wishful thinking on the part of soccer (excuse me, “football”) fans. Now I’m not denying that soccer could take a big leap forward if the NFL disappeared, but it would be wrong to think that English, or European, or even world soccer would take its place. The second that the EPL started to gain any real traction and the masses of kids (the would-be high school tackle football players) above the 6th grade started to play this seriously with real professional aspirations and quality, there would be a massive push to develop a Major American Soccer League… Hey… That’s not a bad idea… We could call it something like Major League Soccer… Yeah, that kind of has a ring to it… Oh wait, we already have empirical evidence that that’s just wishful thinking.” (5%)

[Chris independently spun out a scenario in which “Major League Soccer (MLS) begins its season slightly later (starting in late April) but adds games and ends later, on December 15th,” but I think he folded those odds in with the EPL’s microscopic chances of restoring a kind of British imperium over the Colonies.]

Another sport

Chris: “An American Rugby League is founded by Mark Cuban and Dan Snyder. Rugby is foreign to American audiences, but combines the speed and creativity of basketball with the violence of football. Get rid of the John Stockton shorts and many Americans would be on board.” (1%)

2009 match in French rugby league
Licensed by Creative Commons (Thomas Faivre-Duboz)

Sam: “Do I take the bait and on this one? Gehrz wants me to big up Team Handball here [ed. – Yes. Yes he does]… and as much as I’d love to see Nnamdi Asomugha dash across a court, jump stop, and make a sweet dish to Antonio Cromartie who in one motion grabs the ball and fires it past the outstretched arms of a diving Darrelle Revis while Aqib Talib can only look on in despair (for some reason I see the National Team Handball League populated only by shut-down corners)… As much as I’d love to see it, I know in my heart of hearts that this is as likely as England regaining the imperial dominance which it had in days of yore. (I really need to branch out and broaden out my historical references.) And fringe sports like MMA are fringe for a reason… If we as a nation turn our backs on the brutality of boxing and (in this scenario) football, there is no way that MMA or other combat sports could ever attain NFL-level hegemony.” (1%)

No sport

Sam: “I think — very disappointingly — our discussion ends with this. No sport takes the throne from the NFL. We live in a culture where there are very few things which unify us. We don’t all watch the same TV shows. We don’t all listen to the same music. And I guess we’d end up not watching the same sports.” (41% chance of happening)

Chris: “At the end of the day, none of these sports is ideally positioned to capture the popularity of football, which is as undisputed now as the popularity of baseball in the 1940s.  We would enter a time of sports plurality with many second tier sports benefiting — particularly NASCAR in the South, MLS amongst Latinos, golf amongst Republicans, baseball amongst the elderly [ed. – Hey!] — but none effectively dominating.” (60% chance)

Sam: “It is hard to say whether ultimately this is a good or a bad thing… it is probably neither. But I do know who the biggest loser is. Try and guess? Nope, it’s not Roger Goodell, who would go down history as the guy who ruined the biggest sure thing in history. Nope, it isn’t Matt Turk— the 44 year old punter who was hoping to feed his family by coming back for his 18th season in the league. Nope… it’s shy, socially awkward nerds like me, whose fallback in any conversation at the social gathering is to just try to engage other ‘guy’s guys’ on the topic of sports. If we lose the NFL and become totally splintered, I’ll truly have nothing to say.”


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