Planet Earth’s favorite sport is completely subjective, as are most things in life. Sports are something the human race has latched onto as the penultimate source of entertainment. They feed into the economy, the best performers become our heroes. Believe it or not people lose their livelihood, savings, and possessions to gambling in the name of the sports. We obviously care a great deal, whether it be soccer, football, basketball, or baseball, I’m not changing your mind. However, I want to show you that while there may not be a de facto favorite sport, there is a league that stands above the rest.
Soccer is the easiest answer to the favorite sport question posed above. If you base it off of popularity it definitely reigns supreme. Soccer is by far the most prevalent sport in the 3rd and 2nd world countries. It does take a backseat in western culture, but the world doesn’t revolve around the United States and Canada. Soccer games attendance is only ever rivalled by college football games, and both types of fan bases are as rabid as they come.
The downfall of soccer as a whole, lies with the powers that be. Soccer is dominated by corporations, sponsors, and money grubbing agents. For example, Manchester United set the record for the most expensive transfer of all time, for Paul Pogba. They paid 93 million pounds. for the right to sign him to a contract. This is where soccer differs from basketball, football, and baseball. In soccer if a player becomes extremely good, he becomes sought after and he stands to make more money in his next contract. The major point is that the club stands to make more money than the player himself. Contracts are important in the NBA, NFL, and MLB, but they operate closer to a barter system within their respective leagues. If a player gets better in the NFL, NBA, and MLB, the player stands to make more money, however the team who has the player under contract, gains no monetary value (excluding marketing) from a player getting better, they gain value in having a better team which leads to more wins etc. As opposed to more money in soccer. This is evidenced by Pogba’s 15 million pound contract, which pales in comparison to his 93 million pound price tag.
There’s already a huge divide between the owners and the players as far as league soccer goes. Once you start in on world soccer, and FIFA, the picture becomes even clearer (erm, dirtier). When FIFA was under fire 3 years ago, it led to their president Sepp Blatter stepping down. They had a few of their employees arrested, and significantly more under investigation. The very simple reasons they were being looked into (there are a great many reasons, but let’s just do the easy one), they are a “non-profit” organization, which is fairly self-explanatory. At the time FIFA was reporting that they had a reserve of money, exceeding 1 billion dollars, and one of their high-ranking officials Chuck Blazer, had a $6,000 a month apartment in Trump tower specifically for his cat. You can find all of this stuff in John Oliver’s look into UEFA and FIFA with HBO.
American football is America’s most popular sport, or at least fiscal returns would seem to indicate that it is the most heavily consumed. There are fantasy leagues that people now dedicate their lives to. The Super Bowl is as much a part of American culture as thanksgiving, and god may have less claim to Sunday than the NFL does. The NFL has a lot going for it, the athletes are such a wonderful mix of agility, speed, and raw power. Watching some of those athletes perform is poetry, you have the homerun in baseball, the slam dunk in basketball – although Steph Curry would like a word about the 3-pointer – the curled free kick in soccer, and in football you have Jerome Simpson front flipping over a defender into the end zone, and Marshawn Lynch sending fans into an earthquake-like frenzy with a warrior like run to glory. Football can’t be matched from a single play standpoint, the amount of skill in the game is amazing.
In football you have a chasm between players and owners. The NFL doesn’t give their players fully guaranteed contracts, sometimes the contracts are so full of incentives, that the guaranteed money is rather minuscule. There have been articles written, suggesting that guaranteed contracts wouldn’t work in the NFL, stating that there are too many injuries to players, players would take up too many roster spots and too much cap room. If that sounds reasonable, then you might’ve forgotten that these players are humans. If you’re in the NFL, statistically it’s extremely likely that you’re shaving off 15+ years of your life to play in this league. If you’re giving up what equates to 20% of your life, I think you deserve the money, you deserve the acknowledgement that you are more than a contract, and you deserve to retire after your NFL days.
We haven’t even gotten into the CTE (Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy) part of it. The NFL has a monkey on its back that it can’t seem to shake. This monkey comes in the form of NFL retirees that have debilitating brain damage, causing severe depression and dementia in most cases, and suicide in some. The science does seem to be clear that the men who have experienced the extreme depression and have for all-intensive purposes lost themselves, are experiencing these things because of CTE. This is most likely caused by untreated concussions, or repeated trauma to the brain. The NFL tried to ignore this for a long time, they ended up settling in court ($765 million going to former players). I’m sorry NFL, these factors mixed with your much-maligned commissioner, Roger Goodell (who makes roughly 40 million a year), but you can’t be the best league in the world.
Baseball is definitely the least popular sport receiving consideration. Parents have stopped putting their kids in baseball for physical activity because a lot of the time they just stand around. The United States put most of their uber impressive athletes into football and basketball, leaving a crop of athletic second choices for soccer and baseball. The MLB has also had its fair share of struggles, A-Rod, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Pete Rose, Mark McGwire, are all cheaters in one way or another. These are some of baseball’s most significant figures, I understand we can’t all be Ken Griffey Jr. (he’s amazing) but baseball’s most exciting era was built on lies. Even though the MLB doles out major money to its players, the development leagues below it, pay their players a poverty wage. MLB, but you’re not gonna cut it.
The time has finally arrived, we’ve found the league that hits the “sweet spot”. By no means am I saying the NBA is perfect, but I’d like to shine a light on the things it does well. The NBA signed a fresh new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) on Dec. 14th 2016, and it was a great job done by the NBA and NBPA (National Basketball Players’ Association). The NBA continues to make socially conscious decisions, threatening to take their All-Star game out of Charlotte, if North Carolina passed the bill that dictates you go to the bathroom of your sex, not gender. It was impressive to see the NBA do something like this, because the transgender demographic is very small, and I think most leagues wouldn’t consider the needs and wants of that group.
In the NBA more than any other league in the world, the players have a voice. The NBA fully embraces the personalities it has in its league, it celebrates all of the cultures that are brought into it, and it never tries to shut anyone up. This is the league that supports free speech, they let their players stand for what they want, and they support them in their constitutional rights, even if it’s controversial (Eric Garner, Donald Sterling). They understand that the players make the league great.
NBA contracts are fully guaranteed, if a player gets hurt, and the team needs to cut him, he still keeps all of his money. That’s really important, and I’d love to see that implemented in all sports leagues. The players get half of the money, the owners have to pay out at least 49% of the capital back out to the players. There’s a minimum that NBA teams have to spend of their salary cap, and if they don’t meet the minimum, the difference is split evenly between all the players on the roster. This is something I’d like to see implemented in soccer where clubs will sell promising players, keep the profits and they won’t reinvest in the club or the players there.
The Developmental League for the NBA does not pay well, and they know that. To help remedy the situation (something the MLB is not working towards) the league introduced two-way contracts in the new CBA, to provide players with more money, and incentive to join the D-League, and to keep the talent from going overseas. The D-League is now the G-League as Gatorade is now it’s major sponsor.
In summation, the NBA seems to be leaps and bounds ahead of the other platforms. It seems socially conscious, it pays its players better than any other sport, and it’s not close quite frankly. It gives their players a platform when they ask for it, it supports them when they ask for it. It indulges the culture that each player and person brings into it, and it’s an exciting game.