Now comes the latest referendum on a topic that's been debated over the airwaves and across bar stools for a decade, maybe two: Which sport has more clout, pro football or pro baseball?
It's not much of a debate. Clearly, the answer is pro football. Baseball is America's pastime, but football has become America's passion, even addiction. Baseball is pastoral; football plows up the pasture (if you don't believe me, just look at FedEx Field in December). Baseball glories in its history and changes the game only after years of committees and pained expressions that indicate it's passing the world's biggest kidney stone. Football likes history, but it tweaks its rules yearly, and often significantly, like those women who are so addicted to plastic surgery that they end up looking like lions. Or Lions.
But while baseball is the older of the sports, and the more traditional, that doesn't mean it has lost all its punch, as witnessed in NFL v. MLB, otherwise known as the Battle for Baltimore. Roger Goodell has asked Bud Selig to move a night game at Camden Yards on Sept. 5 between the Orioles and White Sox to the afternoon to accommodate the Super Bowl champion Ravens playing in the NFL's Thursday night season opener, a tradition that dates from. . . 2004.
Not exactly the Homer in the Gloamin', is it?
If that Orioles-White Sox game were in the midst of a homestand, I could see accommodating this request. If the game were at the end of a homestand, or if it followed an off day, I could see accommodating this request. But it follows night games on the road for both teams. The Orioles play Cleveland on Sept. 4 at 7 p.m.; the White Sox would have to make the same trip from New York. The distances aren't bad, but rain in Ohio, New York or both would be a worry. Also, an early game for fans means 1 p.m. An early game for players means arriving at the park around 9 a.m., earlier for some, a little later for others, but in any case, it's a bad turnaround.
If neither team were in the playoffs, then it wouldn't be a big deal. But it's a little early to make that call. It's certainly not out of the question; I think last season proves that you can never count any team out of the postseason in March. Baseball, in fact, makes its postseason schedule fit around the NFL's regular season lineup every year. Big deal.
Of course, money is involved. A day game would cost the Orioles attendance revenue and cost both teams broadcast revenue. And while the NFL may light its cigars with $100 bills, baseball doesn't. Not anymore. The NFL out-earns baseball in pretty much every category, but especially the one that matters: TV revenue. Of course, Selig out-earns Goodell, at least for now — maybe that's the rub here.
If the Thursday night opener were important, I'd feel differently. But we're not talking about a postseason game. We're talking about a faux-opening day — as opposed to the real opening day that baseball's had for, well, for longer than the Ravens have existed, certainly. The NFL cooked up this Thursday night spectacle featuring a pregame of middling rock stars and lots and lots of blather.
And while it would be nice if the Ravens could take part in it, does it really matter if they don't? Nine years does not a tradition make. Give them the Sunday night game or even the Monday night game: Make fans wait till the end of Week 1 to see them, like that chocolate soufflÃ© you had to order when you sat down for your meal. Who cares? Do we believe that the Ravens will sell out M&T Bank Stadium if the game is on a Thursday but be forced to give away tickets if they play at any other time? Please.
They could settle this the old-fashioned way. Both the NFL and MLB are dependents of the Fox Sports machine. So if UFC — another Fox fav — wants to be put Goodell and Selig in a cage and let them go at it, well, I'd pay to see that. Goodell has youth on his side, but Selig is wily and I believe he'd fight dirty. NBV — Nothing But Viewers.
Otherwise — and I say this as someone who finds Selig incredibly annoying about 99 percent of the time — MLB should tell the NFL to go suck an egg. Goodell can console himself by choosing one made by Faberge.