In terms of popularity, Major League Baseball does not hold a candle to the NFL. For anyone who may doubt that, look no further than last weekend's TV ratings, when a Bengals-Cowboys Pre-Season game had more viewers than a late season rivalry match-up between the Red Sox and the Yankees.
So in an attempt to curtail the disparity in popularity between the two sports, this writer has found the key difference between the NFL and MLB, and is offering Bud Selig (or whoever will replace him in 2012) some free advice on how to make baseball more popular.
Make the game less fun.
Have no fear, baseball fans. We're not suggesting the Commissioner's office make the game less fun for you (After all, with its lack of overall parity, four-hour game lengths and more controversial calls than the World Cup, baseballs the most fun fan experience in existence). We're just suggesting Major League Baseball makes the game less fun for the players.
We're suggesting MLB follows the lead of the more successful NFL, and stops their players from celebrating.
See, the NFL was smart. They knew exactly what these celebrations were leading to. Some critics assumed it was just old-fashioned owners trying to protect some made-up sanctity of their sport, but the actual truth is they instilled these rules to PROTECT THEIR PLAYERS.
Sure, players were being sent back into games fresh off of concussions that would damage their brains forever, but the real issue that needed tackling was obviously the celebrations.
After watching Gus Frerotte slam his head into a cement wall and Bill Gramatica tear his ACL jumping up-and-down after a field goal, the NFL owners finally got wise, and abolished virtually all post-touchdown celebrations.
Remember Terrell Owens and his sharpie? Joe Horn and the cell-phone? Chad Ochocinco and his jersey that said...er, Ochocinco? These were serious risks the players were taking, and when you invest millions of dollars into a person, you want to make sure that person stays safe. After all, offering them non-guaranteed contracts only goes so far.
We bring up this subject this week because it is the same week that the Florida Marlins Chris Coghlan goes under the knife to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee... an injury that occurred when Coghlan attempted to hit teammate Wes Helms in the face with a pie.
Tragically, this is not the only major injury that occurred in Major League Baseball because the owners foolishly allow their players to celebrate. Kendry Morales, the top offensive weapon for the Anaheim Angels, wrecked his lower left leg celebrating a walk-off grand slam against the Mariners.
Luke Scott, in a rare win for the Orioles, pulled a hamstring trotting around the bases on a Home Run. Scott wasn't even celebrating... yet... but he was certainly thinking about it!
Jake Peavy broke a rib celebrating the Padres clinching of the NL West in 2005. Ryan Dempster broke his toe celebrating a Cubbies win in July of last season. Denny Hocking broke his nose AND cut his hand in two separate victory celebrations. The list goes on and on.
And not to mention, wouldn't baseball just be better overall if we didn't have to look at A.J. Burnett every time the Yankees hit a walk-off? The overrated pitchers narcissism wouldn't be so bad if the Yankees "Designated Pie Man" wasn't so gosh darn ugly. The guy is just not a visually appealing character. His face freakishly resembles the aliens in the fourth Indiana Jones movie.
One of this writers all-time favorite celebrations occurred in September of 2004. Mike Bartrum, the long-snapper for the Philadelphia Eagles, caught a rare touchdown pass playing tight end. Aware of his primary role, Bartrum took the football and snapped in between his legs 15-yards down field to a waiting Donovan McNabb.
The Eagles were penalized 15 yards, and rightfully so. How dangerous was that!? Bartrum, doing exactly what he does practically every time he stepped foot on the field... only this time without an onslaught of defenders rushing at him. He could have put somebody's eye out!
So let Francisco Rodriguez and Joba Chamberlain frantically fist-pump for doing their jobs, let Prince Fielder pretend he's a giant bowling ball, and let A.J. Burnett throw himself onto center stage every time someone else makes a major accomplishment. It's all fun and games... until someone gets hurt.
Ochocinco and Owens, two of the NFL's most infamous "celebrators," are set to begin their first season as teammates. Thankfully, the NFL has a series of rules and regulations put in place to protect these characters from themselves.
If only baseball would do the same. - Eric Marmon
Eric Marmon is a freelance writer from Philadelphia. He graduated from Hofstra University, is a retired Whaler, and currently resides in Brooklyn, New York.
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