By: Jason “Big J” Allen, Follow Me @UnsportsmenBigJ

“Charges don’t stick to dude, he’s Teflon” Jay-Z “The Ruler’s Back” This is the NFL, John “Teflon Don” Gotti, nothing seems to effect the NFL image, EVER!  I have felt this way for a while but recently reading Joseph Haas (great follow too @JerseyHaas) Dings & Dents: The NFL Image Problem it made me think “Why can’t the NFL go the way of the MLB, and NBA image wise?”  What makes the NFL so untouchable?  At one time or another both the NBA, and MLB was considered untouchable, but boy how the mighty have fallen.  So what sets the NFL apart?  Why does the bad image never hurt the NFL?  One huge reason is the NFL is marketed as the “Ultimate TEAM SPORT!”

Let’s start with the NBA, during its heyday the talent was great and the technical part of the game was amazing.  Less athletes but you had more skill on the floor.  The first hurdle the NBA hit was a drug problem in the 60’s, 70’s, and early 80’s.   Say what you want about the David Stern, but he spent a whole career as a Commish cleaning up that image.  Luckily with emerge of Magic/Bird, and later MJ he had the great thought to promote “SuperStars”.  Yes, come one come all and see these extraordinary men play basketball.  The NBA is the most “Star studded” league out of the majors three, and that was by design.  Stern basically said look at how my league just produces stars you can follow from college up to the big leagues.  Well eventually that backfired with straight from high school jumps, which lowered the skill on the court, and the adding of more franchises (less is sometimes more).  Also the drug image got replaced eventually over time with the “Thug persona”.  Who could forgot players coming to the arena looking like rappers?  So you marketed a league around individual SuperStars and when the SuperStars were not as talented, or represented a certain aspect of the society that the masses couldn’t relate to, the league, got a bad rap (no pun).  Now the NBA is making every player go Justin Timberlake “Suit and Tie” and we are starting to see the NBA fashion atmosphere come straight from the runway to the Press Conference.  I’m not to keen on the 1 year rule the league has mandated I think it should be closer to the NFL with 3 years so we can see these players grow overseas, or in college.  Also with the Stars actually being talented, and LBJ taking the spotlight to lead the league we are seeing a revamped image similar to the dare I say MJ years.

MLB is the perfect example of duality in image.  The MLB loved its status of “America’s Pasttime”, it had stars, excitement, and history.  The thing that hurt the MLB saved it all at the same time.  It’s history and reliance on numbers.  The MLB is probably the slowest evolving sport, look at its stance on replay.  Look how it refuses to put a better product on TV.  You have officially divided your fans MLB, the younger generation looks at you like a dinosaur because of your lack of technology and advancements, while the older generation looks at your PED issue as the destruction of the beloved stats.  When you have a drug problem that enhances performance, which enhances stats, it hurts the history of a sport that is so numbers and history orientated to a mockery.  Right now as I write your Home Run King was a PED user, and the league lacks the guts to do anything about it, because that would be change and we know the MLB is slow to do that.  So for the foreseeable future whenever we see a player jump in stats we will ask questions of how legit it is (Please let Puig be the real thing).  The MLB is directly responsible for its image of cheaters and old geezers, because it turned its head during the early reports of PED use.  The MLB turns its nose up at tech that can make the game better, or at least help get the call right (Angel Hernandez anyone).  Now because of the image you have made part of your culture you have a generation of kids growing up in the “Steroid era/PED era” and we are starting to see an apathy when it comes to cheaters.  Now the MLB is cleaning house and trying to slowly introduce technology, but it maybe a little to late to reclaim the #1 spot in America’s heart.

Now I know the NFL has had 30 arrest since the end of the Super Bowl, and right now one of the NFL’s stars is going through a trial that is revealing more horrendous acts every day.  Yet the Shield takes a bump, and like a good blacksmith the league continues to smooth it out.  Because the NFL is promoted as a team sport, and a next man up mentality its hard to associate the league with the acts of individuals.  Yes, the NFL promotes stars, you have your Peyton Manning who had a million commercials and SNL appearances, but did we forget that just 2 years ago we had a league with no Peyton Manning in it, and we still watched.  Imagine if the NBA lost LBJ for a year, would YOU watch?  Probably not.  In the NFL numbers don’t matter only wins Ben Roethlisberger and Eli Manning have some of the worse regular season stats of QB’s but yet they sit with 2 rings each.  We don’t call them a bum, because they win.  MLB you can have nasty numbers but turn up in the postseason and all everyone will point to is your average regular season’s when it’s HOF time (Curt Schilling is still not in HOF yet he helped revive and lead two snake bitten franchises to a World Series Championship).  Hell the NFL touted out Replacement players in 1987 and even Replacement Refs in two separate occasions (Fail Mary, the Nation will never forget) and we still watched.  This is all because the NFL never rests its head on one gimmick to be marketable.  The NFL never forgets its past, but always tries to push the envelope into the future, all while reminding America this is a team sport and one player will never destroy that image, even if its been 30 so far.  The NFL has Stars, the NFL has Stats, and the NFL has a image that everyone can get behind “Teamwork”.  So when it comes to an image to quote Lebron James and Lil’ Wayne the NFL “Ain’t got no worries!”

Jason "Big J" Allen  @UnsportsmenBigJ

Jason “Big J” Allen
@UnsportsmenBigJ

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