I have made no secret of the fact that I really hate football. Football is that rare combination of both dumb AND stupid. I mean, it's so dumb. And then on top of that, it's also really, really stupid. I just can't even, you know?
But football does exactly one thing really well: marketing. The NFL is one of the most iconic brands in branding history, which has been a thing for literally decades. I'm impressed by just how adroitly the institution has been able to sublimate itself from brutal bloodsport to national pastime. And I think one of the biggest reasons it has been able to do so is that it has been so successful at co-opting our national holiday observances and inserting itself into the festivities.
Check it: Let's do a word-association exercise. What does this quadrad have in common?
"Turkey, Feast, Pilgrims, Football."
Without any reflection, your brain immediately came up with "Thanksgiving."
Now consider this: "Breakfast, Business, Finger, Stereo."
You probably immediately recognized that there is no reasonable solution to that one. Even upon reflection, nothing comes up. That's because these four words have nothing in common.
Now, check back on that first quadrad and think for a minute. What does football have to do with the other three? It's as if the first three were doing just fine together and football came along and insisted on being the fourth wheel. We've all had a friend like that. And then after a while, that jerk is just part of the group. That's what football has done here. Which, I mean, good for football. It is now as integral a part of one of our culture's most significant times of gathering and celebration as family and food.
And it's all so enormously to football's benefit. I don't think it's a mere correlation that football has become, in the matter of a mere generation, one of the most integral features of our cultural zietgeist. I mean, plenty of things have come together to make it so, but the insertion of itself into our holiday celebrations is but a prime example of the whole thing. It's the same thing with New Year's Day, and to a lesser extent, the NBA on Christmas.
Baseball doesn't really have anything like this, and I think it is only to it's detriment. I've made this plea more than a few times over the years, but I think baseball really needs to make a push to insert itself into the observances of Memorial Day (and Labor Day too, but you can just take everything I say here and apply it there). Memorial Day is the unofficial First Day of Summer, so we should spend it with the Boys of Summer. This marketing strategy writes itself for cripes sake. Burgers on the grill, kids playing wiffle ball in the yard, and baseball on in the background all day long. These word groupings should be just as seamless as the Thanksgiving quadrad above.
Baseball is already kinda working on it, I guess. They do special uniform things to honor vets today and they schedule a full slate of games from the afternoon and into the night. But they really need to make a national marketing push. There are four nationally televised games on today, but none on the main broadcast stations. The Yankees and Royals will play at 1:05 on ESPN, followed by the Tigers and A's. Then there are a few games on MLB Network tonight. That's it. And moreover, I had to look this up. I know my subjective experience means nothing here, but I don't have to look up who is playing football on Thanksgiving. Baseball should be like that, too.
Of course, it's a tad gauche to divert the national attention away from the true meaning of the day. But let's not delude ourselves into thinking any holiday is sacrosanct. What shred of ceremony there is today is mostly just lip service and "raising awareness" kind of stuff that hardly constitutes meaningful reflection on those memorialized. I mean, it's not like we spend Labor Day in solemn reflection on the sacrifices made by union organizers to push back against corporate malfeasance. It's just a day off. There are a million other things out there for you be to indignant about if you so choose to be.
So let's spend the day off eating together, drinking together, and watching baseball together. Mostly the baseball. Baseball should try to get us to focus more on the baseball.