Though it's been a month since the NFL locked out its players, it is a bit early to worry about a potential canceling of the season. After all, it's April, and the players and owners have until September to get this mess worked out before even one game would be canceled, much less the whole season.
But that doesn't mean I'm not breathing into a paper bag every time someone types the words, "no football." At Grizzly Detail headquarters, paper bags are stocked in bulk. After all, if we're not spending Sundays with Brian Urlacher, Jay Cutler, Julius Peppers and the rest of the gang, who will we spend them with?
College football, baseball and our significant others, according to a survey by Sports Illustrated that will run in the April 11 issue:
With a disrupted NFL season, NCAA football would gain prominence getting more attention from 57.3 percent of NFL fans, the MLB by 45.3 percent and the NBA by 37.3 percent. Half of NFL fans (47.5%) say they would watch more non-sports TV and 61.2 percent would watch more of other televised sports without the NFL season. Fans would also spend more time surfing the internet (56.1%), with significant others (45.1%), doing yard work chores (43.6%), playing video games (33.5%) and at church (13%).
Can someone hand me that paper bag, please? No football means more free time, brunches with friends, a clean yard and a new high score in Wii Bowling? No, thank you.
Though the thought of more Bed, Bath and Beyond Sundays with your wife might be frightening, this is the part of the survey that should scare the league:
Nearly half of fans (44%) say they would have less future interest in the NFL after a delayed or canceled season.
A missed season could kill the unfettered cash flow that the league and players are currently fighting over. Football is the most popular sport in the U.S. in ratings, merchandise sales, media coverage and whatever other measure exists.
The fact is that without pro football, our Sundays will go on. We'll live our lives like we do in the off-season. The Cubs, Bulls, Blackhawks and White Sox will fill the pro sports void. Some of us may become Big 10 football fans to get our fix of football. Northwestern and the University of Illinois deserve support too.
Networks will come up with programming to fill the void. The Pac 12 and the Lingerie Football League would love your eyeballs each Sunday, and every television station has back-up plans to make sure that you still want to tune in to their station. (To my NBC family, may I suggest a "Friday Night Lights" marathon to replace "Football Night in America"?)
But it won't be enough, and it will be different from the football Sundays that we have so happily shared with friends and family for years. That fact will be hard to forget if football does leave and then asks fans to come back.
Can someone hand NFL commissioner Roger Goodell a paper bag, please?