On today's All Things Considered, Robert Siegel poses an important question to Bob Costas, one of the authors of a new book about the greatest moments in football: With football so popular and beloved and money-making, why is baseball still considered our national pastime? What does football have to do to get a little love?
"Hey, leave baseball something," Costas says of the special, nostalgic language with which we often speak of it. "In every other measurable way, football has surpassed it."
The new book and DVD set 100 Yards Of Glory: The Greatest Moments In NFL History, which Costas co-wrote with his frequent collaborator Joe Garner, aims to choose the greatest moments in the history of a league that has gone from being outshone by both professional baseball and college football to one that can fairly be called our national pastime in all but name.
Costas says that the NFL has some natural advantages over baseball when it comes to winning audiences: with only 16 regular-season games, they're all important. Most are shown on the weekend while people are at home. And, he notes, they all lead to a single championship game scheduled at the most convenient possible time for a gathering. Consider by contrast baseball's flexible series model that might bring the season to an end on any of several nights.
Of course, football also has embraced spectacle to a sometimes remarkable degree, as the two discuss when Siegel asks Costas to compare the home viewing experience with the experience of being in the stadium to see the game. As Costas notes, the huge hanging screens at the stadium in Dallas stretch from one 25-yard line to the other, making them tempting even to people who are there and could just look right over at the game happening live. (If previous screens were jumbotrons, perhaps these are megajumbotrons.)
And they're not just a distraction for the fans in the stadium. That's where we get to Eli Manning's pores.
According to Costas, Manning told him that playing in Dallas in the company of those huge screens requires extra preparation: "I have to be sure I shave when I play in this stadium, because my mother's watching, and she can see every pore on my face."