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LABOR PEACE: OK, the NHL is in lockout mode, and the prospect of another lost season is a gut check to hockey fans everywhere. But there will be no lost games in the NFL for much of the next decade, the NBA has a new long term deal and the only thing owners and players in baseball are worried about is how many zeroes the new contracts have. And, of course, there are decent referees on the field again in the NFL, even if they do happen to swear at times.
CONCUSSIONS: Good things are happening in the fight against the once silent epidemic of concussions on sports. Brains are being analyzed, millions of dollars are being poured into research, and there's an awareness about the danger of hits to the head that could save lives everywhere from your child's soccer field to the stadiums of the NFL. Unfortunately, it's too late for thousands of former players who are paying for the blows to their head every day of their lives -- something the NFL refuses to own up to.
DEATH OF THE BCS: Our long national nightmare is almost over. The Bowl Championship Series is, for all intents and purposes, dead, killed off by a fan revolt at the age of 16. It will be replaced in 2014 by a four-team playoff that, while not perfect, will help legitimize the national championship game. Meanwhile, a possible Notre Dame against Alabama title game this season could be one of the biggest ever.
OPPORTUNITIES: Forty years ago this summer, Congress passed and President Nixon signed into law a bill that changed sports forever. Title IX opened up opportunities for women to play sports that were once unimaginable, and it's a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come. When Title IX was enacted, fewer than 30,000 female students participated in sports in colleges and universities, a number that has now increased nearly six-fold. Some 3 million girls participate in high school athletics today, 10 times the number who played sports in 1972. Women may never make big breakthroughs in professional sports, but the resources now devoted to female sports means your daughters and granddaughters can dream of doing things in sports they could never do before.
SPORTS EXTRA: You pay for it more than you realize, every time the cable or satellite bill is due. The Yankees cost you money, and so do the Knicks. There are so many new sports networks popping up that each want their share of the pie that the bill will keep going up until customers finally revolt. What you once got for free now costs a lot, but what a bargain it really is. The variety of sports on television is astonishing, even more so to the generations that grew up before ESPN, when watching sports meant a few football games and Saturday's baseball game of the week -- and having to get up to turn the channel to watch it.
We're living in a world where the options for sports fans are greater than ever. We can watch basketball on the decks of aircraft carriers, hockey on the infield of old baseball parks, and the NFL from soccer stadiums in London. Instead of being parked in front of a TV we can feed our seemingly insatiable sports fix on laptops, tablets and even smartphones. If that's not enough it's easier than ever to have a little something riding on the game, whether in form of a wager or a fantasy team payout.
Still there's nothing like a Saturday morning spent watching the kids play soccer or, at my house, a Thanksgiving Day street football game with relatives of all ages. Even in an era of amazing technology, there's room at the local playground for a pickup game of hoops, and grass at the park to toss a baseball around.
So enjoy the turkey and the NFL on TV as well. Save room for the pumpkin pie, and yet another game to feast your eyes on.
There's a lot to be thankful for.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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