“Sports for the Non-Sport Fan” with New York Sportscaster Len Berman

January 15, 2014 at 4:04 pm

With  potentially hot and humid World Cup soccer in Brazil and the first outdoor “cold-weather” Super Bowl in New Jersey, 2014 promises to be an interesting year for sports, even if you’re not a sports fan. Having covered just about every major sporting event during his 40-year career, Emmy award-winning sportscaster Len Berman invited NPR commentator Frank DeFord and Wall Street Journal Sports Editor Sam Walker to take a look ahead in a special segment for MetroFocus.

The trio took on the Super Bowl, pro football concussions, ticket prices and soccer.

Super Bowl XLVIII comes to Metlife Stadium in New Jersey on Sunday, February 2nd. This will be the first Super Bowl held in the New York area since 1962 and the first Super Bowl held in cold city at a non-domed stadium, and even non-football fans are wondering what the weather will do to the nation’s biggest sporting event.

“The whole thing is going to depend on the weather,” DeFord said. “It’s a great idea if it doesn’t snow that day. If it snows that day, it’s a terrible idea.”

And when it comes to football, ongoing investigations of head injuries are drawing attention to helmets. PBS Frontline’s concussion tracker reports that head injuries in the NFL totaled 147 this past year. The Wall Street Journal’s Sam Walker offered the opinion that “[Helmets are] used as a battering ram. Football equipment is offensive rather than defensive.”

So while many believe that helmets are protecting football players from severe injuries, DeFord suggested that taking helmets out of football might actually make the game safer. But DeFord admitted that “The appeal of football is violence, and if you cut down on violence you do not have football.”

The group also tackled the cost of New York’s professional teams’ poor 2013 seasons. The Wall Street Journal averaged the winning percentages of nine sports teams in the Greater New York area and found that 2013 was the worst year for NY and NJ professional sports since 1966.

Expressing his frustrations with revenue sharing, salary caps, and luxury taxes Walker said, “We pay way more to go to sporting events and we don’t get the win.” The Giants, Jets and Knicks made Business Insider’s top 10 list of the most expensive teams to watch in person, and the Yankees have consistently had some of the highest ticket prices in major league baseball.

All three sports experts agreed that the biggest sports story of 2014 in the U.S. is hard to guess, but that in the rest of the world it is sure to be the FIFA World Cup hosted in Brazil this year from June 12th to July 13th.

Berman summed up the soccer story this way: “The big issue is: will they win on their own turf?” he said. “Because if they don’t win, it will be a national disaster.”