I have worked as a sports writer for many, many years, and while all professional athletes are looked up to, I don’t think that any are as respected as NFL football players.
I remember doing a feature on a young man a few months ago who was a tennis player. He was one of the top-ranked high school players in our area, and had been playing since the age of six. He had also received several scholarship offers in the sport.
I asked him to name his favorite athlete, and he said Peyton Manning. I was kind of taken aback, expecting to hear the name of a tennis player. I guess he could tell that I was not expecting his answer, and he said I had probably expected him to say Pete Sampras or Roger Federer. I told him that one of those guys would have made a lot more sense to me, and he told me that when he’s not playing tennis, he’s watching football.
A few weeks later, I was interviewing a golfer who had just been offered a full scholarship as well, and when I asked her which athlete she most admired, she said it was Tony Romo. I really was not expecting to hear a football player from her, but she said that Romo is also a great golfer, and she thought that he was cute, too.
I started wondering why so many people were selecting NFL football players as their favorite athletes and I figured that it had to be the popularity of the sport. The fact of the matter is that, while baseball is considered the national pastime, and basketball is the sport with the most participation in the United Stated, football is far and away the most popular.
I even find myself holding NFL football players in higher esteem than other athletes. While I will always talk about the great Brooks Robinson in baseball or Brett Hull in hockey, I have a Bob Lily-autographed football as the centerpiece on my living room coffee table, and a Dick Butkus-autographed football on a mantel in my office.
The NFL holds a special place in the hearts of most American sports fans, and NFL football players are revered as some of the greatest athletes in the world. As a sports enthusiast myself, I look forward to the start of every season, but there is just something extra special about the start of football season.
NFL football players have always been the most respected athletes in the country and likely always will be, and when you look at what they put their bodies through and the joy they bring to millions of fans, I think that it is deservedly so.