Saturday, May 25, 2024

Is Mitch Wishnowsky’s Ceremonial Punt Evidence of NFL’s Takeover on American Sports Traditions?

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In an unexpected twist that has sparked both amusement and debate among sports enthusiasts, Mitch Wishnowsky, renowned for his punting prowess in the NFL, took to McCovey Cove to execute what can only be described as an unprecedented “ceremonial first punt.” This event, seemingly innocuous in its execution, might just be a subtle indicator of the NFL’s burgeoning influence over American sports traditions.

Or is it just that other sports want to include some element of football into them and piggyback on its popularity? In the past NFL stars like JJ Watt, Russell Wilson, Antonio Brown, and Saquon Barkley have thrown the first pitch, but MLB stars have never had the opportunity to make an appearance in NFL games.

NFL invades the diamond

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The spectacle of Wishnowsky, donned in the San Francisco Giants gear, booting a football into the waters of McCovey Cove, is a striking deviation from the norm. Traditionally, MLB games commence with the ceremonial first pitch, a ritual steeped in history and cherished by baseball aficionados. Similarly, the NBA has its half-court shots. To replace the first pitch with a punt — an act so distinctly ‘football’ — feels discordant, like an intrusion into a cultural ritual that has long been the exclusive preserve of baseball.

The decision to incorporate a football punt into a baseball tradition raises eyebrows not just for its deviation from the norm but for its potential implications. It’s no secret that the NFL reigns supreme in the American sports hierarchy, its popularity unmatched. NFL averaged 17.9 million viewers in 2023, while MLB only 9.11 million.

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Moreover, the choice of a punt — and not, say, a basketball shot or a soccer kick — for this ceremonial act speaks volumes. It’s hard to ignore the possibility that this was a calculated move, influenced by the towering presence of the NFL in the American sports psyche. The very notion that a baseball event would borrow an element so distinctly associated with football underscores the NFL’s cultural dominance. Or this move could have a more harmless intention.

MLB just looking to use football’s popularity?

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Maybe baseball, under the stewardship of Rob Manfred, is looking to glean insights from the NFL’s playbook, as led by Roger Goodell. The ceremonial punt, while seemingly a light-hearted fusion of sports, might just be the tip of the iceberg, a precursor to a more profound integration of the NFL’s influence into the broader tapestry of American sports traditions.

USA Today via Reuters

Mike Florio himself said that Manfred “had a lot to learn from Goodell”. Even though he was speaking in the context of how the two handle press conferences, it could be extended to how, under Goodell’s watch, the popularity of the NFL has only soared.

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As we reflect on Wishnowsky’s ceremonial punt, it’s crucial to consider the implications of such cross-sport integrations. Are we witnessing the evolution of sports traditions, or is this an indication of the NFL’s overshadowing influence on the American sports landscape? Only time will tell, but for now, the lines between the sports we love and their cherished rituals seem to be blurring, for better or for worse.

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