MMA world, I’m proud of you. We’re finally going mainstream!
Not in the TV sense or advertising sense but in regards to the real world. Society has a secret love affair with us and I think it happened before they ever realized it.
Acceptance is everywhere. Gone are the days when folks outside the 18-29 male demographic scoffed and snickered at our world with disgust and pity. Dissipating are the misconceptions that Senator John McCain helped permeate back in the day.
Again, I’m not writing about ratings and attendance but instead with tales of how my NFL world has been rocked by the popularity of my MMA world. It’s almost like I don’t cover the NFL anymore, when in fact that is my fulltime profession.
Reluctantly, we’re winning society over person by person. It’s an army of popularity that seems destined to conquer.
It really, truly smacked me in the face in early August when I walked into the hotel lobby of the Omni Berkshire in
That’s a conversation that I never would have had two years ago, three, four and certainly not a decade ago. But the wave has been building and building and its coming crashing down everywhere.
Working as the NFL Insider for FOX, I travel from team to team and country to country and my life had been dictated by executives, players, coaches all looking to hear the latest scoopage in the world of football.
But a funny thing happened on the way to last NFL season. People in my football world stopped caring that I did football. It was a sudden and extremely noticeable change. Nobody wanted to hear about who’s on the hot seat, who’s getting cut, who’s getting traded.
The players, coaches, GMs, trainers, video guys, you name it, ask not about Reggie Bush anymore but instead about Chuck Liddell. They no longer ask me about Brian Urlacher but instead Fedor or Cro Cop or Wanderlei.
This year I went to Eagles camp and the fi rst thing out of head coach Andy Reid’s mouth when he saw me? “How’s your guy Chuck hanging in there?” knowing I hang with Liddell pretty often and usually walk with him down from his hotel room to the arena on fight night. Andy didn’t ask me about the conference rival Panthers who I just saw or if I’ve seen the new-look Wade Phillips Cowboys, instead he wanted to know about Chuck’s return.
I’m telling you folks, it’s everywhere.
The 49ers head coach Mike Nolan recently called me for Frank Shamrock and Cung Le’s phone numbers asking if he could put them in a Niners jersey for the next time they walk into the ring. I brought Nolan and his wife Kathy with me for the Elite XC event I did for
Showtime and when I went to his training camp this preseason, that’s all he wanted to talk about. He didn’t care to talk about his team, only that Shamrock made the “you’re going night-night” sign to Phil Baroni before putting him out.
I was at one team’s camp recently when the assistant video director of the team came to me and said, “Jay, you don’t know me but me and my wife watch Pride religiously. I just want to let you know, we don’t miss a show. How do you think
Chiefs camp? Half the locker room peppers me with questions about the Pride/UFC merger. Jaguars? The coaching staff asked me for Pride tapes to use to show their special teams unit the night before games.
Hello people, I’m trying to cover the NFL here! Doesn’t anyone want to talk football anymore? Hello! If it wasn’t for Michael Vick, I may not have gotten a single football question in camps this year. OK, maybe not that drastic but I’m telling you, if I get hit with 1,000 questions in camp, 900 are now MMA related. They ask about Randy Couture when they used to ask about Randy Moss.
I go to Bears camp and the mild-mannered Lovie Smith’s PR director needs his MMA fix, followed by Lovie getting an update and then when I walk out to practice, their center Olin Kreutz leads a damn Q&A session about Couture- Gonzaga, Liddell-Jackson.
Come on fellas, I have a job to do. This is getting ridiculous. Just then, someone from the Bengals calls and asks if I can help him get tickets to Franklin-Silva.
Team after team made my NFL job harder and harder but team after team also made me stop and realize, I’m so proud to be a part of the education era of the greatest sport on Earth. That’s the era we’re living in. An era when ignorance is getting run over by the popularity of “getting” our sport. An era when it’s fun to educate and find new fans like
I did with Mike and Kathy Nolan that night.
We’re getting there folks, just a little bit more. Now if I could just get my real job back.