NFL Nation: Mary McGrory

Posted by ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Just got a rare and welcome opportunity here at the NFL owners' meeting: My ESPN.com colleagues and a number of other reporters were invited to hear a keynote address from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a self-avowed football fanatic.

Rice covered many of the topics in her personal spectrum, ranging from her passion for the game to its prospects for international expansion to the impact of lower oil prices on the Russian economy. My plan is to drop bits and pieces of her talk into the blog this week for a little variety. For starters, I'll focus on how rare it was to hear someone of her academic and diplomatic background speak so passionately about our brutish game.

In my experience, it's much more common for the intelligentsia (and pseduo-intelligentsia) to favor baseball, the more "civilized" and "sentimental" game. Really, really smart people like Condoleezza Rice -- and, trust me, she's smarter than you and me and everyone else who regularly patronizes this here blog -- typically look down on the Black and Blue violence of football.

When considering this dynamic, I'm always reminded of the phrase coined by late Washington Post columnist Mary McGrory: "Baseball is what we were. Football is what we have become." In other words, baseball was king when we were a smarter and purer nation. Football, on the other hand, now represents our louder, dumber and less subtle society.

Many of us who are all about football -- and I don't mind including myself in that group -- consider it quite a condescending thought. Having covered both sports for many years, I can tell you the average football game is more complicated and at least as nuanced than the average baseball game.

But this isn't to argue whether football or baseball is better. Gosh, let's not go there. The only point is to pass along how refreshing it was to hear a highly-educated American refer to football as "America's Game" and describe it as the "greatest game ever created." At its essence, Rice said, football is about consistently accumulating territory -- which has obvious symbolism in her former role in the State Department.

We'll touch on a few other football-related topics Rice covered here Sunday night, but this one is resonating most with me right now.

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