Football was the only sport I was ever really good at and I used to love it. (Though I abandoned playing by junior high.)
I was a pretty good soccer player. I loved and love surfing, though at my very best I still wasn’t an “A” or even “B+” level surfer. I’m a reasonably good golfer. I used to play a lot of tennis. But football was the only sport where there was even the glimmer of something extraordinary for me. So it’s not like I have natural inclination to dislike the game.
And I still can’t say that I dislike professional football. I just don’t like it so much. And there are more and more people who seem to feel the same.
I peg my turning from pro football to somewhere around when FOX got the rights to broadcast the games primarily. When that happened (And what was it 20 years ago now?) the whole thing became super slick. The computer animated graphics took over. Instant replay rulings came on the scene with all of their rhythm killing joylessness. The commercials got more numerous as the breaks in the action became more numerous. Then came the revelations about head injuries. Then the politicization of the game. The Baltimore Ravens being paid to support Obamacare. The Redskins issues. Now Mr. Kaepernick and his grandstanding. It’s all just got kind of boring.
Though the NFL refuses to acknowledge it, the Kaepernick “protest” is turning off a lot of people. I certainly support the San Francisco quarterback’s right to express himself, but don’t expect the fans to like it it. Don’t expect the fans to continue parting with their hard earned money when Kaepernick (and others) is essentially giving many fans the finger. Every consumer dollar is a vote after all.
Of course another important factor is time. Who has time to sit though a 3 1/2 hour game on a Sunday? Time is precious. I want to be doing something not sitting in front of the TV eating chips.
Add in that many people, particularly young people are “cutting the cord” to broadcast TV (my family hasn’t had broadcast TV for over 3 years now. It’s great, no commercials. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon. There’s plenty to watch if one wants to watch a show) and one begins to see the problem for the NFL. But there’s more.
Then consider the head injury factor. Many families today have absolutely no desire to see their sons bash their brains through school playing football. Perhaps Billy can play lacrosse, or swim, or skydive, practically everything is better for the noggin than football. If the kids don’t play they are less likely to be fans.
Finally the last factor in the decline in the NFL is not one that motivates the turning off of TV sets like the in your face politics, the lack of time, the cord cutting, or the head injuries, but it is insidious. (From the league’s perspective.) It’s the crony nature of the NFL, which until very recently was classified as a tax exempt nonprofit. Add in the crony stadium deals that always seem to benefit millionaires and billionaires at the expense of city taxpayers (often taxpayers who can’t even afford to attend a game) and there is a general sense of being taken advantage of.
Total all of these things up and they amount to a very serious problem for the NFL. Like so many institutions in the USA now the NFL can’t just assume people will support it, particularly if the organization treats the fans poorly. Those days are over. Just ask the Republicans.
(From The Weekly Standard)
…what has happened to the NFL’s TV ratings? To say that the NFL is the top-drawing sport on the small screen is an understatement. Last season, NFL games, starting with the Super Bowl (114 million viewers), accounted for 14 of the 15 most-viewed sporting events. (The college football championship game sneaked in at No. 7.) Indeed, the NFL accounted for 34 of the top 40 televised games. The remainder were college football bowls, the women’s World Cup soccer finals, at No. 26, and Game 6 of the NBA basketball finals—aka the LeBron James-Stephen Curry show—at No. 40.
This fall, though, the NFL’s popularity has declined enough to be cause for notice and alarm. When ratings slide, the NFL takes a hit not only in its bottom line—which it can afford—but also in its sense of inevitability, which is more dangerous to its psyche. The National Football League aspires to own the entertainment sphere—to “dominate,” as sports lingo would have it. So when ratings declined 11 percent early this season, NFL headquarters sent out a dispatch to all commands, seeking to explain and reassure.
The NFL’s explanations were mostly evasions, which we shall come to in a moment.