It’s pretty hard to compromise perfection. Yet, for some inexplicable reason, the NFL appears focused on doing just that, tinkering with the secret sauce that long ago propelled the shield to the top of the sporting landscape.
Baseball? Too slow. Steroids and other PED’s coupled with a massive discrepancy in payrolls and an inept Commissioner, and an entire generation of fans have been irreparably alienated.
Hoops? It’s regressed into one-on-one showmanship, with little regard for team concept. Sure, the playoffs are great, but for the most part, just 2-4 teams have legitimate championship aspirations. Flip on the last few minutes of most games, and you’ll pick up on the story lines. Think a few hard-working people were turned off by Lebron’s moronic soap opera?
Hockey? A) it’s not even our sport and B) it translates poorly to TV.
Golf? It’s for the affluent, and it lacks personality. There are no distinct swings anymore and coupled with Tiger’s demise and Phil’s empty season, the fringe fan has already checked out.
Then there’s football, a riveting combination of sheer strength and grace, agility and bone-rattling hits. Impact plays covering 60 plus yards long ago replaced three yards and a cloud of dust. The league is no longer about passing out of necessity, it’s about passing to survive.
Economically, salary caps and TV contracts support an even playing field. The Bills and the Jaguars, in theory, can compete with the Giants and the Cowboys. It’s worked for years, and we inhale everything about the sport.
Team gear, sports bars dedicated to specific teams and fan bases, tailgating, NFL Sunday Ticket, Red Zone, Fantasy Football, offshore accounts and daily highlight shows long ago sucked us in.
However, beyond the ineptitude of the current crop of replacement refs, the NFL is slowly losing its edge, and unless the league acknowledges and eventually corrects the spider crack on the windshield, one of the best products, ever, is in danger of losing everything it worked so hard to protect.
It starts here:
FREQUENCY: The NFL has always had a built-in advantage over other sports, as we were always thirsting for more. However, in the quest to dominate the sports landscape even further, the suits may have missed the boat by actually watering down their golden goose. The beauty of football has always been the palpable emotion that each snap brings, something no other sport can remotely replicate. The ability to dial-up the emotion once a week before decompressing and ultimately dialing the meter back up the following week was tactically brilliant. However, 12 hours of football on Sunday, followed by 4 more on Monday, followed by 4 more on Thursday has created football overload. Suddenly, Sundays feel a little less…special. And over time, that can’t possibly be a good thing.
PACE: Part of the fuel behind the NFL’s engine is the way the pace of the game seemed to organically shift with the changing pace of society. It’s been a tremendous asset. Why stand in line at my bank when I can simply deposit a check at an ATM? Heck, I’ll just snap a picture of my check on my smart phone and download it right into my account from my couch. Immediate gratification. Contrast that to the methodical (yet still beautiful) pace of baseball. Pitcher stares in for a sign, shakes off his catcher several times, pauses and runs thru the signs again. Subsequently, the batter requests time from the ump; the batter then steps out of the box, scans the field, plays with his batting glove, adjusts his cup, tugs on his helmet, all while the pitcher circles the mound, wipes the sweat from him brow, climbs back on top of the hill, toes the rubber, and runs thru the signs. Again. I just stared at a screen for 47 seconds, yet nothing of significance occurred, at least nothing that actually impacts the game. As a viewer, what is my reward for investing my time in that product? In my case, I’m the sucker, as I’m genuinely a baseball fan, so I’m in. But what about the rest of the world? They’ve moved on. Yet, with replay and so many touch backs on kickoffs, the NFL has foolishly managed to slow down a locomotive. Every year, the games get longer, while our collective attention spans decrease. Never a good combination.
FEROCITY: I’ll be totally honest: as long as a player wasn’t motionless on the ground and God forbid, possibly paralyzed, I never gave much thought to injuries. Clearly, if it affected my team, yes, I was emotionally invested, but for the most part, the bigger the car crash, the better. I ruptured my Achilles a few years ago and had Tommy John surgery in college, so I’ve always been aware of the physics and kinesiology of sport. But it’s jumped to an entirely new level the past few years now that the brain has become such a central part of the game and the coverage. It humanizes athletes who for so many decades, seemed beyond physical reproach. I actually am turning away from some of the brutal hits, which ironically, was a magnet to initially tune in so many years ago. Aren’t we supposed to escape reality for a few hours when tuning into a sporting event? I’m sorry, but seeing players removed from the field and carted off has no appeal for me.
GAMBLING: Sure, there were millions of dollars lost last night due to the egregious mistake by the referees on the last play. Still, I’m not sure how many people truly realize just how much was impacted by that one mistake. Some bet the Packers straight up, on the money line: loss. Others laid a few points: loss. But what about all of those casinos, websites and street hustlers who took parlays and reverses and round robins and teasers with the Packers as one of the elements needed for a win? It’s tough enough sweating out a 3 teamer under normal circumstances, imagine being 2 for 2 and then losing like that? If people no longer believe their dollar will be rewarded, at the very least, with integrity and accuracy from the officials, why bet? What if you had the Packers Defense/Special teams last night? It seems small, but let’s face it: gambling has been the NFL’s best friend for decades.
Personally, I’m not sure how you reverse this. Yes, I have a few ideas, but I’ll leave that one up to the NFL. They were intelligent enough to transform the shield into the beast of all logos. Now it’s time to hit the lab and make sure they keep it there.
Right now, for myriad reasons, it’s leaking fuel.