You didn’t hear it here first. You already heard it everywhere over the last couple of weeks. Fans, tired of the boring games and bafflingly tone-deaf decisions on the part of the commissioner, have revolted on social media and the growing unrest has surfaced in the form of a TV ratings free fall.
And, of course, the NFL conveniently blames the National Anthem protests that gripped our nation just a few weeks ago. According to a poll posted the other day, the players kneeling for the National Anthem are what is at fault for the league’s TV ratings downturn. But don’t be mistaken. This “poll” is not an actual slice of American opinion, but the NFL trying to convince the public that everything is fine and there is “nothing to see here.” But we all know the truth. The NFL is dying at the hands of commissioner Roger Goodell and he’ll do anything, including blaming players, to deflect any criticism.
Mark Cuban kind of called it when he said two years ago that he believed, “the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion.” Only it could be happening sooner.
Cuban went on to say, "Just watch. Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I'm just telling you, when you've got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That's rule No. 1 of business."
Taking it too far. Had a good thing and got greedy. Sound like anyone you know? The NFL is the pig. It’s gotten fat and is heading, albeit slowly, to the slaughterhouse.
So what in the hell happened?
Overexposure happened for one. Cuban was right, the NFL thought too highly of its product and like a knock off Bart Simpson shirt in the 80’s, football was suddenly everywhere, 24 hours a day. Completely abandoning the notion of “always leave them wanting more,” Goodell and his brain trust crammed football into every orifice the American public presented to him. But just because someone is begging to be stuffed with football, doesn’t mean you should stuff it in there.
The reason why football is so great is because it is a relatively short season compared to other sports and the time you have to enjoy it is fleeting. We know it’s going to leave us high and dry in the dead of winter and we’ll be jonesing for more by the time there’s even a mere mention of the scouting combine. Hosing us down with football 365 days a year and several times a week during the season made it ordinary and commonplace. Like Taylor Swift’s music and persona.
Here’s what the NFL should do right now to help solve some of these problems:
No more London games. Effective immediately, if London’s calling, don’t pick up the phone. The games are terrible, and it’s not selling the sport to Europeans. If you want Euros to watch the game, make sure all of the games are available to watch on television. I met Broncos fans in Ireland who said they loved John Elway because they used to watch Broncos games on local TV in the 80’ and 90’s. Sacrificing a home game so the commissioner can pretend he’s growing the sport is an insult to diehard fans in those cities. England already has its beloved sport they go to stadiums to watch, so let the European fans of the NFL digest it like most of us do in America: on a nice HD TV.
Limit the amount of Thursday games to only three times per season. One on opening week, the usual ones on Thanksgiving and one other marquee matchup during the season. Like the London games, the Thursday night games are not fun to watch and as the play on the field gets worse and worse, the number of people watching will dwindle. And for the love of God, only put good games on these nights. If you have to schedule what could be a bad game, sandwich it in the middle of some decent ones on Sunday. Monday Night football can stay, but only because it’s like your deadbeat uncle you can’t bear to kick out of your house.
Stop being the No Fun League and cease with the nonsense penalties. I want to see someone celebrate a touchdown. Obviously, don’t let them orchestrate a five-act musical in the end zone, but let them have some fun. Because then we’ll have some fun watching them. It’s heinous that some player’s off-field actions are held in less regard than their on-field ones and neutering the flamboyance from the sport of football has only helped make it less popular.
But Roger Goodell is the real problem. Whether it being tone deaf on domestic violence or letting his bloated league veer wildly off course, Goodell is the one who took the hands-down favorite sport in America and made it boring. If it wasn’t for gambling and fantasy football, Mark Cuban’s vision of the NFL would already have come true. Fire Goodell and replace him with someone who has the right combination of energizing new ideas, an open mind, and an insatiable thirst to make the billionaire owners richer, and the NFL may be salvageable.
Until then, we’ll hear how peaceful protests by players - who the NFL chooses to film - are the reason why the league is losing its vice-like grip on the American public. And all the while loading us up with more watered down football like sequel after sequel of the Hangover movies. As I type this, there’s a game on TV right now. I’m confident I’m not missing anything. The only person missing something is Roger Goodell and until he pulls his league out of the stone age - and his head from his own ass - the NFL will continue to march down that road to mediocrity and out of the public eye.