When I was younger, I played two hours of touch football every Sunday morning followed by an entire day and evening of watching NFL. There were 1:00 p.m, 4:00 p.m., and 8:00 p.m. Sunday games. The only other weekly game was on Monday night. Despite my exhausted state, after nine hours of televised football, interrupted by one hour for dinner, I was satiated but satisfied.
Now we have a game every Thursday night for 17 weeks, and three on Thanksgiving. Some weeks have two games on Monday nights, and there are Saturday games late in the season. Heap on five Sunday matinees from London and you’ve gone way past the point of diminishing returns. It’s gotten so bad that I only watch the Redskins during regular season, and if they aren’t playing the weekend, don’t watch at all. I’ll regain some interest in the playoffs, but raking leaves has more quality appeal than this regular season slate.
Other than flooding the market with an inferior product, where did the NFL go wrong? Let’s start with how instant replay has rendered the on-field officials impotent and has ruined the flow of the game. How about quarterbacks who are powder-puff protected? How about eliminating good hitting and high speed impact plays – like kick off returns (all the stuff us fans like). Faced with declining viewership, a report finally came out this week that leads us to believe the league has re-examined it’s thinking and is considering eliminating Thursday games. That’s a start. If you dump replay, dump the Thursday package, dump the second Monday night game, and put some physicality back in the sport, you’ll get me back.
College the savior?
There is nothing better than a prime time college rivalry game with passionate fan bases. Love it! The Michigan – Ohio State game last weekend was outstanding, but the infection is starting to spread at this level. The greedmeisters at the Big Ten have launched a Friday night package for next season. I’ll be treated to super match-ups like my Maryland Terrapins vs Northwestern. I love the current Thursday night college games because you always have two quality programs, but second tier Big Ten exhibitions are a non-starter. You’re just giving the home team students more of a reason to drink (which I’m sure they just hate), but you can’t dump your worst teams into a Friday match-up and call it a national TV event. Plus, Friday nights are for high school.
Actually, the college game has been slipping for years; at least since the national champion is no longer crowned on New Year’s Day and all the 6-6 teams are going to bowl games. Who is really watching these gladiators of mediocrity like when Boston College plays Indiana in the Radial Tire Bowl? The announcers on ESPN3? Apologies to the Eagles and Hoosiers, but look at what I have to deal with as a Terrapins fan. My team is 6-6 and got shellacked 121-6 in back-to-back weeks by Michigan and Ohio State. Does the fact that we drubbed Howard University and Purdue but can’t compete in our own conference build enthusiasm and make us bowl worthy? This will end when attendance starts looking like minor league baseball games at some of these bowls, and we are closer than you think.
Football is a dangerous game. I don’t begrudge NFL players for getting as much money as they can because they put their bodies on the line for the sole benefit of my weekend entertainment. They know the risks and are compensated accordingly, but when you soften the game to a ridiculous point and flood the airwaves with this mediocre garbage, people aren’t going to watch.