The NFL’s Big Bad Bet

NFL LogoFolks who know me know that I wholeheartedly support free market capitalism and am about as pro-corporation as you can be, yet even I am having problems with the NFL and the huge misguided bet they’ve made with their viewers.

We are being taken advantage of and asked to support a product declining in quality, and being provided by employees with incredibly deviant behavior and poor character.  Is anyone starting to feel ripped off?  The commissioner, owners, and entire organization is beginning to take some serious heat, which is long overdue.  The bottom dropped out for me after I read the article published in today’s Washington Post on the NFL Security Network.  I was well aware these guys took care of their own, but the elaborate scheme constructed to support these deviants and the constant attention paid to getting out in front of public relations issues and keeping players out of trouble was disturbing.  I was left to think, would individuals with the same arrest and conviction records even expect to sniff a job application with the employers you and I work for?  The double standard is sickening.

The NFL is in a pickle because collectively the teams work to produce a viable product that will sell to four major television networks (the latest contract is for nearly $40B over eight years), yet individually they are under tremendous pressure to compete amongst themselves for the prestige and financial gain that accompanies winning.  Now they have a huge image problem, and to-date, the internal competition has encouraged employment of individuals of great character such as:

Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez

Aaron Hernandez, Michael Vick, Ray Rice, and Adrian Peterson.  You may have seen the document at USA Today with the NFL arrest records since 2000.  Just incredible.

These individuals had jobs simply because of their superior physical skills.  The problem starts early (college) with the extremely low standardized test scores required for athletes to attend today’s elite universities (football factories). While, the NFL has employed Rhodes Scholars (Pat Hayden) and folks of impeccable character (Roger Staubach), for every one of them, there are 100 lacking in reputation, brains, and overall common sense.  I learned a lot from reading John Feinstein’s Next Man Up. Feinstein embedded with the 2004 Baltimore Ravens for an entire season and covered in-depth some of the issues that are the genesis of the NFL’s problems today.  First, when deciding whom to draft, teams do worry about character but it’s usually superseded by physical ability.    Second, in the Raven’s case, maintaining a bad boy public persona was beneficial and was exemplified by the reputation the Ravens acquired after Ray Lewis was indicted for murder in 2000 (charges were subsequently dropped) and Jamal Lewis served four months in prison on drug charges in 2005.

Jamal Lewis

Jamal Lewis

The Ravens initially had to deflect questions about their player’s character prior to their appearance in the 2000 Super Bowl, but ultimately embellished and thrived on their reputation as a team of lawbreaking miscreants.  Wherever they went, they were the bad boys and played that up.  Football does have a bit of gladiator mentality, but would you and I be welcomed back to our places of employment after serving four months in prison on drug charges as Jamal Lewis was?

The Bad Bet:  So the NFL is betting that you and I will continue to indulge in their product.  But now we have the softening of the game with increased penalties for good solid hits, in an effort to over-protect against injuries.  We have the league hiding the impact of those concussion related injuries from the past.  We have the over-reliance on instant reply which mechanizes play and slows the natural flow of the game.  We have over-saturation with games on Sunday afternoon and night, dual Monday night affairs, Thursday contests, overseas events, and Saturday games late in the season.

And now we have the character, integrity, and behavior issues.  Are we condoning them when we patronize this product?  Is that okay?  I still watch and root for the Redskins, but have increased my college game-day viewing and stopped watching NFL on Sunday night and Monday night.  They are losing me as a customer, how about you?


About Brian Penn

Avid sports fan and golf nut. I am a lifelong resident of the Washington D.C. area and love to follow the local teams. Also worked as a golf professional in the Middle Atlantic PGA for several years and am intrigued by the game to no end. I love to play and practice and am dedicated to continual improvement.
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