I’ve been an American football fan my entire life, the physicality, the strategy, the big plays, It’s something I came to love and appreciate. But as time goes on and I get older something is slowly changing, my love of the game is waning. It’s not the game itself, even with the self-appointed neutering that both the NFL and the NCAA is implementing in light of the obvious evidence of long-term brain damage and football, the strategy and play is just as intriguing as ever. But everything around the game itself just feels like an over commercialized over dramatized soap opera of drama, police rap sheets, and a severe lacking of cognitive ability.
Sports are entertainment I get that but entertainment comes in many spectrums. Breaking Bad and Teen Mom can both be considered entertainment, but no two people would argue that either are close to being of same quality. One garnering acclaim and notoriety, the other a psuedo-drama with underage whiny and delusional teens thinking they know how the world works. I’m not saying that teen mom and it’s fans are a dumber and less sophisticated bunch. Some people enjoy getting away from the real world and watching a low stress low thought entertainment, I can get behind that even though it is weird that people want to get away from the real world by watching shows based on “Reality” but whatever. Yet Breaking Bad had a sizeable audience without the writers trying to dumb down the material and themes.
So why does the NFL feel the need to try to branch out to the demographics that never had an interest to the sport of football to begin with. Every October the NFL goes further and further into the Breast Cancer Awareness campaign with the notion that the NFL cares about women (because men can’t ever get breast cancer am I right?) and their cancerous plight. The pink parade goes into full effect, more so than the year earlier with pink cleats, pink socks, pink field goal posts, and this year even pink flags. Wow the NFL really cares about stopping this terrible disease, except, the NFL only donated roughly 8% of all proceeds made my the campaign towards actually helping cancer patients. The buzz word here is “awareness” not “research”, the National Football League just wants people aware of breast cancer, not cure it.
So why does the NFL do this entire campaign, simple, they want to get women to watch football. It’s not enough that the NFL is the most watched source of entertainment in all the medium, they need more. Like a fungus it has to constantly grow, even though they’re the biggest thing out there, stagnant ratings are simply unforgivable. America is no longer big enough for the NFL’s might we need to broadcast to the world! Let’s expand across the ocean into another continent even though the 2nd biggest metropolitan area in our own country doesn’t even have a team, makes sense. You know those Europeans are just itching for a taste of our football, even though the continent didn’t even support a developmental league 5 years prior, yay expansion.
The problem with expansion, especially at the rate the NFL has grown the past couple decades is that to reach the non-core audience you have to dumb down your content. At the NFL’s size there is no way a person that is a fan of the sport of football is not or has not watched the NFL. Since the NFL knows that football fans are addicts they don’t need to waste time and money entertaining the purists to keep watching. So the NFL began turning the dial down on the “hardcore” style of NFL content. Certain 4 letter sport networks began building storylines on off the field antics (coach QB drama, police reports, trade rumour mills) instead of real football news.
In the past few seasons a topic transpired that could change the face of football itself. Studies are showing that playing football has a high correlation with brain damage and neuromuscular disorders. Anyone with a brain would know that football is not a safe practice for brain health but with actual scientific evidence proving so the NFL has actually taken notice. They implemented safety measures by neutering the defense and fining helmet to helmet hits. But for some reason the NFL still advertises the same big hits that they are trying to prevent. So the NFL is trying to implement safety measures not out of the goodness of their hearts, but to avoid future lawsuits from players unable to remember their wife and kids. And at the same time advertising the game to could-be watchers with hits that are now in a technical sense illegal.
The NFL fan wants to feel like a man watching football. Giant humans running into each other in wind, rain, and snow, disregarding their bodies for their team and fans. But somewhere along the way those same fans started following football in the same way others watch Teen Mom or The Bachelor. Oh no! So and so is talking smack about this player and that player is acting up on the sideline, does he have his teammates feelings in mind? Who is Aaron Rodgers dating and how many kids does Antonio Rodgers-Cromartie have? We think we’re above the doldrums of reality TV but we’re not, it’s the same thing. Creating “drama” for viewer interest is a trope used by reality tv since it began, and the NFL has picked up on it, and with ratings higher than ever what makes you think the NFL and it’s media affiliates will stop?
Maybe I’m just jaded, it could be that I just grew past my love of football and have a growing interest in other things. But I still love the game, it just seems that I’m beginning to hate everything around pig skinned Sunday. I dislike the constant barrage of advertisements before, during, and after the game. I dislike the NFL’s need to keep the players voices down never allowing them to speak truthfully or honestly. And I’m beginning to dislike many of the players themselves. The constant battery and drunk driving arrests, gun charges, sexual harassment, and the hatred for players deemed “soft” makes me believe that many of these guys would either be flipping burgers or in prison if they didn’t have the ability to move a leather ball.
Yet as my interest wanes, the ratings grow. Am I an outlier or a part of a growing trend of disinterest in the new American pastime. I still watch and root for my team on Sundays and will continue to do so for the time being. The fire and passion for the game may reignite or be extinguished for good, only time will tell.