Football is back but the league thinks its fans are sheep
As a lifelong football fan; I can tell you that to this point, it’s been a mostly one-way love affair. The league will take, and take, and take…but give precious little. Oh sure, we have experienced three exciting, and competitive Super Bowls in a row, and NFL parody has blessed us with at least six new playoff teams each season; each seemingly with their own set of compelling storylines. But, for every good thing the game and its administrators brings, there is at least one negative. Some more serious then others.
Beyond that, however, the NFL contributes little to our wellbeing. Our undying loyalty to the game we love, and loathe is simply not reciprocated. The NFL wins the ratings war, the loyalty war, and falls just short of the riotous fandom of European soccer fanatics; but they are not content to merely have our hearts and wallets; they seek our minds as well.
It’s demonstrative of a league that is used to having everything its way; or even both ways. The NFL receives benefits that no other sports league could hope for.
The NFL proclaims to be the sport of the everyman, but then they order local tv blackouts for non-sellouts (Bengals fans should thank them this season). Nevermind that they have pumped millions into the development of their own version of ESPN; the NFL network, or that they have introduced new camera angles into their programs to entice viewership; without a life studio audience the show is just not as compelling. Even if your team has not been competitive since the leather helmets era; you don’t get the privilege of a locally televised NFL game unless enough of the village idiots pony up for the tickets.
Even season ticket holders; the utmost loyal customers, get the shaft. Every season ticket holder has to buy preseason tickets. they arbitrarily apply rules related to tackling; they blatantly lie to us about the clamoring for an 18-game season, or for better safety for the quarterbacks (except for New England). The reason is that they know no matter how bad they treat us, we will never leave their side.
The situation in Minnesota right now is a good illustration of all that is both good and bad about the NFL. Minnesota, like many states, is dealing with declining revenues and a higher expenditure of state resources to cover the unemployed; a perfect storm for budget shortfalls and difficult discussions about slashing pension plans and services. Does the NFL care? Earlier this year the Minnesota state government shut down over a stalemate between the legislature and Governor Dayton. It’s that bad. Still, the NFL is so beloved that the legislature, in spite of all of the hardship of the state, is considering a special session this fall to attempt to appease the NFL with a partial financing for a new stadium and to keep the Vikings from bolting to Los Angeles. LA may not even have a team yet, but they are also working on building a stadium in order to lure a team there. Even with 12 percent unemployment, among the highest in the entire nation, California legislators are busy introducing bills to eliminate infrastructure requirements like environmental impact statements in order to accelerate construction.
But the hubris of the NFL is everywhere, not just in Minnesota. Jerry Jones is another strong example. Jones, and the NFL, have cultivated the notion that he is the consummate owner; a true NFL fan, who funded a billion dollar stadium to showcase the greatest game in the world in the greatest arena ever built. Overlooking the fact that Jones (likely) didn’t put a goddamn dime of his own fortune into Cowboys stadium, and that the city of Arlington gave them $350 million, the Super Bowl was an absolute travesty. Thousands of fans, after paying for airfare, hotels at bloated prices, found themselves without seats due to a snowstorm that the city and the NFL were baffled by even minutes before kickoff. Did the NFL make amends? Not really. They stuck the jettisoned fans in some bar in the bowels of the arena; and then let them check out the field briefly after the game. Fortunate Cowboys fans can literally see their team take the field from a bar on the field level. The largest HD screen in the world hangs from the roof; enhancing the experience for paying fans.
Like the NFL, Jones has tried to have it both ways for a long time. Historically a terrible talent scout, Jones has also cultivated a reputation as a man who loves promoting the NFL with gimmicks; things like concerts at half time, amusement parks, practically anything so long as it has almost nothing to do with football. Jones also insists on continuing to be the General Manager for the Cowboys despite having just a single playoff victory since 1996. Just keep quiet and enjoy the view, folks.
If only it was just the Cowboys fans who had to shell out too much money for a mediocre product, but, truthfully, there just isn’t enough space here to examine the plight of fans for numerous NFL clubs; including the Redskins, Bills, Bengals, and Raiders. Meanwhile arguably the most well-managed team in the NFL; the Green Bay Packers; technically are owned by the city of Green Bay; something the NFL loathes and will never allow Buffalo to do with their beloved Bills before they skip town for either Toronto or Los Angeles.
I could go on about the tacky way the NFL has handled the 9/11 anniversary but I will forgo that rant and just say that I disapprove. No one should commoditize or profit off of 9/11, not even the NFL.
Again, the NFL has done many things well, and the right way, but even in victory, when we all agree that the NFL has done well, there is often much more left to be desired.
The new collective bargaining agreement was consummated for another ten years fans and players rejoiced, yet, a number of enormous issues remain that could again threaten the prosperity of the NFL, and patience of the fans. For instance; NFL contracts essentially remain a series of one-year deals; subject to termination by general managers practically at-will. Free agency is still a mess, too, sure a rookie-scale was implemented to check draft-status contract inflation; but the franchise tag remains out there; a limiting option for players who would like the “security” of a longer deal. The kickoff rule, new to this season, has been roundly criticized and threatens the livelihoods of special teams players; often fringe roster spots for undrafted free agent rookies and those on the bubble. Not to mention gameplanning for coaches; and the excitement of kick returns for the fans.
But why would fan discontent stop the NFL now, when it hasn’t lately? So, enjoy tonight’s kickoff and prepare for another exciting NFL season. But buyer beware; if we don’t challenge the NFL, and call them out occasionally on their bullshit, then we run the risk of being exactly what they want us to be; sheep for Shepard Goodell to heard.
You heard what I said, Goodell will come to your house and take your children! (loads up bomb shelter with canned tuna, stocks shotgun shells and porn mags)
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