What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
If you like Thursday Night Football, then this piece isn’t for you. You are the NFL fan Kommissar Roger Goodell loves; the one who keeps gulping down the sports slop the NFL is pumping out these days. The NFL remains the most popular sports league in this country despite the fact that under Goodell’s watch, the NFL keeps finding ways to ruin its own product. Thursday Night Football is yet another example.
Honestly, I never had an issue with TNF before now. The fact that the NFL used its own network to get its bottom feeders a shot at a nation-wide audience didn’t put a burr under my saddle. But now that CBS is getting a part of this package, it’s pretty clear the NFL is selling us some serious lies about the quality of the product they are dishing out. If you doubt that, consider the following points.
1) They want you to think now TNF will feature better games
Ironically, the best lies have a kernel of truth in them. While Goodell and the rest of the NFL Politburo can honestly say this year’s TNF schedule is better than previous years, it’s like saying not shooting yourself in the face is better than shooting yourself in the face. Last year’s schedule is interesting not for who is on it, but for who isn’t. If you look at it, there wasn’t a single game that featured two teams who made the playoffs. The closest examples were Seahawks vs. Cardinals and Chargers vs. Broncos, but when both of those games were scheduled, nobody was picking Arizona or San Diego to be in the play-off hunt. Conversely that schedule was chock full of barn-burners featuring play-off teams against dogs, like Patriots-Jets, 49ers-Rams, and Colts-Titans.
The party line coming down from the NFL Kremlin is now TNF will feature games between divisional rivals. At first glance that sounds pretty damn good, but when you look at the schedule, it looks like more of the same. If you doubt that, look at this list and tell me how many of these games look like both teams could be play-off contenders?
*Games on CBS, all others on NFL Network.
I count one…two if you think Pittsburgh and Baltimore can be anything more than mediocre. Three if you looked at Dallas at Chicago after drinking a quart of varnish. Other than that, this is just more bad football brought to you by the people who don’t want you to notice it is bad football. The best way for you to not notice is to keep it on the NFL Network.
2) The season opener and Thanksgiving games tell the story
It’s not an accident that these two games which feature Green Bay at Seattle and San Francisco at Seattle respectively are not part of this crap-tastic TNF package. The reason for that is obvious, what but not what you would expect. The NFL already made a concession to the TNF schedule to entice a network partner; there are three teams over the past ten years which have consistently been at the top of the league in terms of merchandise sales and television ratings: Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Dallas. Do you think it is an accident the two teams on that list which have had any recent play-off success are on the network portion of the TNF schedule?
3) Sunday Night is the new Monday Night
The hard reality is that the prime real estate for non-Sunday afternoon football isn’t Monday anymore. You can look at the Sunday Night schedule and see that pretty plainly, but what really bears that out is the presence of Green Bay, Pittsburgh, and Dallas on Sunday night. Those three teams are on SNF a combined seven times, as opposed to 4 combined appearances on Monday.
4) Even CBS doesn’t buy Thursday Night Football long-term
Think about that for a minute. Normally, bidding for NFL broadcast packages is a feeding frenzy with the winners inking multi-year deals worth billions of dollars. That’s not what happened here. CBS got this contract despite the fact they weren’t the highest bidder. The Eyeball Network only ponied up $275 million for the rights to TNF, and it’s only a one-year deal, with an option year. It’s almost like CBS signed a utility shortstop rather than a deal to broadcast the most popular league in the country.
What’s weird about this is the NFL expected a $400 million price-tag, yet took the low-buck offer from CBS when they could have got their asking price from Turner, ESPN, NBC, and Fox, who had all placed bids. Another fun fact is that CBS gets no additional play-off games under this deal. Clearly, CBS is hoping to make Thursday Night Football into a long-term franchise, but hope is not a strategy. Keeping your options open at the lowest commitment possible is, and both sides are doing it.
CBS is clearly using 2014 season as an audition for the NFL because they have doubts about another weeknight of football, and NFL may be coming to the conclusion they have either hit the ceiling for their pricing, or the saturation point for their product, or both. The NFL surely isn’t putting out a marquees product, and CBS isn’t paying marquee prices.
But this strategy will probably work because there are still enough of the fans Goodell loves; the ones who will slurp up anything he lays down.