What your view of sports and life would be if you had too many concussions
A while back, I offered a set of six suggestions to cut down on the amount of “dead time” in college football. I also made mention of the fact that some of those offerings would help the NFL improve the “enjoyable factor” of its product. But as we find ourselves heading headlong toward the Super Bowl, it’s very clear the Kommissar Goodell and the league he stewards really have no idea how hard to watch their product is. That is evidenced by the fact that by all accounts, NFL viewership has declined by nearly 10% for a second straight year.
If you read the article in the cited link about why the ratings are off, you’re going to see a lot of finger-pointing and cultural excuse-making largely because easier taking the proverbial bull by the horns. Those may very well be contributing factors, but they don’t address the big problem: the NFL is putting a crap product on the field and the ratings problem isn’t going away until the league tackles the idea that some things about the game itself need to change.
1) Get rid of instant replay
I’ve never been a fan of instant replay, and I never will be. It’s time to admit that using instant replay to officiate football games has been nothing if not a dismal failure. Not only did it not achieve it’s goal, it didn’t address the root problem; bad officiating. All instant replay did is to stuff yet more dead time into football games. Of course, Kommissar Goodell is never going to admit that instant replay is a boon for the league as it allows for more advertising time. You can sell a lot of beer and pick-up trucks while Ed Hochuli watches the same three seconds of video for four and a half minutes.
I’ve said this before, and I’m going to say it again. I’m going to keep saying it until somebody stops the insanity of instant replay. Football fans, you have a collective choice to make. You can either have instant replay or you can have watchable games. You can’t have both. The idea behind instant replay was that we were going to eliminate the “bad call.” Not only did that not happen, it made things worse….that whole “catch/not a catch” horseshit is a direct result of instant replay.
2) Radically change the current clock-management scheme
As it exists now, football doesn’t have a “clock” as much it has a “stopwatch.” As such, the “start/stop” nature of football means there is already a lot of “dead time” built into the game. Worse yet, the way the clock is managed in the NFL only lends itself to more time in games where nothing is happening. Think about it, coaches get criticized all the time for “clock management,” which almost invariably means they are being judged on their decisions as to when to stop the clock.
Part of the problem is how football chops up it’s clock now. American football is the only place in the time-space continuum where 60 minutes takes three and a half hours, largely because the game simply has far too many reasons to stop the clock.
This suggestion to fix this problem won’t get serious consideration because I understand perfectly that anything which threatens ad revenue is a non-starter, and anything which even remotely suggests such a thing will be met with more resistance than the Germans found Paris in 1941. Despite that, there’s a simple solution to this problem, and we already know it works. American football needs to adopt a clock management scheme which closely resembles that of soccer.
Naturally, there would have to be a few tweaks to fit the specific needs of American football, but the basic concept is the same. Instead of having four 15-minute quarters, football games would have two 60-minute halves separated by a 20-minute halftime. The halftime needs to be that long as an appeasement to the advertisers; they will need to get something in return for the changes coming to “normal” advertising. Also, the NFL-standard halftime of 12 minutes puts the screws to the concession owners in the stadium, because that’s when they do most of their business.
As for the game time itself, teams will still get three time-outs per half. Each time out will be two minutes to allow for advertising. There would still be a play clock started from the time the officials spot the ball, but it would be shortened to 25 seconds. During those halves, there would be only a few times when the clock stops.
You’ll note this plan does not stop the clock for injuries. There would be a provision where the officials can stop the clock for severe injuries where it’s going to be a substantial amount of time to deal with the injured player, but the vast majority of injures can be handled without such a stoppage. Just like in soccer, the referee can simply add time at the end of each half to allow for the time lost to injuries. At the stoppage for the two-minute warning, the referee announces how much extra time will be added (no more than six minutes per half) and adds that time to the game clock.
I’m fairly certain that there would have to be a discussion about how to stop teams from faking injuries to run out the clock at the end of games, but that’s a conversation for another day. The first challenge would be to get this plan implemented in the first place.
Here’s the deal, football fans. Like I said about instant replay, if you want more watchable games, you’re going to have to make some decisions.
3) Kill Monday and Thursday Night Football
Let’s be honest. The NFL as it exists now simply doesn’t have enough “marquee” teams to safely assume it can command any time slot it wants. In fact, by pushing it’s product out to three different days of the week, the NFL has created a particularly dangerous problem; it’s saturated the market with a crap product.
To be fair, part of this isn’t the NFL’s fault. Now that both college football and the NFL are filling five nights a week with football; all seven in November now that the MAC plays it’s entire schedule on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday in that month, by the time I’ve seen the “prime cuts” of college football Saturday and NFL Sunday, my football appetite has been satiated. And by “satiated,” I mean like “elastic-waistband stretched to capacity after an all-you-can-eat fill-up at Golden Corral.”
By offering me Monday Night Football after the smorgasbord which is Sunday, The NFL is the smarmy French waiter who goads Mr. Creosote into having the after-dinner mint because it’s “wafer-theeen.” We all know what happens next.
I love football, but I’m not exploding for it. The NFL used to own Sundays, now it’s giving them away through providing a product of diluted quality and over-estimating it’s actual appeal. Once the league gets rid of Thursday and Monday nights, it only has to do one more thing to take back complete ownership of Sundays…
4) Televise EVERY Game
In other words, I’m done listening to the NFL’s non-sense about it’s broadcasting policies. It’s time come clean about “regional” broadcasting having nothing to do with protecting anything local and being all about trying to get me to buy NFL Direct Ticket. It’s also time to admit that’s a failed strategy, and now is the time to fix the league’s ratings problems by making a simple change; scrap Direct Ticket, abandon “regional” broadcasting, and put every game on television.
There’s so many obvious benefits to this. Fox and CBS, the networks which have the rights currently for Sunday afternoons, both have multiple channels either over-the-air or on basic cable. This means the NFL can do what CBS does with the college basketball tournament. The networks can decide which game they want to show on the over-the-air channel which reaches the most viewers, and they can stair-step it down from there; the game they think will draw the least viewers can be on the basic cable channel with the smallest numbers. The technology exists to make sure teams are always on the over-the-air channel in their home markets to maximize viewership; that placates the local carriers who do get some local ad time during NFL games, and if nothing else, there’s several more avenues for revenue generation on Sundays.
5) Stop Under-Utilizing the NFL Network
For the life of me, I can’t figure out why the NFL would go to the trouble of establishing it’s own cable network then leave it to rot on extended-tier cable/satellite packages. Worse yet, they stock it with unwatchable programming. ESPN and Fox already do a wonderful job of producing the idiotic “discussion” shows which do little but make dim-bulb fans feel like insiders because a panel of of ex-jocks just told them what a “wheel route” is.
I understand when one has to fill programming for a 24/7 cable outlet not everything on the schedule is going to be “Citizen Kane,” but there’s absolutely no reason for the NFL Network to be sinking to the sewage-level of the other cable sports networks.
First of all, it has far more resources, and those are all of a better quality than anything the competitors have. After all, the NFL Network is created by and wholly owned by the National Football League. It should it be able to undercut any other cable outlet on subscriber pricing because it has over-the-air networks paying the lion’s share of it’s TV freight. That means the NFL Network has no reason to not be on channel 25 right next to ESPN on the basic cable/satellite package, and a bargain subscriber rate makes it a far more attractive option for the “streaming” crowd.
That’s also why the NFL Network should be getting it’s product…not just live or replay games, but all of its material…out to the “cord-cutters.” It’s got the perfect set-up; it owns the source of it’s content, it has it’s own means for producing that content, and it has the entire catalog of NFL Films dating back to its inception. That means the NFL Network could easily as good if not better than the NHL or MLB Networks, and it would require no extra expenditure to do it. All it has to do is make a simple change in philosophy away from being a crappier version of ESPN to an honest-to-goodness means of promoting all things NFL.
Not to mention, who wouldn’t rather watch more stuff like this that a bunch of old helmets explaining “A-Gap Pressure?”
6) Eliminate The Non-Sense About “Player Safety”
Time for some brutal reality. You can’t tell me that for all the noise this league has made about the “player safety” issue that it actually gives a shit about it beyond some window-dressing invented by lawyers for insulation purposes against future lawsuits. It’s not a coincidence all this started after the league and the player’s union conspired to fuck over the old-timers by not living up to a promise to carve off a slice of the league’s record profits at the time of the last collective bargaining agreement. That’s when the first concussion lawsuit went from a nuisance to a big-time settlement.
It’s also not a coincidence that the quality of play on the field went down when the player’s union negotiated down the number of full-contact practices. Why did they do that? “Player Safety.”
All you have to do to see the sham this is to look at last week’s Carolina Panthers game where it was blatantly obvious Cam Newton should have been in the “concussion protocol,” but because he’s a star quarterback in a play-off game, he was back on the field before you could say “how many fingers am I holding up?”
Drop the pretense, admit football is a gladiatorial game, pay the players for playing a game they know is dangerous when they take the money, and let’s make the NFL great again.