On the surface, the NFL is doing better than ever. Super Bowl XLVIII was the highest-rated ever. The league makes news every day, even if some of it is awful (see below). However, under Roger Goodell (I prefer Roger Greedell), the league has become more corporate, more greedy, less blue-collar and more appealing to the wine-and-cheese types who increasingly populate its stadium luxury boxes and 50-yard-line seats. Here are some of its issues:
(1) Factoring in parking, ticket costs, concession stand food and drink and souvenirs, the average American family cannot afford to attend an NFL game. (Even two people driving from Marion to Cincinnati to attend a Bengals game face prohibitive costs).
(2) Sunday night and Monday night games are an inconvenience for school age kids and parents who have to go to school and work the next day. Plus, on a whim, the league can now move a 1:00 pm, family-friendly game to Sunday at 8:00 pm. A late December night game in Miami, San Diego, or indoors is one thing. Try watching a Sunday night game at Green Bay’s Lambeau Field, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro or Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., in late December.
(3) Greedell wants to increase the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14. This means almost half of the 32 teams will make the playoffs. The league had trouble selling out wild-card playoff games in Green Bay, the NFL’s version of Vatican City. The fans aren’t stupid. They won’t pay hyper-inflated prices for phony playoff games. This also means that games played in August will become “pre-pre-season games.” The 16-game schedule will now become the “pre-season,” with the “real” season starting with the playoffs in January.
(4) Only now, following the publication of The League of Denial by the Fainaru brothers, is the league taking serious steps to improve player safety. One such step is to show half of its Thursday games on CBS, so more fans can watch their favorite gladiators battle in the “pit.” But wait a minute! The NFL cares about player safety? If it does, the league has a funny way of showing it. The league is still scheduling Thursday games throughout the season (not just on Thanksgiving). The average super-conditioned NFL body is not meant to play football on Sunday and then come back to play again on Thursday. So when the league says its commitment to players’ health and well-being has never been higher, it is lying. And the Thursday night games are the central core of that lie.
(5) In 1976, following blatant on the field assaults by the Oakland Raiders against Pittsburgh wide receiver Lynn Swann, Steelers’ coach Chuck Noll spoke of a “criminal element” in pro football. Today, its face is former Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez, who may be the NFL’s first-ever serial killer. Greedell has cracked down on players’ off-the-field misbehavior. But it is still a major problem, along with other issues (fathering multiple children out of wedlock with multiple partners, poor management of finances, the absence of alternatives for players whose NFL careers end after three years or 13).
Since Greedell became commissioner in 2006, the NFL has grown by leaps and bounds financially. But the soul of the game is rotting away slowly but surely. It is SO overexposed and SO overhyped that it has been a shell of its former self, a big “yawn” increasingly alienated from the public it purports to entertain. It is, quite simply, “yawNFL.”