The NFL is the #1 Sport Today but Where is it Headed?
For years now, a growing portion of the fanbase has become less focused on the fate and fortunes of any particular team, and more on the stats of individual playmakers. Fantasy Football is transposing the team’s fortunes, becoming more important to many 'fans' than wins and losses, or whether or not a given team has success.
Because of today's ADD society that we live in, some are concerned that fantasy football has led to a new generation of fans that have no loyalty to any particular team, that the focus on fantasy football undermines team loyalty, community, and one's attachment to the sport itself. And if one does not feel tied to the highs and lows of a 'favorite team' how can you feel connected to their fortunes?
What is more important to you?
There once was a time when Boxing was a dominant part of our culture, and fights like Sugar Ray Leonard VS Duran (and Hearns and Hagler) dominated the National scene, the boxing movie Rocky walked away with multiple Oscars and was the highest grossing movie of the year...
Then one day, Don King arrived on the scene and suddenly had his arm around seemingly every boxer, not long thereafter whispers of fights being fixed began to be heard, and iconic figures like Mike Tyson seemed to be in the headlines more for the trouble they were getting in than the boxing matches they were fighting. Rocky V came out, decades after the original with its very own Don King like character playing a prominent role in the story, seemingly signaling the end of an era... really, who gets excited about boxing these days?
Roger Goodell may well be the NFL's version of Don King, the problems of players like Ezekiel Elliott, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson filling the role of Mike Tyson's inability to properly conduct himself around women and Tommy 'The Gun' Morrison (who also starred in Rocky V) coming forward with HIV ... at some point the 'Average American' gets turned off by, offended by, sometimes even horrified by what the Sport they so avidly follow exposes them to.
That seems to be what is going on right now... America is being exposed to the ugly underbelly of the NFL, the blows keep coming, seemingly week after week... and when their heroes aren't self destructing (IE - Rice, Peterson, Hernandez) the NFL itself seems hell bent on tearing them down.
NFL Golden Boy... Reputation Wantonly Destroyed by NFL Office
One would have had to been out of contact with civilization for a couple of years not to have heard about the two year long fiasco known as 'Deflategate'.
The NFL was willing to sacrifice a player that was essentially one of the Icons of the Sport (Brady has sat atop the NFL for well over a decade as one of the biggest stars of the League), no one had been a better spokesman for the sport, nor a better role-model for aspiring athletes, the willingness of the NFL to destroy the reputation of the reigning multi-winning Super Bowl champion and perhaps greatest QB ever, was noteworthy.
The NFL for years now has handed a few national sports reporters (writers) select information, and those reporters spread the word like it was gospel. If the NFL wants people to believe they knew nothing about Ray Rice knocking out his wife, then that's what those reporters go out of their way to peddle to America. If they want the world to believe Tom Brady directly ran a covert operation to deflate footballs below 'regulation requirements' then that is what select reporters pound into the sport's world mindset.
If those weren't enough signs that something is wrong, that the NFL was rotting from the inside out. Then their inability to handle the 'taking a knee for the oppressed' campaign by players certainly brought it to the forefront.
Pig Police socks worn during practice... insulting to many
"I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color," Colin Kaepernick, then QB for the 49ers, told NFL Media. "There are bodies in the street and people getting away with murder." he said referring to police, and in other statements in support of BLM.
The NFL allowed it's 'show' to become hijacked by one individual/political protestor in 2016, whom became a martyr of sorts in 2017 when he found himself unemployed by the NFL. Kaepernick's support of the group BLM and his perceived disrespect for the American flag and National Anthem became a bigger focal point than the games themselves. Regardless of what the NFL said to explain their position, people felt the NFL was wrong for allowing what they felt to be disrespect for the flag, country, and police.
You can say... well people have a right to free speech. They do. But in the entertainment industry when you alienate and agitate a large portion of your audience, you are going to pay a price for that 'free speech'. And make no mistake, the NFL is entertainment, it is neither essential or required in anyone's life.
If the NFL had confronted this behavior at the outset, said firmly no such behavior would be allowed by anyone for any reason, and then suspended the initial instigator with a warning that further such acts would result in permanent suspension (like with failed drug tests) this wouldn't have ever become the lead issue of 2017 for the NFL.
Is there a potential turning of the tide of public opinion?
Cities are no longer rushing in to give teams whatever they want in terms of taxpayer funded new stadiums, like they were just a few years ago... now cities all over the Nation are starting to say 'thanks, but no thanks'... pay for it yourself, or go somewhere else, doesn't matter to us.
One has to wonder, when will the scales tip, and the NFL suffer Boxing's fate
What do you think of the players kneeling during or not partaking of the Anthem?
But perhaps the most threatening thing to the sport and the NFL, more than anything else noted above, is people's reactions to the threat of Chronic traumatic encephalopathy, known as CTE.
A study was completed just this year which found almost 100% of the deceased NFL players' brains donated specifically for this study, had CTE.
CTE is a neurodegenerative brain disease that can be found in individuals who have been exposed to repeated head trauma. The disease is pathologically marked by a buildup of abnormal tau protein in the brain that can disable neuropathways and lead to a variety permanent problems which include confusion, impaired judgment, aggression, memory loss, anxiety, impulse control issues and depression which can lead to suicidal behavior.
Out of the more than 100 deceased former NFL football player's brains tested, CTE was identified in 99% of them.
In 2016, the NFL publicly acknowledged for the first time the connection between the sport and CTE. Just a year prior, a federal judge approved a class-action lawsuit settlement between the NFL and thousands of former players, this settlement provides up to $5 million per retired player for conditions associated with CTE.
Due to the new awareness about CTE and head trauma (concussions) many parents no longer want their children playing football, almost overnight entire communities have begun to redirect their enthusiasm to other sports like Soccer and Baseball, where the risk of repeated concussions and the development of CTE is minimal.
And when the schools, parents, and communities turn away from football, and focus instead on different sports, how long before that effects what they watch and play? How long before that impacts how many fans follow the NFL?
UPDATE: NFL players union challenges policy to stop anthem protests
The NFL players union filed a grievance over the league's decision in May 2018 that players stand for the national anthem or wait in their dressing rooms.
NFL Ratings slid more than 10% last year, and the number one cause cited were the Anthem Protests. Many stadiums that in recent years could be counted on to sell out, were far from it as the season progressed in 2017.
The National Football League said in May it would require any player who did not want to show respect for the flag or "The Star-Spangled Banner" before games to stay off the field until the ceremony ended.
The player protests were intended to call attention to what they said were often brutal treatment of minorities by police and the racism in American society as a whole.
After the NFL announcement of it's new policy the NFLPA stated:
"The union's claim is that this new policy, imposed by the NFL's governing body without consultation with the NFLPA, is inconsistent with the collective bargaining agreement and infringes on player rights," the NFLPA said on Twitter.
It is my belief that the NFL will concede to the players allowing for the continued politicization of the sport by spoiled millionaires on the national stage, holding NFL games and its fans hostage.
© 2017 Ken Burgess