"You'll never get ahead if you don't take care of what you have." - Doris Waddell, RIP

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn

A historic building on our U of M-Morris campus - morris mn
The multi-ethnic building was the original home of the music department at UMM. (B.W. photo)

Friday, October 21, 2016

NFL on slippery slope downward

It is news that the TV ratings for NFL football are down. The Drudge Report regularly has links about this. The NFL problem has persisted long enough that we can begin drawing conclusions. I'm greatly relieved. Logic suggested turning away from this game a long time ago.
There was a big obstacle: our addiction to this form of entertainment. Withdrawal is never easy. But it appears that more and more of us are succeeding with it. We know it's complete when no longer do we get drawn into a conversation about "How are the Vikings doing?"
The Minnesota Vikings are a mammoth business interest that has given us a sugar high of fun each week. We began to learn that players got punished physically with consequences lasting a lifetime. We easily understood a few battered knees. We felt players were OK with such nicks to their body. Such nicks might even be a badge of masculinity. "How did I get my limp? I got it playing football." Gee, did you win the conference? Who cares?
A sea change has been going on. The movie "Concussion" with Will Smith dramatically showed us the downturn in fortunes the old former players experience. Pulling your teeth out and super-gluing them back in? No thank you. I have no taste for an activity that leaves its practitioners in such a state.
Is all this realization the reason why TV viewers are turning away? Actually, several theories are getting bandied about. The excitement of the presidential race? Really? People are choosing cable TV news coverage over football? That sounds most implausible. Some observers say the retirement of Peyton Manning and suspension of Tom Brady hurt the entertainment value. I'm surprised that a guy in his late 30s, Manning, could reach the championship game. The top quarterbacks ought to be between approximately 28 and 32 years old. Brady is good but he cheated. I fail to see how these two guys could be so indispensable.
One-sided games? Historically this element has not meant much in terms of attracting a TV audience. Back when Monday Night Football had its run as an entertainment phenomenon, much was made of how the famous broadcast crew could "make a bad game hip."
The prime time NFL games of today, games starting at 7 or 7:30 p.m., seem to be suffering the most. Bad or dull matchups have been cited. However, bad or dull matchups have never been rare in the NFL. There was a time when the game's leaders were afraid that parity among teams was equating with mediocrity. I shook my head regarding that, reasoning that it was more likely that football simply had "cosmetic" issues. I would assert fans weren't getting to see enough exciting plays, i.e. passes where the receivers were catching the ball in stride downfield. Rule changes came along to remedy this.
Back when the Vikings lost to the Steelers in the Super Bowl, there were fears that defense would totally take over the game. The game can always be manipulated to solve such problems.
What about players kneeling for the National Anthem these days? That behavior is so easy to ignore. I personally respect their message. But, a source of erosion for the league? I think not.
So, to what do I attribute football's current problems with keeping TV ratings up? Awareness of physical injury is definitely a factor. Secondly and perhaps most importantly, I think all we need do is look at the nature of entertainment itself. Why do you think songs "climb the charts" and then go down? It's because we get tired of popular things. These things run their course, like a TV sitcom, even the best sitcoms like "Hogan's Heroes." My God, "Star Trek" couldn't survive in the 1960s.
It has taken considerable time, but the rest of the entertainment industry has been catching up to football. We shouldn't be surprised. Football was the golden goose for so long. Human greed then takes over. It was a bridge too far when the NFL felt it had to move into Thursday. The saturation effect has finally shown itself.
I suppose it's a tribute to football that its popularity had such staying power. But the entertainment industry cuts no favors to anyone. A popular product will have its prime, wringing all the returns it can get, striking while the iron is hot, and then it fades. Many new TV programs are genuinely stimulating, replacing a lot of the old stale fare. We have the phenomenon of "binge watching."
It's about time these forces work relative to the NFL and its crude product.
So, how are the Vikings doing? Let's change the subject.
- Brian Williams - morris mn minnesota - bwilly73@yahoo.com

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