Every week on Monday, the WoW! community and our invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum, short takes on a major issue of the day, the culture, or daily living. This week’s Question: Is Pro Football Committing Slow Suicide?
Don Surber:Pro football is the most popular television entertainment in America. Its annual Super Bowl conclusion draws “Beatles on Ed Sullivan” level ratings.
But as is happening throughout the TV business, the Internet threatens this cash cow.
Also, the self-indulgent sit-downs by players corrodes the civic bond between the core fan base and the team. Browns fans stay with a lousy team because its first name is Cleveland. But watching a team with no prayer to win is depressing. Sitting down gave fans a plausible and justifiable excuse to watch something else. Loyalty is a two-way street.
So yes, the sitdowns and the politicization of the game harm the NFL.
But on the horizon is the pending collapse of ESPN, which will imperil college football greatly, and the NFL to a lesser extent. Right now, ESPN is an ATM providing billions (through those $6 a month cable fees charged every cable subscriber — on average) to the NFL and the various college conferences. The broadcast networks pay for broadcast rights as well. But ESPN’s money at the collegiate level is ginormous. Cable cutters are punting ESPN revenues.
Disney would love to spin off ESPN.
The coming reduction in the college schedule may ease the saturation of the game. It is almost to the level of pro wrestling, pro boxing, and quiz shows in the 1950s that brought their collapses
But one overlooked factor is the pro game itself. It is getting dull. I watched the Thursday night game (Bengals hosted Houston). The first four possessions in the game were three-and-outs. The final score was 13-9. Sixty minutes, one touchdown.
Might be the teams. Houston scored 7 in its opening game and Cincinnati was shutout.
But defense dominates the league. This makes for boring television.
The bottom line is pro football suffers from cable cutting, saturation, and a dulling of the game. Grandstanding by fading quarterbacks does not help.
If I were the commissioner, I would seek the union’s help in stopping the antics.
To make the game more fun, bring back marching bands at halftime, and adopt the Canadian football rules.
Fausta Rodriquez Wertz: Unfortunately, I don’t watch pro football, only my college alma mater’s games.
Rob Miller: My introduction to American-style football was in grade school. There was a park next to the school with a large grassy area, and that’s where we’d meet after school or on the weekends to play unsupervised tackle (anything else would have been beneath us at that age) with a football and no other equipment whatsoever. It was a definite rite of passage, one I’m sure I shared with a lot of American males of a certain age. Aside from bloody noses, scraped knees and elbows and the odd cut or bruise here and there, nobody got hurt and anyone who made a big deal out of something like that would have been regarded with contempt and derision. We learned to tough it out, to play hard but fair and to take pride in winning. So I think there’s something in what Bookworm said about what’s going on with pro football now to be part of an attack by the Left on American masculinity.
I also think there’s another component.
Back in the days when the Jews actually ran Hollywood, most of what they produced extolled American values…patriotism, competitiveness, and yes, religious morality, no matter how the moguls might have behaved in their private lives. Since most of them were either immigrants or the children of immigrants, their mostly idealized version of Americana was to be expected. And every motion picture contract contained a ‘morals clause,’ which would allow the studios to terminate anyone whose actions reflected badly on the studio. As the studios went corporate and the old studio system collapsed, not only did the inmates take over the asylum, but the new generation of decision makers that were part of the Boomer generation began to share their values. That process has continued ad nauseum, and the results are obvious. I’m always amused when Hollywood is so surprised when a movie that emphasizes the traditional values Hollywood used to present does well.
What’s happening in pro football is another example. And unfortunately, we can’t ignore the racial component either. After 8 years of Barack Hussein Obama, racialist politics and craven political correctness are to be expected. When you tell people constantly that they’re victims, is it any wonder they embrace it, no matter how privileged they actually are? Or that coaches and owners, indoctrinated in the same manner would cave in and go along, no matter what it costs them financially?
So yeah…slow suicide.
Side note: I’m pretty familiar with Canadian football, from my time in Canada. It is a much faster and wide open game, with three downs, and a much wider field. I doubt it would help unless the same sort of people were running it and similar standards applied. When dog torturer Michael Vick was shopping for a contract after he got out of jail, his agent first contacted 6 different Canadian teams, figuring they would be an easier sell. Every one of them turned him down, saying explicitly that someone like Michael Vick was not who they wanted representing them in any capacity.
The NFL? They were happy to have him back.
Patrick O’Hannigan : I agree with Don that pro football is committing slow suicide, although I’m not sure his proposed solutions (marching bands at halftime and Canadian rules) will be enough to reverse the slide.
I do think the professional game has suffered because of the increased emphasis on rules that protect franchise players (typically quarterbacks), the ongoing dominance of defense despite constraints on defenders, and the injection of politics into the game by players, owners, and commentators.
I don’t think the players’ union does enough to emphasize the importance of character and “brand maintenance.” For example, I know from advertisements that the NFL fights childhood obesity (that’s the point of the whole “Play 60” campaign), and supports charities under the United Way umbrella. Yet not every United Way charity is equally worthwhile, and the “Play 60” campaign can sound like hectoring in an environment where the federal government was recently and deeply involved in telling smaller bureaucracies what could and could not be in school lunches. The menu thing was not the NFL’s fault, but what the NFL does feels like piling on — the subtext is “Be healthy!” (rather than, for example, “Be good!” or “Learn some history!”).
“Give back” is nice shorthand for why community service matters, but too few people stop to ask about what professional athletes (or the rest of us) are supposed to give back. Presumably that’s more than “entertainment value for the fan dollar,” as honorable as that is. And it’s long past time for the NFL to stop virtue signaling every October by using pink gear to promote breast cancer awareness month. Did domestic violence prevention not find a hue of its own on the color wheel? That charitable endeavor probably hits closer to home (irony intended) than the NFL would like to admit.
Every NFL season seems to feature human interest stories about players doing good things (think of Houston’s J.J. Watt spearheading hurricane relief efforts), players whose on-field performance seems not to justify their salaries, and players who are basically athletic felons. Two of those three groups flunk the “role model” test, and yet the NFL doesn’t seem to care.
Doug Hagin : The NFL has issues. In no certain order
Officials who screw up calls because they apparently do not know the rules
Ridiculous penalties against celebrations, although the league has relaxed them
A system of punishing players who break rules that has no consistency, other than trying to do what the commissioner thinks will be the right optic.
The preseason, which is unwatchable and only serves to see more star players injured in meaningless games.
Far too many awful games. The NFL has been dumbed down. We now have a handful of really good teams, a handful of lousy teams, and a lot of mediocre teams.
Bottom line the product on the field is not that great.
Bookworm Room :
I’m quite ambivalent about pro-football, going back to my childhood with a German father who thought (a) that football was a meaningless, slow, brutish game compared to soccer and (b) that the way in which the pro-teams traded players was akin to chattel slavery. He also could not understand a “home” team that had no players actually from that home.
I eventually introduced myself to football in high school because the band was required to attend all home games. Since then, I’ve liked football, but I’ve never been fanatic about it. I’ve always supported my home team — the 49ers — especially during the amazing Joe Montana and Steve Young years. I managed to be out of town or the country for most of their Super Bowl wins, but I celebrated from afar.
Speaking of afar, the 49ers have moved to Santa Clara and, frankly, they’re dead to me now.
So yes, as fan, I’ve been ambivalent about the game.
As a parent I’ve also been ambivalent. My kids preferred soccer, so I never had to worry about a child begging to join the team. However, those parents I know who had sons wanting to join the team lived in terror of concussions. We all know now that concussions are not just bumps on the head that leave the player seeing stars, a la a cartoon. Instead, they are serious brain injuries that can lead to increasing damage with every blow.
Before anyone says anything, I know that other sports have that problem. A fast baseball hits as hard as a speeding car; soccer players use their heads on somewhat softer balls, but balls that still fly just as fast; cheerleading is the most dangerous sport of all; and a swimmer who mistimes a turn can end up concussed too.
It’s only with football, though, that players intentionally use their heads as battering rams. Ironically, in the old days, when they were protected only with leather helmets, players actually tried to keep their heads out of the crush. As helmets became more hi-tech — and, therefore, were perceived as safer — players began to put their heads at risk. Aside from the head injuries, there are also the pile-ups, when several men built of solid muscle, and weighing well over 200 pounds each, compete with each other to take a player down.
Separate from the risk factor, I’m always impressed by pro-football players. In the pre-season, I watch Hard Knocks, one of the few worthwhile shows on HBO. Every year, it follows one pro-team through pre-season training. The level of commitment the players bring to the game is amazing and inspiring. In another era, these men would have been knights, jousting and practicing sword thrusts (and getting injured that way too). Today, if these warriors aren’t into X Sports (also super dangerous) or military service, they take their muscle and discipline to the football field.
Watching the punishing practice, the off-field regimen, and the chronic dislocation of their lives, I don’t begrudge the pro-players their salaries. They have a short career, and end with trashed bodies and, if they’re unlucky, trashed brains too.
It’s a free country, and if they want to do this for money, let them. On the other hand, just as I probably wouldn’t have wanted to watch gladiators fight to the death in ancient Rome, despite the fact that the winners were major celebrities, I’m not comfortable watching today’s men bash their brains in for my entertainment. It’s just not my thing.
Which gets us to the big question: will Americans still pay money to see these sports warriors? Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling antics have given us a preview of the answer to that question, which is that, if these athletes offend the audience’s core values, no, Americans will not.
Moreover, those who tune out of the game in disgust are pleasantly surprised to discover that there’s a world out there waiting for them that’s not chained to the TV and accompanied by a steady diet of beer and truck commercials. I think that, even if the NFL were to clamp down on the players’ disrespect for a national symbol, many people will still stay away. Like many addicts, they’ll have figured out that life is better without the addiction.
ESPN isn’t helping matters, of course. As is true for all New York-based media, its people cannot keep politics from oozing into things. ESPN’s core audience may be willing to live and let live when it comes to Bruce Jennings, but they’re not going to be really impressed when he gets an award for going public with his mental illness. Likewise, they don’t care about Michael Sam’s personal life. Either he’s a good football player or he’s not. Celebrating his bedroom behavior is irrelevant and therefore offensive.
The final straw for ESPN’s core demographic, though, is going to be the network’s embrace of the Social Justice Warrior ethos, whether that means bashing Trump or white people. It’s not urban pajama boys or pink-hatted women who are watching football.
It’s the same middle American group that looked at the Left’s retreat from sanity and said, “Whoa!” That audience probably won’t come back either. As with the core NFL demographic, they’ll discover that life is better when they spend less time in front of the boob tube and more time actually doing things — such as a friendly game of Saturday morning football with their neighbors.
The beautiful irony of this is that SJWs are in the forefront of attacking football. I presume this is because football is a game that celebrates manly virtues and is therefore offensive to true SJWs who, whether genetically male or female, are united in their war against masculinity.
My final answer: We are witnessing the slow death of pro football.
Laura Rambeau Lee : Pro football seems to be committing slow suicide much the same as America is committing slow suicide. It would be surprising if the owners and managers even realize their organizations are being manipulated by the left in their agenda to destroy us by destroying our culture and traditions. And football is unarguably an American tradition.
We have liberal doctors advancing the agenda by reporting about the dangers of concussions in their effort to eliminate the game. It surely should come as no surprise to the athletes playing a violent sport where their bodies are routinely battered that they might experience permanent damage. As in many professions people go into them aware of the risks and rewards. Is being a professional football player any more dangerous that being a soldier, law enforcement officer, fireman, or the amazing linemen we saw this past week coming into the state of Florida to get power back to all of us as quickly as possible? One thing is certain; football players make a heck of a lot more money over their careers which are a lot shorter than any of the others.
And then there are the “useful idiot” players participating in the issue du jour by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem in support of BLM and against law enforcement. These players have had the most fortunate opportunity to go to college on a full ride scholarship and if lucky to play at the professional level earning millions of dollars, yet they show complete and utter disrespect for the country that afforded them these opportunities. They also appear more concerned with getting the personal recognition or notoriety than about the issue they profess to support.
We are most certainly at a turning point in America. The left has been working for decades within our education system to turn our children and youth against their own country. Our nationalism and patriotism are the biggest challenge to the progressive agenda for a global government or New World Order. We are truly the last best hope to thwart this agenda. There are many more patriots – and football fans – than they realize. This was confirmed with the election of President Trump. They just may have misjudged their success in changing the hearts and minds of the people towards embracing their socialist agenda and against the capitalism and freedom that has made America great.
If the left had waited another decade they might have been successful in destroying America. They were so certain Hillary Clinton would win the presidential election and they could continue their agenda of divisiveness, social justice, and manufactured chaos. We are extremely fortunate enough Americans went to the polls and voted against Hillary Clinton whether they understood her role in this agenda or not. The fact that Trump won the presidency gives me hope the progressive agenda will not stand. There are many more patriots in America than the left ever imagined. The elites in the media and politicians on the east and west coast discounted the true heart of America.
As to the question about whether football is committing suicide – go Steelers!
Well, there it is!
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