Sunday, September 13, 2015

The NFL Returns For Real, AKA It's Heroin Delivery Day

Hello, NFL
I don't really care for the new opening night nonsense that the NFL perpetrates on the world. Part of this is because the chance of an ordinary NFL game just has way too much chance of being a bit of a snooze, and the Thursday games have routinely been terrible. Another big part of this is that the kickoff game is all about doing the mouth job to last year's champions, and honestly, I could care less about who won last year, because that is Not Game, and the only way to consume the NFL's product now is to make *damned* sure that you are only consuming Game. But for the most part, it's just that one game is not enough, and if and when the NFL goes to a single game at a time model, which is more and more about what this is about, that might finally be the move that takes the league down a peg.

Oh, who am I kidding? Nothing is going to take the NFL down a peg, because they are sitting on top of the most popular sport in the country, and they are fulfilling the desire of the marketplace at something like a 5% prescription rate. There is enough appetite for professional football in this country for year-round leagues. There is enough appetite for hundreds of teams in hundreds of cities, and if you think that is overstating the case, please go look at the size of stadiums for freaking high school football in Texas, or how the not at all large community of Green Bay supports one of the best franchises in the league.

If the world's beer makers ran their business like the NFL, you would only be able to buy the product for a third of the year, and no one would be able to buy enough to hold for the lean months. If casinos ran their business the way the NFL did, you would only be able to play poker for 10% or the year. (8,760 hours in the year, only about 800 hours or so per year of regular season and playoff football.)

I know what some say -- the game is too brutal, and there are just not enough quarterbacks, to handle a massive expansion of pro ball. Um, bullspit. What no one wants is games that don't matter, under rules that aren't germane, for teams that we don't care about... but if you just made the leagues interconnect through relegation and promotion, and lock it up with fantasy and gambling, people would care with a quickness. As for the idea that anyone cares about the well-being of players, well, no, never. Quarterback play is fine in the CFL, and was tolerable in NFL Europe and even the XFL. There are enough QBs, especially once you open up the game for more mobile QBs.

Basketball and baseball are not replacements for football; they are inadequate substitutes that the nation accepts, begrudgingly, when there is no football. It's as if we're served steak for a brief period of time, then tofu or salad. You can do what you can with these elements, and a small percentage of the crowd will prefer them, but the rest are just going to eat Not Steak because they have to.

The first Sunday gives you games in nearly enough concentration to satisfy, which is to say, an amount that the NFL seems hell-bound to stop. It doesn't have to be this way; this is a business that, as big as it is, could become 5 to 10 times bigger, if only the league were as aggressive in growing the business, and servicing their audience, as they are about controlling the media and the players union. NFL owners, in short, are incredible cowards who will not put any part of their cash cow at risk, to the point of, well, putting their cash cow at risk.

So feel free to love the return of pro football. Binge all you like. But remember, it's heroin delivery day... and the dealer that brings you the product, refuses to serve you for over 90% of the year.

And rather than create more product, they just want to spread it around and limit your dose.

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