Has the NFL and its product gotten stale?

Written by :
Published on : December 10, 2016

 

 

For years, NFL has been king. It is an entertainment giant that has dominated the media in the US for as long as I can remember. Not only the most popular sport but also the biggest draw in cable television. But this season has not been the boon that the NFL is accustomed to and there are some indications that people could tuning pro football out. The NFL used to be the cream of the crop but now it seems as though the product may be getting stale. Some have blamed the Colin Kaepernick national anthem protests for turning people off, but that firestorm seems to have calmed for the most part. Let’s look at a few realistic reasons for why people may be turning their backs on America’s favorite sport.

 

Too Much of a Good Thing

One of the NFL’s biggest problems is the over-saturation of the market with their product. Simply put, there is just too much damn football, too damn often. During the offseason, we get nearly nonstop media coverage. The league and its media juggernaut are constantly feeding us stories wherever they can find them. And manufacturing them out of thin air the minute that it seems like people might be taking their mind off of football. It’s like the league and those in charge think that people will somehow forget football during the spring and summer. Big football is like a clingy boyfriend who is scared that his way too hot girlfriend is getting bored with him. “Hey, whatcha thinkin’ bout?” I mean jeez, can we get some space or what? Such a turn off.

 

 Brian Hoyer added to the list of Thursday Night Football injuries.

 

Keeping the fans engaged in the game, even when the games are not being played is one thing. I respect the fact that the NFL is huge and people want to know about their players and teams year round. But once the season starts, it gets even worse. Once upon a time, pro football was a special event that happened twice a week. The lion’s share of the games took place on Sunday, with the grand finale, the beloved weekly holiday of Monday Night Football.

 

Nowadays, we add Thursday games to the slate of weekly games. And the result is pretty awful. The Thursday games are routinely unwatchable. Not only is the play sloppy, but it increases the risk of injury for players. Having to play on Thursday after playing a game the previous Sunday is brutal for both fans and players alike. If I was running the player’s union, I would make this a big negotiation point when it came time to renew the CBA. It dilutes the product and puts people’s livelihood at risk. There simply isn’t enough time for the body to recover between Sunday and Thursday.

 

All of that adds up to a drop in quality of the fan experience. The NFL needs to reel itself in or it risks making a joke out of what was once a high-quality product. Chill out on the year round coverage and dial back the games to taking place on Sundays and Mondays only. There was a recent rumor that the league was going to explore the possibility of doing away with Thursday Night Football. The league came out and said that the rumor was false but I think it would be to the benefit of the game if they at least explored the concept. Do it for the fans, the players and the overall product.

 

Damn Zebras

I’ve touched before on just how bad the officiating in the NFL has become. Maybe it’s the advancements in coverage and instant replay but it seems like there are constantly game-altering blunders on the part of the officials. These blunders seem to be changing the outcome of games every single week. And this year has been exceptionally bad.

 

 The blind zebras in their natural habitat.

 

The NFL needs to do something about this immediately. If you ask me, it’s the single biggest factor contributing the the degradation of the product. When there is wild inconsistency from week-to-week, game-to-game and officiating crew to officiating crew, it’s time to do as much as you can to remove the human factor from that part of the game. And the league has the ability.

 

There needs to be widespread review-ability of every facet of the game. The NFL claims they are scared of slowing the game down too much, even though there are endless commercials that do more to ruin the viewing experience than actually getting the calls right ever could. We’re talking penalties, turnovers, missed calls, no calls, the whole nine yards. Get the calls right so that the people can be confident in the integrity of the sport. When there is such a wide spectrum of how games can be called, people like me over in Lionsfanville end up coming up with wild conspiracy theories about how the league is out to get us. I mean, how else can you explain that flag that got picked up by the refs in that 2014 wild card game in Dallas?

 

Slopfest

This next part is a little harder for me to wrap my head around. If you’ve watched NFL football regularly over the last decade or so, I think you can argue that the quality of the play on the field has gone down. Maybe it’s that the talent pool has gotten too spread out with the new teams in the league, but it seems like there are very few rock solid, fundamentally sound football teams and way more sloppy, undisciplined teams these days. Most of the organizations are fielding squads with tons of flaws that make tons of mistakes. This disparity between the haves (Patriots, Steelers, etc) and the have nots (Browns, Jaguars, etc) is bigger than ever. It seems that pro football needs its own version of Bernie Sanders to promote roster equality.

 

 

I have an interesting theory as to why the play might have gotten so much worse in recent years. Back in 2011, when the current collective bargaining agreement was approved by both owners and players, there were some new rules implemented in regards to how many full contact practices teams were allowed to have. The number of these full contact, padded practices during the season were greatly reduced. In addition, training camp two-a-day practices (a staple of football culture from high school all the way to the pros) were taken away completely.

 

With this loss of hard-hitting, full speed practices, coaches back in 2011 were concerned that defenses would suffer. It appears those fears were well founded, as sloppy tackling and lack of defensive chemistry are problems for many teams, especially in the first half of the season. There also seems to be variation in offensive chemistry for many teams week-to-week. It seems like these restrictions on practices is a good place to start pointing the finger.

 

The big reason that these new rules were implemented was concerns that all of these full contact practices were contributing to higher rates of player injury. But it doesn’t seem like having less practices has done anything to improve player safety. On the contrary, it seems as if major injuries are happening now more than ever. Could it be that the players’ bodies aren’t properly prepared for the beating that they take during games? They are essentially getting their bodies used to being hit in game, as opposed to in training camp. This CBA is good for another 5 years or so, and I find it hard to believe the players would ever allow the number of practices to rise again, but maybe they should consider it, for the health of the game and for their own personal health.

 

No one likes a tyrant

NFL owners around the country should perhaps begin looking at the man they have installed to run the league for the past decade. While Roger Goodell has done many good things for the NFL and made the owners a ton of money, he has also destroyed his own image. Players despise the tyrannical manner in which Goodell handles league business and player discipline. And it seems like most fans genuinely hate the guy, myself included. The deflategate Tom Brady witch hunt was the final straw and it seems almost inevitable that Goodell will be handed his walking papers sooner rather than later.

 

 See what I mean?

 

Roger Goodell’s self-imposed role as judge, jury and executioner in matters of player and team discipline has brought way too much negative publicity to the league. Hell, the Tom Brady thing almost went to the Supreme Court. That’s just ridiculous. While team owners should be grateful for what the commissioner has done for pro football as a brand and cash generating operation, the damage to the league’s image as a result of Goodell’s actions must also be taken into account.

 

At this point, any good business mind could make money for the NFL. People are tired of Goodell and so are the players. If the league really wants to get itself back on track, canning Roger Goodell should be the first move. Nobody likes a tyrant, especially not in the United States of America. After they bring down this despot, they can get to correcting all the other things I’ve mentioned. The NFL isn’t going anywhere, anytime soon, but ignore the warning signs at your peril. The owners need to get in front of this before it’s too late.

 

Save the NFL!

 

 


Monday Night Football goes to Mexico

Written by :
Published on : November 21, 2016

 

 

Monday Night Football is going south of the border. The Oakland Raiders will play the Houston Texans on November 21st live from Azteca Stadium in Mexico City. The league has games in London every year now. But finally, the NFL is returning to Mexico for the first time since 2005 when the Arizona Cardinals beat the San Francisco 49ers 31-14. The game is taking place in an amazing venue. Azteca Stadium can host over 100,000 people so it should be loud and electric.

 

The first funny thing to note is that this is technically a home game for Oakland. I know that sounds wrong but someone had to give up a chance to play in front of their own crowd. For Houston, this is just another road trip. If anything a much shorter road trip. I predict the locals will favor the Raiders. Mostly because they have more history, better uniforms, and the Texas team they really like in Mexico is the Cowboys. Sorry Houston.

 

 

In terms of the actual matchup, it looks pretty good. Two division leaders with very solid records. But Oakland (7-2) should have the edge over Houston (6-3). The Texans play very well at home but this isn’t their home, while the Raiders have won all their away games. Plus, the Raiders are the more balanced team. They can run, they can pass and their defense has been stepping up. Pair all that with a coach in Jack Del Rio who is ready to go for the kill and Houston just doesn’t stack up. RB Lamar Miller has been steady and WR DeAndre Hopkins is always a threat but this crew just doesn’t have enough.

 

Monday Night Football in Mexico is a great idea. Not only does it help build the league brand in a nation that loves sports but it’s an NFL story and actually has some good will. MNF has never traveled outside the Untied States before and it’s great that we gave Mexico a legit night and not just some more preseason garbage. Let’s hope this is just the start of more active sharing with our North American brothers. You too Canada!

 

 

The only thing missing now is a great game. For the NFL, ESPN, football fans and everyone in Mexico, let’s hope for two halves of intense action. Let’s have some sacks, fumbles, hits, long touchdown passes, crazy runs and trick plays. Multiple lead changes, maybe even overtime. Let’s start a new tradition of football in Mexico. It all starts now, on Monday night.

 

MNF.

 

 


NFL’s Clutch Killers

Written by :
Published on : November 18, 2016

 

This one goes out to the true ballers. The teams and players that never say die. The stats and odds may be stacked against them but they laugh in the face of fear and pull off the impossible. But if you routinely pull off the impossible can we really call it impossible? Woah, intellectual brain freeze. Let’s get to know the NFL crews that are pure clutch.

 

The New York Giants

Coming off a 1 point win over the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday Night Football, the G-men are now 6-3. Not bad, still chasing Dallas, even though they did beat them in week 1, but that seems ages ago. All 6 wins have been within 7 points. So the games they are winning are all being won in the fourth quarter. That takes guts. Giants are last in the league in rushing. So Eli Manning has t0 get some of the credit here. We all jump on him when he throws the pick but he is leading them to wins. And looking ahead they have Chicago and Cleveland. Both seem like very winnable games. The schedule after that gets brutal: at Pittsburgh, Dallas, Detroit, at Philly, at Washington. We are going to learn a lot about New York in those last weeks.

 

 

The Detroit Lions

Matt Stafford is the new comeback kid in the mold of Favre or Elway. In all 5 wins, the Cardiac Cats were trailing in the 4th quarter and Stafford led them back. The arm of quarterback and the leg of kicker Matt Parter have been clutch all season. All these two need is 40 seconds (with or without time outs) to get down the field and boot the game winner. The world is finally taking notice of what fans in Detroit have seen Matt do this his whole career. Stafford currently has 25 game-winning drives in just 102 games played. That’s all fancy stat talk meaning don’t give him a last chance with the ball unless you are ready to lose.

 

Detroit can add some wins in their next four games where they play Jacksonville, Minnesota, at New Orleans and Chicago. After that it gets wild with all road games starting at New York, at Dallas and at Green Bay. Wow, who at the scheduling office hates the Lions? If Detroit is going to make the playoffs, it is because of Stafford and his killer instinct.

 

The Kansas City Chiefs

 

KC is 7-2 and winners of 5 straight. Unlike the teams mentioned above, the Chiefs have been winning late but not necessarily because of QB Alex Smith. Don’t get me wrong, he has been vital in the victories but they have found different ways to win each week. In week 10, Kansas City was down 17 to Carolina before they finally woke up. A few field goals, a pick six, a touchdown and a forced fumble led to a game winning kick that stole Christmas from the Panthers.

 

The AFC West is tight and KC plays 2 divisional games in the next 4 weeks. First it’s Tampa Bay, at Denver, at Atlanta, Oakland. The regular season ends for them with matchups with Tennessee, Denver and at San Diego. This crew will make the playoffs either as the division winner or a wild card.

 

No one wants to play these types of teams. They keep hanging around all game and it almost seems over until something crazy happens. It’s a powerful x-factor that swing the fates of the postseason.

 

Heart attack.

 

 


Is Odell Beckham Jr imploding?

Written by :
Published on : October 8, 2016

 

2016 hasn’t exactly been kind to Odell Beckham Jr. He was held to a career-low 23 yards on three catches this past Sunday. Sure, the Giants were playing the Vikings who happen to have what most would consider the best defense in the league, but still, someone with his level of talent should do a little better than that. Through four games he has amassed 303 yards and 22 receptions, but has yet to find the end zone. And his frustrations are beginning to boil over to the point that it is becoming a distraction to the team.

 

Odell Beckham Jr being vocal about his displeasure and making a scene isn’t necessarily something new. But when your own coach says in the media that you need to cut it out, then maybe it’s time to worry. For the last couple of seasons, most of us have brushed off Beckham’s antics by saying that he is just a passionate young player who is learning to control his emotions. Everyone loves passion in their players, right? When does that excuse not work anymore? I think we may have reached that point.

 

 

I’ll admit I enjoyed his fighting with Josh Norman last season. When two players don’t like each other, the competition is that much better. And seeing it turn physical like that appeals to some of my more baser instincts. But if I was a Giants fan I would have hated it. Especially after my talented young wide receiver drew three personal-fouls in that week 15 matchup last year. When Norman was signed by Washington this last offseason, you had to believe we were in for more fireworks. In their first meeting this season, the refs made sure to squash any funny business before it even began, warning the two that they would be ejected from the game without warning if they didn’t play nice.

 

There was some minimal aggression between the two on field, but the worst of it was when OBJ picked up Josh Norman at one point. Not exactly must see tv. The real fun happened on the sidelines after what had already been a pretty solid game for Beckham. With the Giants down 2 but in the red zone and threatening to score, Eli Manning threw an untimely interception. Then Odell Beckham Jr reverted to what I can imagine his 4-year-old self was, throwing one of his biggest tantrums yet. There were tears. There was the flailing of limbs. There was yelling. There was one point where he assaulted the kickers’ practice net, only to have it retaliate and hit him in the fact. It was great. But not for the Giants.

 


OBJ has proven that he is even more immature than we thought, and he followed up his childish display of anger and frustration last week with his worst game ever on Monday Night Football this week. He got owned, and got another penalty after his frustrations with Vikings’ CB Xavier Rhodes boiled over. Now he comes out and claims that he “isn’t having fun anymore” playing football. Can you believe that? Someone isn’t having fun when things aren’t going their way at their job. What a shocker! This dude is ridiculous.

 

As if he wasn’t already ridiculous enough as it is, he then tried to play the victim in the media by insinuating that he might be unfairly scrutinized by the league and the refs. Maybe if he didn’t always fly off the handle and make a scene that wouldn’t be the case. Or maybe the high pressure situation of playing professional sports in New York is finally starting to get to him. Or maybe he is coming apart at the seams.

 

 

Whatever is happening, he had better get it figured out soon. Odell’s image has taken a big hit these last few weeks, and while that isn’t the most important thing, his underperformance only exacerbates it. He had better catch a couple touchdowns this week or the fans and media in New York might go full witch hunt on his ass. And if an Eli interception gets the water works going, he won’t be able to handle that.

 

 


Dear Diary: Sex and Football

Written by :
Published on : October 26, 2015

 

 

The following was written the night of Monday, October 12, 2015.

 

 

 

It’s Monday night and I’m getting laid. I’m also watching Michael Vick move down the field to what will hopefully be the third Steelers victory of the season.

 

Vick on the move

 

“Is this married life?” I ask myself. “Sex with football?” That never happened when I was just the boyfriend. Oh, that’s right. I forgot to mention that I got married two days ago. It was a beautiful ceremony, followed by an amazing reception. My wife looked absolutely gorgeous. Anyway, back to the sex…

 

So here I am, getting laid while I watch Monday Night Football. Which, may I add, is also being shown on a giant screen on the beach outside of our Jamaican bungalow. This all made me think about the last week – the week leading up to the big day. Which, funny enough, was a lot like watching your favorite sports team play in the championship game. Anxiety was heavy, but happiness was in the air. It was a weird combination of joy and frustration. It was Super Bowl 43 all over again.

 

Super Bowl XLIII (43)

 

The Monday before the wedding was my first day off in a long time. I started with a coffee and a Denver omelet at Nick’s Coffee Shop in LA. I love a good Denver omelet, but I don’t care so much for any Denver sports teams. Like the great Joey Porter once said, “They shot me in Denver!” That breakfast would be my last few minutes alone before the week began. It was the morning of the game and I was getting focused. I was “Tebowing” if you will.

 

Tuesday was my wife-to-be’s first day off in a long time. She was stressed. So stressed that she reminded me of that friend who can’t watch the game anywhere but at their home.  Like I said, she was stressed – pacing around the room, spontaneously screaming from time to time. It was scary.

 

We know the feeling

 

Wednesday our family arrived. This was a lot like being at a Super Bowl party with someone who’s never watched football before. You know, the jagoff cheering against your team based on their dislike for their uniform colors. They don’t mean any harm, but they sure bring unnecessary aggravation.

 

Thursday we headed north for the wedding. More family – more friends – more stress. I’m now pacing around, spontaneously screaming while excusing myself from the room. If you haven’t caught on, preparing for a wedding can be a very stressful time.

 

Friday was the final day of running around and the traditional rehearsal dinner. Things were at a peek, but a win was on the horizon. With every bite of my chicken parm, I felt one yard closer to the end zone and the ultimate victory. Sure, I was nervous, but I knew that in 24 hours it would all be over. Victory was in sight.

 

Saturday was the big day. It was finally here; and we were up by 14 and just needed to run out the clock. I was still pacing, but not screaming as much. My wife-to-be, who spent three quarters at home in her “lucky chair” – pacing, screaming and hating the entire coaching staff – had finally arrived at the party. Calm and excited for the upcoming victory lap, we kept it together as the clock ran out and the crowd screamed, “Mozel Tov!”

 

Victory!

 

As the champagne popped and I danced with my wife to the sounds of our favorite Jesse and the Rippers song, I thought about absolutely nothing and smiled. We just won.

 

 


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