On the EDge: The No Fun League preps for another Super Bowl (yawn)

Stadium photo by efks iStock / Getty Images Plus; football image courtesy of freepngs.com, St. George News

OPINION — I was at a gathering the other day and happened to be wearing a T-shirt with the Oakland Raiders logo on the front.

I’ve been a Raiders fan since they began and, as such, suffered through my share of bad years and, believe me, there have been plenty.

A friend of mine looked at my shirt and said: “Boy, I sure miss the NFL.”

I gave him a sort of puzzled look and he explained that he hasn’t watched a game in the last few years, blaming it on players who decided to take a knee during the anthem.

“I just can’t stand to see them disrespect the flag,” he said.

Rather than engage in a fruitless conversation – his opinion was clear, mine is certainly clear – I just shrugged.

“You aren’t missing much,” I replied.

Look, it is clear that the NFL television ratings are down and, in some places, attendance figures are below the norm.

But, I don’t think you can pin it all on the peaceful protests of the players whose intent is to make a statement about inequality and injustice in a society that seems skewed rather than make a statement about the flag.

There are some diehards who have turned away from the game for political reasons. It’s their right, of course, just as it is the right of the players to invoke their First Amendment rights. And the point here is not to reopen that wound and go to battle again over the appropriateness of the protests because we will forever remain at loggerheads.

But, with the Super Bowl just days away and all the hype and flutter amping up, the truth is simple.

NFL ratings and attendance are down because of an inferior product on the field.

I got to thinking about my friend’s comment and, well, I agree.

I miss the NFL.

But, not for the same reasons.

There was genuine interest in the game before robotic athletes started dominating.

There was color, the players were characters.

I mean, seriously, we had guys like former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who was always good for a laugh but one of the fiercest competitors on the field. He was often the butt of some caustic jokes, including a line from Hollywood Henderson of the Dallas Cowboys who, before facing Bradshaw in the January 1979 Super Bowl, said Bradshaw was “so dumb he couldn’t spell cat if you spotted him the C and A.”

Bradshaw guided the Steelers to a 35-31 win over the Cowboys that year, earning the Super Bowl MVP trophy and tying or breaking several records after responding to Henderson’s taunt with “This isn’t nuclear physics, it’s a game. How smart do you have to be?”

In his own homespun way, Bradshaw was right, of course. It was a game, a high-stakes game, but a game nonetheless.

Now, we have the result of the corporatization of the game.

It’s spread through all of professional sports to the point that the average family is hard-pressed to go to the stadium and shake their pom poms for the Raiders or Cowboys or anybody else. Tickets, if you can find them, are at a premium, even in cities where the fortunes of the local 11 have gone sour. According to Vivid Seats, a brokerage that specializes in tickets to sporting events, rock concerts and the like, the average price of an NFL ticket last season was $172, which does not include parking, a couple hotdogs, soft drinks for the kids and beers for the adults. It doesn’t include a program, a keepsake – from a team pennant to a team jacket – or any of the other memorabilia you are likely to take home if you pay the ransom.

The NFL isn’t the only pro sports league with this money-hungry problem.

Try going to a pro baseball game, an NBA game, a hockey match.

You can go to the box office for a Major League Soccer ticket, where the average ticket price is just under $50, but remember, the MLS is listed as the worst professional soccer league in the world, so you are still paying inflated prices for an inferior product.

And, that is the problem with pro sports in general these days.

The leagues, particularly the NFL, have diluted their product, sprinkling some legitimate superstars among more teams than are truly necessary or in the best interests – both athletically and financially – of the league. Each team has one or two franchise players, surrounded by a supporting cast of fairly obscure, interchangeable hulks.

I’m not sure if today’s players are better trained than the old-timers. They may run a faster 40-yard dash or do more chin-ups or have lower body mass index, but I question the size of their hearts and their love of the game.

There was a time when pro athletes carried around the local newspaper’s want ads in their back pocket looking for work because unless they had off-season jobs, they couldn’t make ends meet. Today, players have got the Wall Street Journal tucked away to study how to invest their season’s salary, which is more than the rest of us will earn in a lifetime.

The product is oversaturated on television. You can watch the NFL all day on Sunday, then again on Monday and Thursday nights and, as the colleges wind down, on Saturdays as well.

They have played games in Tokyo, Osaka, Mexico City, London, Berlin, Toronto, Montreal, Barcelona, Dublin, Sydney, even Göteborg, Sweden. The league has been trying for years to play one in Beijing. And, there is interest in locating an NFL franchise in London, all in the hope of feeding the league’s bulging coffers.

There are special days when teams wear nonstandard uniforms – from throwback jerseys and pants from the earliest days of the NFL to what it calls Color Rush uniforms for, usually, Thursday night games. It’s not an effort to honor the past or add a little color and flair, it’s to further push revenue from merchandising.

There is little for the average fan to cling to or afford.

The complexion of the game has changed radically and so has the personality.

Instead of guys we knew as Sweetness, Mean Joe, The Refrigerator, The Snake, The Stork, Deacon, Broadway Joe and Butkus, we’ve got guys who look more at home calling their brokers and money men from their private jet instead of calling a play in the huddle.

Yeah, football has taken a hit.

A major hit.

But, politics has little to do with it.

No bad days!

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist for St. George News. The opinions stated in this article are his own and may not be representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2018, all rights reserved.

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  • johncmiller January 30, 2018 at 6:57 am

    Oh Ed. I think your negativity in life is finally understood. You’re a Raiders fan. Lol!!!

  • Utahguns January 30, 2018 at 7:17 am

    Oh, you have an opinion about the NFL?….and Politics have nothing to do with it?
    Where the hell you been?

  • Death Valley January 30, 2018 at 8:34 am

    NFL hasn’t been good for many a year.
    Another Patriots Super Bowl…? I’d rather take a nap.

  • 12345 January 30, 2018 at 9:55 am

    Oh yawn is it Superbowl time again ? oh well, wake me when it’s over

  • Real Life January 30, 2018 at 3:42 pm

    How did I know you would be on the side of disrespecting the flag? Ed, you have become too predictable.

    • dons8120 January 30, 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Please explain where you read that Ed is on the side of disrespecting the flag. I must have read a different article. Besides you need to get off your high horse and stop crying about people “disrespecting a flag” because they kneel during our anthem. The constitution protects our rights to freedom of speech, just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean its disrespect. I don’t complain when people make articles of clothing like hats and shirts with a design of the flag, which is technically against the flag code. The NFL is not getting good ratings because the games suck, not because people take a knee. Most people who watch games don’t even see that part of the broadcast. Get over it already.

      • 12345 January 30, 2018 at 7:46 pm

        great comment Well said ! They’re not disrespecting the flag by kneeling and those that say that are the ones that have absolutely no clue to what is going on.

      • Real Life January 30, 2018 at 8:12 pm

        Get your head out of your rear buddy. The mainstream media AND dummies like yourself continue to deny the FACT that the NFL ratings continue to plummet because of players disrespectful act. Is it their right? Sure is. Just as it is my right to call them out on it. Before you go spouting off, maybe you should talk to veterans, like I have. MOST of them find it offensive. Whatever ” news ” outlet your buying into, has got you duped.

        • dons8120 January 31, 2018 at 8:54 am

          I am glad you admit that they have the right to kneel, most right wing supporters don’t even do that, so I commend you for that. But name calling and using all caps to prove your “FACTS” is childish and people are tired of it. What study besides Fox news do you have to support your idea that players taking a knee is the only cause of the lower ratings. Look beyond the Trump media, the cost of tickets have been rising for years and the level of play is in decline. As mentioned above it is not the NFL most of us grew up with. As for kneeling in protest, standing up for those less fortunate is why we serve. When this all started it was just one person sitting during an anthem to protest police brutality, he later took a knee to show respect for the military while still protesting the police brutality. Not once has anyone shown disrespect to the veterans who serve our country. So many of you are fast to jump on the bandwagon of what the Fox news tells you. I want everyone who is reading this to know that this veteran is not offended by NFL players taking a knee. Many of my friends made the ultimate sacrifice to defend our constitutional rights, which includes freedom of speech against tyranny from from our government and law enforcement, just as I fought to give you the right to protest the NFL for your beliefs. That being said you do not have the right to slander those who disagree with your beliefs. Maybe you should take a history class to learn more about why we made this our first amendment .

        • bikeandfish January 31, 2018 at 10:09 am

          I thought its been the right who claims that being offended = being a snowflake? Its a tactic I disagree but I do value consistency.

          But more important, there will always be a tension between free speech and interpretation. But understanding speech, if people approach others in good faith, means listening to the intent of the action. And they have made it exceedingly clear that its not about disrespecting the flag or soldiers. In fact, Kaepernick went from sitting to kneeling at the advice of a soldier because its common for kneeling to be a sign of respect.

          • dons8120 January 31, 2018 at 10:51 am

            Agreed, we kneel to show respect for fallen soldiers, its been a common practice for some time now. One I have done way to many times.

        • Ed Kociela January 31, 2018 at 10:54 am

          Actually, Real Life, I, too have spoken with many veterans on this issue and find the contrary true. The vast majority remember that the first thing they did when they were sworn into military service is to uphold and defend the Constitution of the United States, which includes the 1st Amendment. While some I have spoken with do not agree with the form of protest, very few have found it “offensive.” Instead, they point out that love of country and freedom is more important, that they served to ensure those freedoms, that taking a knee is not disrespectful, that it is a respectful and valid manner in which to protest injustice and bigotry.

          • Real Life January 31, 2018 at 10:19 pm

            Ed, you are correct. The 1st Amendment is a pretty important one. Maybe the vets that I talk to, are just a little more old school.

      • mesaman January 30, 2018 at 9:07 pm

        You did read a different article, made so by the perceptual distortion you had developed by leaning to the far left. But then trying to defend Mr Ed is as hopeless as Hildy becoming a nun.

        • dons8120 January 31, 2018 at 9:00 am

          Why does everyone think that if you aren’t a Trump supporter and you agree with Ed that you are a far left wing nut. I defended Ed because he made a valid point. I am not defined by a political affiliation, I don’t vote red or blue, I vote with common sense and what I believe will be the best for our country and my children, not what a political party tells me. You people are so dense.

          • mesaman January 31, 2018 at 4:14 pm

            And you are naive.

  • bikeandfish January 30, 2018 at 10:27 pm

    Hard to extrapolated much meaning for this years NFL numbers. Viewership was down via television but it statistically mirrored overall declines in television viewership. Attendance was up at stadiums but that is deceptive as they got tickets sold not individual in the stadium (ie turnstile counts). Photos are telling of that discrepancy.

    The 2018 will reveal the impact of the kneeling. A bulk of tickets are purchased preseason and then repackaged and Trump hadn’t amplified the controversy yet when 2017 tickets were sold. Most pundits are expecting a major dip in sales = current attendance counting method. Time will tell.

    Ed didn’t provide a compelling argument for his cause. I’m just not convinced what we saw in stadium photos is reflected in the changes he highlighted. Interest in the NFL has been decreasing before the controversy but it was steady and actual stadium attendance had stayed roughly steady. O think it would be foolish to ignore the brilliant way Trump had manipulated and branded the issue. Criticize him all he wants but he knows how to cater tailor made messages to his base that energize them and there is a huge overlap with the NFL crowd.

    2018 could be disastrous for the league. Or not.

  • William January 31, 2018 at 7:27 am

    The NFL manipulates scores, fixes games, decides winners, then justifies it by saying the NFL is Entertainment, not Sports.
    Fans cheering in the stands are making a public display of stupidity. Just clap when the show is over.
    Kneeling for the Anthem is clearly, to 99% of the people, a show of disrespect.

    • bikeandfish January 31, 2018 at 10:02 am

      Can you show me evidence that 99% of Americans consider it disrespectful? Because that claim is definitely not “clear” from my perspective.

      • mesaman January 31, 2018 at 4:15 pm

        That’s because 99 percent of Americans are not NFL freaks. As for your perspective, who gives a diddly squat what your perspective is.

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