Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bashing the NFL for fun, if not profit

On the eve of yet another Roman-numeraled Super Bowl and a rescheduled Pro Bowl, herewith are one sports fan's gripes about football:

I guess on a basic level I don't really understand the appeal of football. It's not that I don't like sports. I'm a huge fan of sports that have an element of real competition.

It's just that professional football is a charade, as a competitive enterprise. There's so much national TV money, equally divided among the teams, that the notion that these teams compete with each other is silly. Each team makes huge profits, regardless of whether they go 0-16 or 16-0. And that's why the NFL Players' Association is so weak-putting together a good team is largely irrelevant to profitability, so the players have no leverage over management. It's hard to charge a premium for athletic talent when acquiring more talent doesn't significantly affect whether you make money. This isn't so with real sports.

I have a lot of other problems with football, but, to single out one more, as with all other sports with a clock, a decisive lead late in the game settles the issue. What could be more anti-climatic than the last few minutes of a football game when one team has a big lead? If they're ahead, they run out the clock, culminating with the thrilling walk off the field before the clock has even run out. If they're behind, they take a bunch of timeouts to organize hopeless plays, and two minutes of clock time can take 25 of real time. Dull as dishwater.

As George Will wrote, football features two of the worst aspects of contemporary American culture-violence interspersed with committee meetings (huddles.)
I'll add that the NFL also has a shameful record when it comes to taking care of its retired players with medical issues-which is most of them.

This isn't surprising, though, when you consider that history doesn't matter in the NFL. There was a poll in the Philadelphia Inquirer today asking if the current Patriots are the best team of all time. None of the other choices go back farther than 1962. Imagine a poll like that in baseball, or even basketball. Fans of other sports realize that their sports' history didn't begin with national television contracts, but nobody cared about football before the early '60's.

This was originally posted on my other blog, Rene's Apple, on Feb. 3, 2008.

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