Sunday, November 27, 2016

Just Not That Into It Anymore

Ratings for the Cowboys-Redskins game Thursday evening were off the charts, so we probably won't hear that much about the NFL's television problems for awhile. Not hearing about something does not mean it goes away.

A game featuring one of the popular "national" teams on a national holiday held in the late afternoon broadcast window ought to have high ratings. What the hell else are people going to do on Thanksgiving after they eat dinner? Run Black Friday practice drills? Add to that situation the fact that Dallas-Washington was an entertaining game, and success was well nigh a given. Remember, the NFL's primary strength as a television show is the ancient phrase, "there's nothing else good on right now."

But here it is Sunday morning, and as I, a lifetime NFL fan since before the birth of the AFL, contemplate the 1 p.m. games one realization overpowers me. I don't give a damn about any of them. Whoever wins or loses means nothing to me. I look at their possible entertainment values and think, "maybe's there's something that needs doing around the house." Cleaning tile grout would offer more personal satisfaction than Giants-Browns or Bills-Jaguars.

I will watch the Pats-Jets game at 4:30 because I take a personal interest (not rooting, but personal, as in, I used to cover the team) in New England's fortunes. Broncos-Raiders should be a good Sunday night game. I might watch the first quarter. I am traveling tomorrow, and can't commit to a late night.

Try as I might, I can't remember the last time I watched more than a quarter of any Monday night game. I think it was Chiefs-Pats in September 2014, but I could be wrong.

I use myself as an example of what I think are the real threats to the NFL's status as the Last Big Network Hit Show. One is simple and curable. Night football used to be Event TV. Now overeliance has turned into just another NCIS spinoff. It's skippable. You've seen enough football already by the time it's Sunday night, let alone Monday night. Thursday night is and always has been Roger Goodell water-ski jumping over the shark tank.

It's simple supply and demand. If there was less night football, the audiences for it would grow. As of now, oversupply is choking off my demand. I suspect I have company there.

The most serious issue confronting the NFL Show is the one I'm contemplating this morning. The whole foundation of the show's commercial success is the premise that while a lot more people will tune in to see the home team play, enough people will tune in to games involving other teams to make them profitable as well. A real pro football fan will turn on the TV at one and if Giants-Browns and Dolphins-49ers are his or two options, the fan will watch one of them.

Maybe I'm not a real pro football fan anymore. Or maybe, just maybe, one whole NFL game and parts of one or two others is all the pro football any fan really needs.


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