Apr 26, 2013; New York, NY, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks before the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft at Radio City Music Hall. Mandatory Credit: Debby Wong-USA TODAY Sports
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For fans who have had their heads in the sand or who have followed the baseball playoffs and the start of the NBA and NHL seasons, you may have missed what is growing news.
The ratings for the NFL are crashing. This past Sunday, Major League Baseball (granted, the World Series) crushed the NFL Sunday Night Football game featuring the Eagles and Cowboys by a staggering 32 percent. Guess what, the NFL is getting exactly what they are asking for, and have been asking for these ratings issues for an extended period of time.
Just how did we get here? I will take a look at a couple factors that I believe have lead to the issues surrounding the league and their plummeting ratings.
First off, and while I’m not saying this is the most important, I recognize it as such. The league about a decade ago, perhaps a little less, decided to take the cloak and dagger, nuclear code level secrecy when it came to well information, access…anything. Fans who remember the Kent Babb article in the KC Star near the end of the Haley run as the Chiefs head coach will remember stories of people being chased down by security and forced to delete any and all photos that MIGHT show images of the stadium/practice facility/skylines/etc. This is an excerpt from that article that highlights the issue.
For an example of this that isn’t related to the Chiefs, one simply has to do is watch the post game interview a German journalist had with the Washington Redskins kicker Dustin Hopkins. VP of Communications Tony Wyllie physically intervenes on the interview. Beyond the stunned and confused look on the face of the German reporter, its the fact this isn’t the first time Wyllie has physically stopped an interview from taking place. According to the USA Today, Wyllie confronted and physically intervened on an interview between then quarterback Chase McCoy and a reporter from ESPN Deportes. Heaven forbid someone asks a question about a game without someone saying something.
Bad and negative publicity never help a public image and the NFL is no different. From the numerous Goddell issues and complaints to the concussion issues to the players Anthem protest, the league is overwhelmed and awash in negative press and petty bickering. The league needs to find ways to create good news, to create positive news. As the league continues to shield the paying fan base of stories they may actually care about and stories about the players they love to watch on Sundays, the fans lost interest.
Fans want information, they want to hear from the players on the teams they pour their heart and emotions in every week. Fans want to know what’s going on, that the team they love is involved and cares as much as they do. That the league banned their own teams from posting videos and highlights on game day is ludicrous. That many of the teams responded with creativeness and humor at such an absurd mandate is awesome. The league wants to ensure nothing gets out. Which leads to…..
The league needs to give us more! Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports
Secondly, after a fan stops hearing from their favorite players and teams, their passion wanes. It’s difficult to be ‘as invested’ in a team when you know little to nothing about the players on the team. Raise your hand if you truly have any idea about the background of Jaye Howard, or perhaps Mitch Morse. What about Mitchell Schwartz, anyone know what he’s about? During the glory years of the National Football League, fans got to know the players, their passions and what they were about. Players became part of the community, and passion followed.
A disastrous run of the end of the Carl Peterson era coupled with the nightmare of the Pioli regime, (Anyone remember the Arrowhead blackout?) and this organization has really turned bunch of avid fans into casual fans. To many, especially the 30 somethings with young families, have turned their attention towards outside with family, or as Bob Fescoe of 61oam in Kansas City says, Family time at the Pumpkin Patch. Fans have found outlets.
Thirdly, the pace of [FLAG] play with [COMMERCIAL BREAK] all the interruptions and [COMMERCIAL BREAK] stops in [TIME OUT] play have made it [FLAG] almost impossible to [CHALLENGE ON THE PLAY] watch a game, especially for a team you [COMMERCIAL] don’t have anything invested in. Ratings in home market are still obviously really strong, but out of market ratings are suffering because people don’t care because, again [FLAG] they have better things to do with their time. The league has to find a way to move games along far quicker, as fans are losing interest with all the [COMMERCIAL] stops in the [FLAG] game.
If the NFL truly wants to capture the fans again, to bring ratings back, to bring fans back, they have to embrace their fans. We know more now then we EVER did before. Information is so readily available some fans (and teams for that matter) suffer from information over load.
Fans have been turned into junior draftnicks, with guys like Matt Miller (@nfldraftscout) (Bleacher Report) and Daniel Jeremiah (@movethesticks) (NFL Network) work almost year-round providing information, insights and scouting reports on dozens of players for the upcoming NFL Draft, as well as a slew of websites and personalities detailing what our team right or wrong on Twitter, such as Ross Tucker (@RossTuckerNFL) and Andy Benoit (@Andy_Benoit).
Society no longer is satisfied simply with the ‘finished product.’ Just as we care about the manner and methods a steak is brought to our plate, so to do we care about the manner and events that lead up to game day. Fans are showing the league they care in that they are changing the channel. They are going outside. They are taking their business elsewhere.