Is TV ratings slump a red flag or a yellow one for NFL?


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(Photo courtesy of NFL)

By Ron Borges

Talk of Fame Network

Has the public finally had it with the NFL, a.k.a. the No Fun League?

Has it grown weary of the sound of wind chimes tinkling inside the heads of too many of its favorite stars?

Are TV ratings this season deflated across the league because Tom Brady has taken a job with Nielsen or because there is something wrong at the core of the NFL?

Three weeks into a new season, ratings are down 12 percent on Sunday night, 12 percent on Monday Night, 5 percent on CBS and essentially flat at FOX. For the first time, a Presidential debate chose to buck Monday Night Football, something the Reagan-Carter debate chose to avoid, and the result was a 38-per cent decline in Monday Night’s rating for the Saints-Falcons game, dropping from 8.9 to 5.7.

Is this a marketing problem, a protest problem or a problem of the league’s own making? It is too early to know, but whatever is happening it bears watching because although it is early in the NFL season, TV viewership slippage is more concerning than slippery footing at the Hall-of-Fame Game.

Some argue players’ protests during the national anthem led to a #BoycottNFL backlash that is hitting the league where it feels it most: The TV audience. That theory argues fans come to watch pro football to escape real-world issues and are rebelling at having them thrown in their face before kickoff. That seems to me like a bit of a stretch because anyone who doesn’t want to see such protests need only wait for the time it takes to go get a beer and popcorn in the kitchen to avoid the whole matter.

Others wonder if it’s the absence of marquee players like Peyton Manning and Brady, one retired and the other living on Elba for another week before returning to the NFL from a controversial four-game suspension. Are TV ratings deflated because of Deflategate? That sounds like a lot of hot air, too.

So why are fans suddenly not watching?

Here’s one possibility: The suits on Park Avenue in New York have begun to ruin the game by turning it into pinball. Rules changes designed to outlaw defense have succeeded. Defense has nearly been legislated out of existence, foisting phony points and phonier stats on a gullible public that is starting to wake up and realize what’s been going on simply isn’t real.

It’s been manufactured by legislation, not by wily offensive coordinators.

The Saints-Falcons game was a good example. Between them, they scored 77 points and gained 916 yards. That’s not pro football. That’s the NBA All-Star game, another event where defense is not allowed.

How many more times do you want to see a defender flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact when the “penalty’’ was actually caused by an offensive player lowering his head as a tackler approached?

How many more guys who don’t know how to tackle do you want to see sprawled on the ground because nobody told them to wrap their arms around the guy with the ball?

How many more flags for pass interference or unnecessary roughness for barely touching a wide receiver or, God forbid, the quarterback can you stand before you flip to HBO in search of Hard Knocks?

It’s too early to say the NFL has peaked, but the game they play today is not the one that created the NFL phenomenon. They’ve outlawed half the game to the point where they’ve begun to hurt the whole game.

Is America falling out of love with this version of the NFL 2.0?

I don’t know, but 50 percent of all marriages in this country end in divorce. That’s a stat the men running the NFL should not forget.

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3 Comments

  1. TheJJWattExperience
    September 29, 2016
    Reply

    The NFL has been the “No Fun League” since I was a kid (although I have always loved it). I remember the Washington Redskins and the “Fun Bunch” being penalized by the league and subsequent showboats that would follow. I respectfully disagree that this is the biggest reason for the lackluster t.v. ratings through three weeks.

    While we get shootouts like the Saints/Falcons the other night (only saw the score – did not watch), we still get games like the Seahawks/Rams, too. No touchdowns the entire game.

    I was just thinking the other day how I’ve watched the least amount of the NFL through the first three weeks of a season than can ever be remembered. It wasn’t a conscious decision but after reading this story, I fit into the category you described here:

    “Some argue players’ protests during the national anthem led to a #BoycottNFL backlash that is hitting the league where it feels it most: The TV audience. That theory argues fans come to watch pro football to escape real-world issues and are rebelling at having them thrown in their face before kickoff. That seems to me like a bit of a stretch because anyone who doesn’t want to see such protests need only wait for the time it takes to go get a beer and popcorn in the kitchen to avoid the whole matter.”

    It’s not that I have a major opinion one way or the other. I fully support players not standing. Many have died so future generations could do what guys like Kaepernick are doing (freedom of speech/expression). I also see the perspective about “respect,” too. I don’t have a horse in this race so I’m not taking sides, while some people have passionately taken sides.

    However, I fall into this category 100%… “fans come to watch pro football to escape real-world issues and are rebelling at having them…” Sure, I could go to the fridge and not pay attention to it for a few minutes but it’s there and you know full well we’re going to hear/read stories associated with “real life” after the game, too.

    Of course I think it’s wrong when innocents are killed by the police, but if you critically think of some of these shootings, many of us would have done the same thing if we were in the position of the police (because some killed wouldn’t be dead if they had followed basic demands that your average person would have followed such as “drop the gun,” or “put your hands over your head”).

    I have a job that deals with reality. I work with kids and see the horrible effects of neglect, physical and sexual abuse, etc. Some of the stories absolutely crush my soul, but it’s worth it because there are success stories, too. But, for me, the NFL has always been about escaping reality and that is needed in life. I can’t seem to escape that in the NFL this year so I have actually spent more time outside this fall (which certainly isn’t a bad thing). I need that “escape” and if I can’t get it from the NFL – it’s going to be gotten somewhere.

    I don’t plan to quit watching my favorite team but am actually enjoying time spent doing other things in the fall that haven’t been done as much previous years. I’ll watch a little football this weekend but it certainly isn’t going to be as much the average Sunday in previous seasons even if we still love the game.

    Maybe I am the only person not watching as much because of the “escape from reality” part, but suspect this isn’t the case.

  2. Jason
    September 29, 2016
    Reply

    I’ve watched it less this year so far. I love football, but if it’s not my home team or a marquee game I’m not that interested and it seems there are fewer marquee games through the first few weeks. Every matchup seems like it’s and 8-8 team vs an 8-8 team or worse. And yes, rediculous touchy personal foul officiating, constantly screwing with kickoffs, and no dominate defenses has an effect. It’s become the shotgun check down League with too many 2nd level QBs.

  3. Rasputin
    October 4, 2017
    Reply

    And they’re down again even more this year, clearly because of the anti-American protests, racially bigoted salutes, and, perhaps most of all, the NFL’s double standard in allowing them, which tells fans, most of whom are patriotic, where the league’s sympathies lie. Scientific surveys have repeatedly shown the anthem protests are the #1 reason for the ratings collapse even going back to last year, and the media excuses pretending otherwise have been debunked.

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