I’ve been reading these reports about how the TV ratings for NFL games have been slipping for the early season games. It’s prompting the usual freak-out from people about how the NFL is losing popularity and so on.
First of all, this is nonsense. The NFL is the No.1 sport by such a wide margin that it’s not a contest. Still, I know something about sports history and the popularity of various sports ebbs and flows. There used to be a time when baseball was the number one sport in the USA, but then it lost its popularity due to a lot of things — free agency, franchise moves, player strikes, steroids, etc. etc.
As I see it, the NFL threatens to go down the same path of decline if it doesn’t watch what it is doing. As for the current ratings decline, a lot of people are pointing to all those various protests (started by 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick) by players during the national anthems, with guys taking a knee and so on. A lot of fans are turned right off by this and think this is showing disrespect for the flag and for the country, and for all the armed forces personnel who put their lives on the line in combat. And then you have the people who are simply pro-police and don’t like it for that reason.
I’m seeing a lot of online comments from the right-wing people claiming they are boycotting the NFL until this ends. I think these folks are really more interested in being right-wing than in being NFL fans to begin with. But it’s true, people are fed up.
It’s not just that. It’s all these stories about criminality by NFL players, and stories about domestic violence, that are turning fans off. What ordinary fan is going to want to cheer on a bunch of criminals? Then there are the horror stories out there about the health toll on players in general from these concussions. All this is prompting more fan boycotts and people swearing off of the sport.
In general, the blame for allowing all these problems to get so out of hand is directed at league office and commissioner Roger Goodell. People are simply sick and tired of all this and want action but they see the league office as too lax and uncaring, and more interested in its business.
That, at the end of the day, is probably the biggest thing turning off fans right now: the perception that the NFL only cares about making money for itself. It never used to be this way, it used to be about the action on the field. But now it’s about which owner has the fanciest, most expensive stadium.
Look at the stadiums all over the league these days. These are billion-dollar palaces the NFL keeps on building, and then they stick the fans with the bill with increased ticket prices and seat licenses. The cost of attending a Super Bowl is absolutely insane, with tickets costing a thousand dollars or more. Seriously, what average fan can support that? The Joe Average fan can’t support going to actual games anymore, let alone the Super Bowl, because of all this greed at the top.
But the thing that really drives me nuts is that the greed has extended to franchise free agency, with teams holding cities hostage by moving around or threatening to move. Of course, last week we had the first home regular-season game for the relocated Los Angeles Rams, who are currently at the Coliseum but are going to be building a huge billion-dollar stadium in Inglewood.
Fans in St. Louis got the shaft in this move, and yet their domed NFL stadium isn’t even that old! In fact, the stadium the Rams play in now is a dump and fan-unfriendly, but it is all about this new stadium they are building. The NFL left St. Louis because of greed, pure and simple.
Meanwhile, the rumors continue about the future of the San Diego Chargers and the Oakland Raiders. The Chargers have been threatening to join the Rams in their new stadium in LA for some time. But they decided to stay in San Diego for one more season, while they tried to pass a ballot initiative for a new stadium downtown.
But that plan has run into opposition, including from fans and organizers of Comic-Con who are concerned that the new stadium will drive that iconic event out of San Diego, because of the impact on the convention center. Why San Diego can’t keep both the Chargers and Comic-Con boggles my mind, they’re both important to the city.
In any event, it increasingly looks like the ballot initiative, “Measure C”, is going to fail, and it sure looks like this is the final season for the Chargers in San Diego. All in all, if I were a Chargers fan right now I would not be happy with civic officials, or with anyone, really. They must all be angry at the league. The NFL is threatening to toss away an entire loyal fan base, one that kept the league relevant in Southern California for all the years that they had no team in LA.
A new Chargers facility should have been built long before this point because Qualcomm Stadium is old as the hills. But they waited too long, and now it’s all coming down to this last-minute decision at the ballot box, with the fate of the Chargers in the hands of non-football fans who want to save their money. But who can blame the taxpayers, really, if they don’t want to be hosed by pro sports.
Meanwhile, the rumors go on about the Oakland Raiders looking to move to Las Vegas. Casino owner Sheldon Adelson is the one backing the bid to build this huge billion-dollar stadium for the Raiders, with a heavy dose of public financing. Obviously, this is a big stumbling block because people in Vegas, and the rest of Nevada for that matter, don’t want to be hosed to pay for the NFL.
The big proposal floating around there is to finance the new stadium by putting in a new hotel tax to be financed by all the tourists who stay in hotels in Las Vegas. So every visitor to Las Vegas will see their costs of going to Vegas go up, all to support this stadium project that none of the tourists cares about.
Hey, Sheldon, I may be a big NFL fan, but there’s no way I’m supporting your hotel tax to pay for the Raiders! The main reason I go to Las Vegas so often is because it’s cheap to go there. But if I have to pay through the nose for hotel rooms, what’s the point? The tourists have alternatives, folks. Instead of Vegas, I could easily go to Phoenix, Arizona on direct flights, or to Los Cabos or Puerto Vallarta or Cancun, Mexico, or Varadero, Cuba! Besides, the weather in all those places is warmer in January anyway. If their deals are better, I’m going there.
Las Vegas ought to put their foot down and tell the NFL to go to hell with their hose-the-taxpayer demands for money. Besides, it’s not like Las Vegas needs an NFL team. They’ve got the NHL now, and it didn’t cost an arm and a leg of taxpayers’ money to acquire that.
It’s questionable the NFL is even coming to Vegas, it sounds like a lot of owners would rather keep the Raiders in the Bay Area. But if I were a Las Vegas resident, I’d simply enjoy the new NHL team, plus NASCAR, NCAA, Sevens rugby and all the fights, and say to hell with the NFL. It’s a waste of everyone’s money.
Bottom line is: it is franchise free agency, and this treatment of fans as if they are a bottomless pit of money, that is turning people off of the NFL. And that is why the ratings are going down. The customers have had enough.
That’s my rant! Now, excuse me while I tune in NASCAR today — in protest.