The number one professional sports league in the United States is without a doubt the NFL. The NFL has built itself into a multi-billion dollar business that has seemed to captivate the American people since the 1960s. Today, I want to look at what could be the cause of a significant ratings drop for the NFL this year.
The quality of play. I know the players today are bigger, stronger, and faster; I will not argue that. What I will argue is that the players of the past were much better technique-wise. Why do I say that? With the concussion problem at the forefront, teams do not go through tough training camps. Most importantly, overall there is almost no live tackling during practices.
Let’s face it: An NFL training camp in the 70s was a lot different than a training camp today. Offensive line play is terrible compared to what it was, which can be attributed to the lack of coaching these players get in college and high school. The kick step is a lost art form, the high school and college game has changed to a spread offensive game where the ball is thrown quickly and the kick step is not needed like it was in the past. This type of offensive play means college quarterbacks get to the NFL after literally never having been under center.
Lack of violence. Once again, this is a direct offshoot of the NFL’s concussion issues. The NFL became America’s sport of choice because of two things: violence and gambling. Look back at some old NFL films; you’ll see that the violence was glorified. Now if you see a big hit, it is almost immediately flagged as a penalty. On top of this, penalties for big hits are seemingly so arbitrary that nobody including the officials know what is a penalty and what’s not.
Integrity of the game a.k.a. officiating. NFL officiating has never been worse, and the amount of flags thrown in a given game are ridiculous! It seems like every team that loses a game can point at one or two calls to blame for the defeat. To make matters worse, the NFL, a multi-billion dollar industry, doesn’t even employ full-time officials. They have part-timers that have regular jobs during the week. With officiating as bad as it is in the NFL, it calls into question whether the game is becoming more like the WWE than an actual sporting event.
Player protest. A lot of people, right or wrong, don’t appreciate players taking a knee during the national anthem. People are tired of overpaid (in their eyes) players disrespecting the country’s anthem. I am not one of those, but many are.
Over-saturation. Nowadays, you have games on Sunday, Sunday night, Monday and Thursday. In the 70s, a prime time NFL game was an event. Today, it’s just another game. [On the most recent edition of the L.A. Rams 2.0 Weekly Show, former All-Pro QB and league MVP Roman Gabriel cited this as the primary reason for the NFL’s drop in popularity in 2016 –Ed.]
No great teams. The current NFL is just a bunch of games with mediocre teams. The New England Patriots are a very good team; the Dallas Cowboys and Oakland Raiders look to be pretty good. In all actuality, though, these teams are just the best teams of a bad lot.
Really, you can put all these reasons together because they all go hand in hand. There are no great teams because of the poor tackling and blocking that we see every Sunday. The officiating is bad. There are too many games on TV, that makes it not special that a game is on. Monday Night Football when I was younger always felt like a special event that I HAD to watch. Throw in the general lack of respect that the NFL shows its fans, and you have a recipe for disaster.
Will any of this change? Probably not, but I can always hope, can’t I…?