In the last NFL season the league saw a significant drop in viewership. Certain games like the Dallas versus Washington Thanksgiving game brought in massive numbers but the majority of the season was at a loss for the NFL.
What’s causing such a loss in interest for professional football? Brady, who no one knew what to expect coming off a deflate-gate suspension, lit up the regular and post season, carving his name into the record books as possibly greatest footballer to ever live. The forever hated Cowboys seemed to give the rest of the league just more motivation to crave their losses by posting a stunning 13-3 record, fueled by the two young guns in Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Aaron Rodgers almost single handedly led a below average team places it should never have been able to go and has undoubtedly become the best hail-mary thrower in NFL history. The league seems fit for a movie with heroes, villains, and underdogs at every stop, yet fans just aren’t watching games.
Some of the biggest issues with viewership is the fact that the game just isn’t as vicious as it once was. There’s always going to be big hits but with all the rules and advances in safety, it’s just simply not as entertaining. Granted, no one wants to see injuries, especially those involving the head and the safer
the game is, the better it is for all levels from youth to professional.
Old school, draw dropping hits are soon going to be a rarity and thing of the past. While this may be the best for the game and for the players, something has to be done to keep fans entertained.
Simultaneously, the NBA hasn’t changed much in its long history and is maintaining a high level of viewership. The past year the NBA has seen steady viewership at extremely large rates and experienced an explosion in their digital viewership. But it begs the question, what is the NBA doing so differently? For non-argument sake, the Cavs and Warriors both boosted super teams this year dominating the rest of the league. The Warriors nearly swept the entire post season while the Cavs were a win away from sweeping the Eastern Conference. It’s pure domination with one hero and one villain, or two villains, depending on who you root for. So again, why such a large following for what fundamentally feels like something a lot less entertaining?
Anyone who understands an ounce of the basketball rule book can watch an NBA game and point out a plethora of uncalled travels, walks, and double dribbles.
Referees are staying out of the game more and more at the professional level when it comes to these things for a very specific reason. Almost every time there is an extremely blatant violation, it leads to a stadium erupting dunk, pass, or shot. This is exactly what people are paying to see. If every time Lebron James or Kevin Durant threw down an explosive dunk, but had it taken away because they took three steps instead of two, fans would be furious with the league.
This bending of the rules adds excitement to the game that keeps fans watching day after day. Add on Draymond Greens’ taunting that often goes un-penalized and it makes for an entertaining season.
The NFL now appears at a crossroad. More often than not you’ll see an 80-yard bomb caught for a touchdown just to see the yellow “FLAG” icon appear in the top right of the screen. Holding. No touchdown. Or when a team can finally connect for a score the players have to be careful not to cross the invisible line of what is considered a “sportsmanlike” celebration.
It’s difficult to expect the NFL to tell their referees “maybe ease back on the penalties on long touchdowns or big plays”. While it would in theory make the game more exciting, at what toll do you affect the integrity of the game.
In late May, the NFL finally decided to ease up on their celebration rules. Players will no longer be penalized and fined as easily as before for certain celebrations. The NFL is about ten years too late on this one.
Fans of every sport appreciate sportsmanship. It’s often what makes sports so wonderful. But why not make things a little less strict. Scoring a touchdown in the NFL is one of the hardest things to do in sports. Often only a few are scored a game and for most players they may only score a couple in their career, if any at all. Players need to be able to act accordingly. Twerk, spike the ball, jump into the crowd, dunk the ball on the goal post so hard that it
bends, forcing the maintenance crew to come out and fix it. This is what fans want after their team scores. We sit at home doing outrageous celebrations in our living rooms, offices, and sports bars, so why shouldn’t the athletes who are payed millions of dollars to play be able to do the same.