When younger, I was excited this time of year. I’d be at summer camp, or working an odd job, scouring bookstores for NFL preview magazines in preparation for the upcoming season.
Times and people change.
Just as many bookstores and magazines have faded from existence, so did my interest in the NFL roughly 15 years ago. Aside from casual interest in the 2006 Super Bowl Champion Indianapolis Colts since my wife and I moved there that season, I care very little about the NFL these days. If I am following a sport during the late summer or early autumn, it’s absolutely baseball, especially another season of pennant races and intriguing storylines. And of course, like most, I have adult obligations which take priority over games.
But if you watch ESPN or listen to sports talk radio, former athletes and wannabe athletes still act like I did as a child, with inane football previews riddled with clichés and meaningless predictions. Are they truly representing most sports fans?
Not those I know.
Last month, I published an article exposing the myths about baseball attendance. Hint: it’s rising, not dropping like the media claims to brainwash the masses for some odd reason. To hear the media tell it, baseball has been in a death spiral for three decades; when in fact, baseball has set attendance records in recent years.
NFL attendance, on the contrary, drops every season, now to its lowest levels in more than a decade — despite modern obsession with fantasy teams, just one actual game per week and perpetual media hype. Yet no photo essays of empty football stadiums from Yahoo! are expected, unlike the misleading hatchet pieces they did on baseball twice this summer.
Nor will Colin Cowherd mention any of the above facts on his radio show when touting “huge television numbers” the NFL puts up compared to the other sports each weekend. He and ESPN also won’t discuss rampant steroid abuse in the NFL or dozens of arrests the past few months. It is all so misleading that it doesn’t require further elaboration.
Why the staggering drop in folks attending NFL games though? The sport is “so popular” we’re told, yet most fans prefer to avoid the “stadium experience.” Naive ex-football players toe the company line using the traditional “weak economy” excuse to distort football’s drop in popularity, yet somehow baseball thrived during the recession.
Perhaps because so much of football in person involves looking at a dead field.
Here’s an isolated sequence I noted during a heavily-hyped football tilt last year:
Fumble on first down. Play challenged.
Roughly 17 real-time minutes to run two plays, not including the kickoff.
Football is a fine sport when at home. Those with disposable income can avoid the aforementioned situation and enjoy the Red Zone channel, ignoring a dearth of action and incessant replays, instead flipping around to focus on whatever they choose, like fantasy teams (the main reason most people I know watch NFL).
On your couch you avoid the sport’s inaction with the above, plus food, camaraderie with friends, family and more.
Personally, I won’t pay extra for sports, don’t gamble, never played fantasy and prefer not getting dizzy when watching several games at once. So while those more concerned with money than the actual outcome might be hooked, I’m not.
The substantial attendance drop is also attributed to the unsafe environment for families in most cities, unaffordable tickets and a poor stadium experience the league aimlessly tries to enhance with inane gimmicks.
Football in person is also very time-consuming and generally uncomfortable. A typical Sunday for a 1 p.m. kickoff at the Meadowlands requires a 9 a.m. departure and home arrival well after 6 p.m.
Baseball tickets may be more expensive than I prefer in some cities, but they still average roughly a quarter the price of football. Additionally, egress and in ingress outside New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago is a breeze, and the experience is nearly always a pleasure.
Outside of perhaps the isolated situation, you’re safe to bring children to baseball games, you can enjoy convivial chatter about the nuances of each inning in a comfortable, often scenic setting. And you’ll see something unique every contest. No wonder the sport draws so well.
NFL teams only play one or two home games per month – on a weekend no less – yet many can’t fill up 70,000 seats?
The Los Angeles Dodgers have filled up 55,000 seats nearly 20 times already since April, while many squads sell out every game for six or seven months. A dozen baseball teams may average a startling 35,000 fans over 81 openings in 2013, and 20 of the 30 should average 30,000 by season’s end. Simply remarkable, rarely publicized.
If the Yankees-Red Sox or baseball’s other chief rivalries occurred once or twice per year ala the NFL, they’d draw 200,000.
My belief has always been that football games are something fans look forward to more than actually watch. The weekly buildup and gambling trumps the actual games, which can be boring and predictable. People often like talking and thinking about the sport – more than actually watching come Sundays – or most certainly attending.
Time for honesty from the media. I won’t hold my breath.