Tag Archives: NFL

Fans? Who cares about fans? Fans are suckers

Sports is a business I know that but today the NFL in voting to approve the Raiders move to Las Vegas showed us once again that not only is sports a business but it’s owners think of the fans as nothing more than suckers.

Let’s be clear here the Raiders, one of the league’s most storied franchises, have one of the most loyal rabid fan bases in the NFL. There is no questioning that. Even after the Raiders left them for 12 years in the 80s and 90s they welcomed them home as if they had never left. They dress up for games and root like hell for a team that gave them a decade of putrid football. But that didn’t matter because win lose or draw they were their Oakland Raiders. Simply put if you never been to a Raiders home game you have missed out on one of the best spectacles in all of sport. But because the city of Oakland wouldn’t bow to the pressure of 32 billionaire owners and provide them with a corporate welfare check to finance a stadium, at a time when the City has far more pressing economic concerns,  the Raiders told one of the NFL’s best fan bases to kiss its ass and you know why? Because they can. They can because the NFL knows the fan is a sucker.

Between 1982 and 96 iconic NFL franchises moved all over the map. the Raiders moved twice, the Colts moved, The Browns moved, the Rams moved, the Oilers moved. The league awarded Cleveland and Houston new franchises to help ease the pain and put the expansion buy-in fee into their pockets. Through it all the cash kept on pouring in. Baseball once cancelled a World Series in 1994 and while it isn’t what was it used to be nationally it is doing just fine regionally as owners are flush with more money than ever before. The NBA markets its stars more than any other league. Come out and see Lebron James and the Cavs they yell and then teams casually and with no regard to its paying fan will rests whole lineups, on the road, the only time they’ll play in that city all year. Even hockey who decided to cancel an entire SEASON once and makes no attempt to grow their game to new fans like baseball sees its owners sitting on more money than ever before. How is this possible? Because the league knows the fans are suckers. No matter how bad they treat us, no matter how many teams up and leave, no matter how high the prices go or bad the product gets we’ll still scream and cheer for our team. We’ll still open up our wallets and feed the beast.

Today 32 NFL owners had a great day as they pondered the revenue from their shiny new toy in Vegas and likely expansion fee revenue for the new team in Oakland, you know that’s going to happen.  But it was a sad day for the NFL fan especially Oakland and as the billionaire owners smile for the cameras and count the cash they whisper to each –  Fans? Who cares what the fans think? Fans are suckers

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Morning after Super Bowl take aways

Morning after Super Bowl take aways

It wasn’t Whitney Houston at Super Bowl 25 but Lady Gaga you crushed the National Anthem at Super Bowl 50. Bravo!

Sloppy, that was one incredibly sloppy game.

When will we learn that when a team brings a defense like Denver did to the big game no matter what offense they bring they are probably going to win the game.

In a year of horrible officiating the refs blew yet another one as they ruled it wrong on the field then blew the replay by not overturning Cotchery’s catch in the 1st quarter. It kept the Panthers deep in their own territory and two plays later Miller strips sacks Newton and the Broncos are in the end zone. 10-0 and the Panthers are chasing that 7 points all game.

Nice of the NFL to give us two halftime shows first the bland with Coldplay then the funky with Beyoncé and Bruno Mars

Cam Newton you had great season but you know you have to dive on that fumble in the 4th quarter even if you don’t get it you have to try to get it.

Peyton Manning the greatest QB of his generation, yeah I said it Patriots fans, goes 13 for 23 for 141 yards no touchdowns and a pick yet now everyone says his legacy is restored, now he’s in that discussion of the greatest ever. Really? Now he’s in the discussion? This performance after the career he had cemented his place in history? That just shows how foolish that argument is in the first place. Football is a team game.

Dan Marino I don’t care what Alec Baldwin says you’re still a better dancer than JJ Watt.

Cam Newton you had great season part 2 but you can’t dab and take sideline pictures and smile while going 15-1 and then sulk and walk out of the press conference when you lose. I know it hurts and you wear your emotions on your sleeve but as the face of the franchise you have to stand tall in victory and defeat.

Just wondering had Cam won and then repeatedly told America that he was going to drink a lot of beer like Peyton did what America’s reaction would have been?

Eli I know you just lost your Thanksgiving dinner bragging rights now that big bro has two rings like you but when the camera is on the family’s box and the whole family is celebrating you have to at least pretend to happy for Peyton.

Baseball it’s not the Walking Dead just yet

Sunday Night Football and The Walking Dead may have fought it out for ratings supremacy last week, as it seemed most of America all but forget that there was indeed a baseball playoff game on, but not to worry MLB because while you may not have been in this battle you’re a long way from being a Dead Sport Walking.

Last Sunday I was in a Bay Area sports bar with my two buddies Lou and Larry fresh off watching The Silver and Black Oakland Raiders the favorite team of Lou, one my oldest and best friends, drop a heartbreaker to the San Diego Chargers.  As we sat drinking our beer watching the Giants Eagles game I posed a simple question, to which I already knew what the response would be. Who do you think will win the rating battle tonight? The season premiere of the Walking Dead, The Giants Eagles game or the Cardinals Giants playoff game. Larry who is about as passionate a sports fan as anyone I know, hell he even watches soccer and as we all know nobody cares about soccer in America, but that’s a discussion for another day responded that the football game would win easy. The Walking Dead would come in second and the playoff game would be somewhere far off in the distance because as he is prone to saying baseball is a sport I once loved and now it is dying a slow death. Now to be fair he was right the baseball game which aired on Fox Sports 1 drew 4.4 million viewers far behind the roughly 17 million viewers each who tuned into watch the Walking Dead on AMC and the Giants Eagles on NBC. So I guess Larry was right baseball is a dying sport after all the television ratings proved him right, except for one little thing. Larry, as he used to me telling him, is dead wrong and baseball is not only not dying, baseball is thriving albeit in a different way than he and I were used to growing up.

Don’t get me wrong baseball is not perfect it does have a plethora of things wrong with it as Larry has pointed out to me on several… no several million occasions. There is a push button mentality with managers today that leads to an overabundance of pitching changes which in turn lengthens the game from a manageable 2 hours and 35 minutes 30 years ago to an unwieldy 3 hours and 2 minutes this past season, the longest on record. The pace of the game is not appealing to today’s youth. Take for example Derek Jeter. Everybody including Red Sox fans loved and respected the Captain and rightfully so for the way he played the game, but in his career there wasn’t a pitch taken or ball fouled off that Jeter didn’t feel the need to step out of the batter box to adjust himself. Not one! Pitchers routinely stare in at the catcher and then seemingly go into some sort of mental trance to help them forget they just walked the last two batters and have gone 3-0 on the guy at the plate. Likely because the umpire’s strike zone today is vastly different from the one the guy yesterday had. World Series games are all prime time starts, taking the sport’s most important event away from future generations who will be sleep by the third inning. Plus first pitch in those games doesn’t occur until we’ve had the obligatory 30 minute pre-game show designed to squeeze in the maximum number of commercials, which drives Lou over the edge but again that’s a topic for another day. All that aside and despite baseball’s multiple attempts to commit suicide, baseball is alive and well.

We will never see the television ratings that baseball once enjoyed. Much to the chagrin of Larry and all those who think like him, this fall half the families in America will not gather around their television sets with hot cocoa on a crisp fall night to watch the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas Royals compete for the title. There are numerous reasons for this and we will explore them later on but what is important is that baseball has figured out how to survive just fine despite them. So why has baseball lost its grip on huge ratings nationally? Well the room that baseball and the rest of the entertainment field reside in today is more crowded than ever. On demand programming enables people to watch their favorite shows at any time and any day, including when the baseball game is on and streaming options such as Netflix and internet options such as Hula and YouTube provide alternative sources of entertainment. More and more cable networks are catering to niche audiences and producing high quality original series with content that could only have been dreamt about on network television. Baseball simply doesn’t have the room to itself. Think about it just 5 years ago would you have even fathomed that a show on basic cable about a post apolycatic world over run with zombies would even be in the conversation with a Sunday night football game on network television. Additionally, this trend is not exclusive to baseball since the mid- 90s ratings for both the World Series and NBA finals have declined steadily. The NHL has seen a slight uptick since NBC started broadcasting the Stanley Cup Finals in 2006, but really it had nowhere to go but up.

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So why is football a national television juggernaut? Well it does have a few built-in advantages the others don’t. Let’s look at a couple of them.

First, football unlike other sports is event programming. Its 16 game regular season schedule lends itself to being must see television. Every game takes on an importance that simply doesn’t exist in the other big four regular seasons. A week six game between two 3-3 baseball teams is going to have much more at stake and be a much easier sell than an early June game between two 30-30 baseball teams. Likewise the NFL playoffs, with its one and done format, generates excitement and produce the type of immediate result, without the long term commitment that a seven game series requires, that today’s viewer craves.

Second is the elephant in the room that the NFL doesn’t want to acknowledge and that’s betting. Betting on football dwarfs betting on any other of the other major sports in America. In 2011 according to the Nevada Gaming Commission, $3.2 billion was wagered in sports bets in the state’s casinos. Of that amount, $1.34 billion or 41 percent was handled just for football. Outside of Nevada the numbers are much bigger. The National Gambling Impact Study Commission estimates that $380 billion is wagered a year on football through offshore accounts and illegal betting. According to Greg Finn, managing director at WagerMinds, a sports betting and handicapping website

“The NFL knows a meaningful part of their fan base is interested because they can bet on the games. And if they can’t they would be far less interested in getting tickets, going to games and buying merchandise,”

Hand in hand with betting is the explosion of fantasy football, yet another thing that my dear friend Larry finds evil. According to research from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association (FSTA), 33 million Americans participate in Fantasy Football and the industry adds about 2 million new players every year. And while fantasy football is a fun social endeavor for most it also is a big money endeavor as well. The average entry fee to a league is only $70, which divides into about $4 per NFL game, but the FSTA found that $1.18 billion changes hands between players through pools each year. And this equates to television viewership as pointed out by Paul Charchian, president of the FSTA,

“Fantasy sports players will watch twice as much of their sport as other self-identified sports fans. A fan of the Jets will just watch a Jets game but a fantasy player will watch the Jets game and then switch over to other games. And he will watch the Thursday night game, which no one seems to watch.”

You can read more about the NFL’s Shadow Economy of Gambling and Fantasy Football is a Multibillion Dollar Business at the Daily Beast by following the link below.

http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/10/06/nfl-s-shadow-economy-of-gambling-and-fantasy-football-is-a-multibillion-dollar-business.html

Baseball despite not having either of these advantages which allows football to maintain a vice grip as the “national past time” has managed to remain strong both at the box office and on the regional level. The nine seasons between 2004 and 2012 produced the nine best-attended seasons in the history of Major League Baseball, including four successive record-breaking seasons from 2004-2007. While both 2013 and 2014 were down 1.06% and 0.4% respectively from the prior year it is somewhat unreasonable to expect any sport to continually break its own attendance records. Additionally down is relative as 2013 and 2014 represented the 6th and 7th highest attendance figures in Major league history. Some of the highlights from 2014 include:

  • Twelve Clubs surpassed the 2.5-million mark, including five that topped the three-million mark.
  • The Pittsburgh Pirates established a single-season attendance record of 2,442,564 in 2014, breaking the previous mark of 2,436,139 set during the first season at PNC Park in 2001. The Pirates also posted 23 sellouts during the season, tying the club record set in 2013.
  • The San Francisco Giants, who sold out every game this season, ended the 2014 season with 327 consecutive sell-outs, dating back to October 1, 2010, for the longest active streak in the Majors.
  • The Detroit Tigers, who recorded 27 sellouts during the 2014 season, posted the fifth largest total attendance (2,917,209) in the 114-year history of the franchise.
  • The Kansas City Royals posted their highest attendance (1,956,482) since 1991.
  • The Seattle Mariners drew 2,063,622, eclipsing the two-million mark for the first time since 2010. The club’s attendance represented a Major League-best 17 percent increase over 2013.
  • The Oakland Athletics had an attendance of 2,003,628 in 2014, surpassing the two-million mark for the first time since 2005 (2,109,118).
  • The Houston Astros drew 1,751,829 fans in 2014, representing an attendance increase for the second consecutive season.

That’s positive news from coast to coast, in cities with booming economies and those with struggling economies, cities with playoff teams and cities with teams under .500. Some of this success in attracting fans out to the ball park can be attributed to baseball being open to reinventing itself. No better example of that is the addition of the wildcard system. Like it or hate it no one can deny its success in ensuring that teams which otherwise would have had no hope of playing meaningful games in September are kept alive each year deeper into the season and as a result their fan bases remain energized. Now I know there are those from the old school of thinking like my buddy Larry who hates the concept of the wildcard saying it destroys the sanctity of the 162 game schedule and removes any chance for a real pennant races not the fake chase for the final wildcard spot but you know, THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT – THE GIANTS WIN THE PENNANT, kind. But I dare you to tell a long-suffering fan of the Kansas City Royals currently basking in the euphoria of their team’s current playoff run and first World Series appearance since 1985 that the wildcard cheapens baseball. Than just walk away with your head bowed as they laugh their asses off at you.

Speaking of the Royals I can’t wait for game one of the World Series those charming, gritty, players. The Cinderella story, it’s must see television…Wait no, let’s be real I will not be watching it after all it may conflict with a football game or a Walking Dead episode or my latest attempt to get past whatever Candy Crush level I’m currently at. And I’m sure millions of other Americans feel the same way. After all who cares about the Royals or the Giants outside of KC and San Francisco? But you know what, that’s OK because once again baseball will be just fine. Because unlike the built-in advantages we discussed earlier that makes football more appealing to a nationwide audience baseball is just crushing it on a regional level and I do mean crushing it.

In a piece for Forbes.com last August, Maury Brown notes that Major League Baseball is absolutely thriving in local ratings. http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2014/08/05/mlb-telecasts-on-regional-sports-networks-dominate-prime-time-television/

Check this out:

According to the information from Nielsen, of the 29 U.S.-based clubs in the league, 12 of them are the #1-rated programming in prime time since the start of the season in their home markets, beating both broadcast and cable competition. These teams include the Detroit Tigers, St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Milwaukee Brewers, Baltimore Orioles, Kansas City Royals, Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, San Francisco Giants, and Arizona Diamondbacks.

Another 7 teams rank in the top three in local prime time TV ratings on their respective RSNs, including the Tampa Bay Rays, Minnesota Twins, Philadelphia Phillies, New York Yankees, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres, and [Colorado] Rockies.

Brown further reports that the Cubs, White Sox, Rangers, Angels, Marlins, Mets, A’s and Nationals rank in the top nine in local primetime programming.

As CBS Sportsline commented

That leaves only the Dodgers and Astros who aren’t doing well — and with the Blue Jays being in Canada, Nielson doesn’t have the information — which is hardly surprising with the respective fights between the clubs and local TV carriers. So, basically, the only two teams in America not doing well in ratings aren’t doing well because people don’t have the option to watch.

And when you add up those numbers baseball, the dying sport is not that far behind the NFL aka “King of The World” in total revenue. According to Forbes Magazine in October of this year http://www.forbes.com/sites/maurybrown/2014/10/08/baseball-is-dying-dont-be-stupid/

Last season MLB saw gross revenues of over $8 billion, and the expectation is it will reach $10 billion within a year or two. The reason for this goes back to attendance, and television. At the local level, teams are individually seeing lucrative broadcast deals, while the league sees national broadcast revenue from ESPN, TBS, and FOX at $1.5 billion annually. On top of that, MLB’s digital media company MLB Advanced Media expects to see revenues hit $1 billion annually in the very near future (see The Biggest Media Company You’ve Never Heard Of). That means MLB could soon catch the National Football, who saw approx. $10 billion in gross revenues last season.

Ah but as my friend Larry pointed out to me in a recent text message response to an article I forwarded him about the health of baseball – what about the youth? To quote he wondered if the myopic sportswriter thinks there’s any reason for concern that young people watch football and basketball and even soccer (yes he really said soccer) but not baseball anymore. I could almost hear him saying in his best sportscaster’s James Brown voice – The young Carl. What about the young? Well I hate to tell Larry the young just aren’t as interested in football or sports in general as much as he and I are. Today’s youth have way too many other things going on to keep them entertained.   Brian Steinberg, Senior TV Editor for Variety wrote in September:

http://variety.com/2014/tv/news/the-nfls-greatest-test-not-ray-rice-but-young-crowds-who-tune-out-games-1201307613/

Younger viewers are walking away from broadcasts of its games.

The average audience between 18 and 49 for NFL broadcasts across CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and the NFL Network has declined by about 10.6% over the last four seasons, according to Nielsen data prepared by Horizon Media, to about 7.7 million in 2013 from about 8.62 million in 2010. Meantime, male viewers between 18 and 24 watching the sport have also fallen off, tumbling about 5.3% in the same time period, to approximately 847,000 in 2013 from 894,000 in 2010.

Even as its overall viewership rises, however, the NFL audience has gotten older. Consider that in 2006, the median age for an NFL viewer was 45.8. By 2012, the median had risen to 47.1; in 2013, it was 48.4.

So there you have it strong attendance, regional television dominance, increasing revenue all in all baseball is in pretty good shape all around. Last Sunday may have belonged to the Walking Dead but baseball is far from being The Dead Sport Walking. I expect a harshly worded e-mail from Larry once he reads this.

A bad day for Rodger Goodell but a great day for the NFL

Rodger Goodell held a press conference on Friday and when it was over it seemed like everyone from current and former NFL players and women’s groups to politician and the media had a singular reaction, it’s time for him to go. Yes Friday was a bad day, in a host of bad days lately for Goodell and in all honesty he deserves it. But you know who was just fine with Friday? Thirty two NFL owners and their corporate sponsors. Because on Friday Rodger Goodell did what they pay him an obscene amount of money to do – on Friday Goodell shielded the shield.

There are 32 billionaires in the world who just happen to own NFL franchises, toys for most of them, toys that they were able to purchase thanks to their success or their family’s success in other businesses. They are very powerful and wealthy men and make no mistake they do not stand back idly waiting for Rodger Goodell to tell them what their next steps should be. As Hall of Famer Chris Carter so aptly put it, he never worked for the NFL he worked for the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings. Steve Bisciotti is the owner of the Baltimore Ravens, Ray Rice was an employee of Steve Bisciotti and any time that he wanted to Steve Bisciotti could have taken Ray Rice off the field. Could have said the Raven organization does not condone any type of abuse toward women and will not be associated with anyone who commits violence toward women, as such we are releasing Ray Rice or he could have said we are suspending Ray Rice while he undergoes mandated counseling. Steve Bisciotti did neither, well not until public pressure and a videotape released by TMZ forced his hand. Jerry Richardson owns the Carolina Panthers he has a player in Greg Hardy who was found guilty by a judge of choking his than girl friend dragging her around by her hair and threatening to kill her. Hardy is appealing the verdict but Jerry Richardson could have taken a stand nevertheless and taken his employee off the field. Instead Hardy, a star defensive end, played week one was deactivated week two, in the wake of the Ray Rice video, and was set to return week three, again that was until the public outcry forced the Panthers hand. To date, as far as I know, no one or no group has called for either of these men to sell their teams. No one or group has suggested boycotting their franchises or worst yet their outside business interests.

On the whole NFL owners have remained tight-lipped about their ugly problem. Not one has called for mandatory domestic violence classes for all rookies coming into league to help them better understand the pattern of abuse and gain coping skills in their interpersonal relationships. No NFL owner has suggested the NFL contribute to domestic violence organizations. In fact to my knowledge no NFL owners has done or said anything on their own to address this problem.

Some NFL corporate sponsors have pulled endorsement deals from Rice and Adrian Peterson and some have expressed “concern” over the problem of domestic violence in the NFL but not one has pulled out of their very lucrative NFL deals. This Sunday and every other Sunday, Monday and Thursday their commercials, which in many cases heavily rely on the objectification of women, will be beamed into your home to sell you any and everything including alcoholic products. By the way when it comes to those alcoholic products some studies have found that while alcohol may not have a direct correlation to domestic violence some abusers use alcohol as an excuse to become violent allowing them to justify their abuse on the alcohol. Yet no groups are calling for the boycott of these corporate sponsors or asking them any hard questions as it relates to the partnership with the NFL.

Yes Friday was a very bad day for the Rodger Goodell but to those that matter and profit from the NFL Friday was a great day – Goodell shielded the shield.