Posts tagged ‘NFL’

February 5, 2018

#138) The Patriots dynasty will be missed

Call it the sour grapes of a disappointed Boston sports fan but on this day after our loss to the Eagles in Super Bowl LII, I say to you: someday, America will miss the New England Patriots of the Tom Brady/Bill Belichick era.

Every sport needs a villain. Tom Dorsa of Baseball Essentials writes, “[A villain] draws you into games that mean little or nothing to you.” As author Vassilis Dalakas points out in this article, “[R]esearch has shown that [villains]…make us more likely to watch – and bask in the joy of seeing them fail.”

While early indications suggest that this year’s Super Bowl numbers were lower than last year’s, it doesn’t seem like a stretch to speculate that the numbers would have been equally low, or not lower, had the Patriots not been in the game. Yes, Patriots Fatigue is real, but  would it actually have been any fun to see the Eagles beat the Jacksonville Jaguars? (Or for that matter, the Pittsburgh Steelers? The storyline of an all Pennsylvania Super Bowl notwithstanding, “Roethlisberger is a rapist” no longer seems to galvanize haters the way “Patriots are cheaters” does.)

The lower numbers may also have more to do with the NFL’s general struggles of late than with Patriots Fatigue. While the short answer to lower viewership this past season was national anthem protests, the longer answer includes the disappointing seasons of the Oakland Raiders and Dallas Cowboys – two teams that are widely hated outside their home market and have often played the role of the villain in decades past but fell short of expected returns to former glory while Brady led his charges back to the Super Bowl for a record eighth time. Granted, the NFL has survived one embarrassment after another, but when will its luck run out? When Brady retires there will be one fewer reason to watch and how many reasons to watch can the NFL afford to lose?

It could also be, even outside of New England, that positive things about the Brady/Belichick era will be missed. Sports commentator Colin Cowherd says, “I’m a fan of the Patriots because I’m a fan of business…When you watch a Patriots game, there is a trust between the fans and the team. They’ll get it right.” One of Fox Sports’ “12 reasons why there will never be another NFL dynasty like the Patriots” is: “Many teams suffer from the disease of more (success gets to people’s heads, they want more money, more credit, more passes thrown their way, whatever). The Patriots have managed to take that success and channel it ruthlessly into more success.”

All good (at least for Patriots fans) things must come to an end and even the most die hard citizens of Patriots Nation must admit that yesterday felt like the end of an era. Tomorrow’s college stars might be willing to play for a cold-weather team and they might be willing to play for a no-nonsense organization, but they probably won’t want to play for a cold weather, no-nonsense organization. In twenty years, the Patriots will be the Notre Dame of the NFL: a team revered for its past, not its present; a team that will put together a great season every now and then that gets pundits waxing nostalgic about past glory. What it won’t be seen as is a villain and thanks to increasing parity in the NFL, no team will have taken its place. With future generations less likely to let their kids play the game due to safety concerns and with exponentially increasing entertainment options for tomorrow’s viewers, lack of a compelling villain will hurt the NFL. Say what you will about spying and deflated footballs: the best that a post-Brady/Belichick NFL can hope for is survival.


September 21, 2014

#86) Facebook and the NFL: When sucking doesn’t matter

Everyone’s pissed off at the NFL. Everyone’s disgusted with Facebook. Everyone will be watching the NFL this Sunday and letting Facebook know about it.  Yes, despite–or perhaps because of–their efforts to alienate their fan/consumer bases, Facebook and the NFL aren’t going anywhere.

We hate them but we can’t look away. It’s more than the car-crash-staring instinct; it’s a true love-hate relationship. Nobody hates Myspace or baseball. You can only hate something or someone that you once truly loved.

We started loving football in the 1950s and 60s. Football looked better on television than baseball.  Baseball expanded, diluting the talent pool and bringing the game to cities where it didn’t have a chance, such as Miami*. Free agency meant that baseball teams no longer stayed together. World Series games started too late but the Super Bowl was always on a Sunday and the whole family could watch it. With far fewer games than any other sport, each one was an event. We’d anticipate them and spend Monday talking about what those damn Steelers should have done differently. The NFL became so big that it thrived even without a team in the country’s second biggest market, Los Angeles. Rotisserie leagues in baseball became a thing, but NFL fantasy leagues became a bigger thing.

We started loving Facebook in the late ’00s–April of 2008, to be precise, when it officially became the #1 most visited social network site. Myspace had shown us how easy and fun it can be to put together an online scrapbook of photos, websites, songs and pithy quotations, but it had become too messy and impersonal. Facebook made connecting with that kid you used to beat the crap out of (or perhaps vice versa) back in 8th grade simple and easy. Facebook translated better to smartphones.

Then, to use Facebook relationship status terminology, it got complicated. Facebook faced questions about the privacy of its users’ information. Naysayers pointed out that it was losing ground to Instagram and Pinterest. The user experience started to seem more about getting into political arguments with virtual strangers than reuniting with long lost friends. In the NFL, Janet Jackson happened. Michael Vick and Plaxico Burress happened. Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson followed. Yes, it got complicated.

Or did it?

As of this writing, Facebook is ranked as the second-most visited site in the world according to Alexa. The NFL saw a 7% increase in viewers of the first Thursday game of this season compared to the first Thursday game of last season. We may say that Facebook is dead and that the NFL only cares once its sponsors pull out. We’re going to watch anyways. According to Alexa, we’re going to spend an average of 27 minutes per day on Facebook this month. Some of us might even call 911 if we can’t log on. No number of poorly handled press conferences or allegations of privacy violations can change that.

It’s not that we buy in in spite of the fact that the NFL and Facebook suck. It’s not that we buy in because they suck. It doesn’t matter if the NFL and Facebook suck or not. We’re married to them. Myspace was our high school crush whom it was easy to leave when things didn’t work out; Facebook is our spouse.  Facebook and the NFL made good impressions on us when it counted and continued to not suck for long enough to convince us to spend the rest of our lives with them. Yes, some of us might get divorced–we all have the friend who has actually followed through on their plans to swear off Facebook and goes to the park on Sunday to feed the ducks while the rest of us watch ball–but most of us won’t. Years of marriage has taught us that fighting usually leads to great make-up sex.  Besides, is it really worth it just to have to file all of that paperwork and decide who gets what? We’ve all got better things to do.

Like watch the New York Jets and post about it on Facebook.

*Yes, I know the Marlins have won the World Series twice. Nobody gives a fuck.

November 19, 2011

#31) “Leave Tebow Alone!”

I’m not a Broncos fan, and I’m not a Christian.  So what am I doing writing about Tim Tebow, the Christian quarterback for the Denver Broncos?

It’s not Tebow himself that I’m interested in, per se, but the reaction he’s caused in the last few weeks.   It’s no news that we love perfection…and that we love tearing people down.  And we love comebacks.  But typically these things happen over a little bit more time.  Britney Spears had several years of pure success before she started undermining it with her bizarre behavior.  Brett Farve had a decade-plus of glory before becoming a punchline.  Even Michael Vick’s rise, fall and comeback played out over several years.  But Tebow is still a rookie.  He hasn’t had time to prove successful, much less ruin it for himself.  The Broncos are 4-1 this season when he is starting, and he’s being raked over the coals as if he is 1-4 and has already been convicted of a D.U.I.

What exactly do we want, anyways?  If someone fails, we point and laugh.  If they succeed, we wait for them to fail.  If they don’t, we have to invent their failure.  Isn’t America supposed to be the land of opportunity?  Aren’t we supposed to love success, not failure?

In a way, Tebow’s plight reminds me of that of Kobe Bryant.  For a Celtics fan such as myself to be expressing empathy for a Laker is a little bit unusual, but I’ve always respected Kobe Bryant and seen through the hypocrisy with which the media portrays him.  If he scores 50 points, he’s a ball-hog and doesn’t want to share the glory with any of his team-mates; if he scores 15 or 20, he’s tanking it.  Tebow also reminds me a little bit of Gary Carter (the former New York Mets/Montreal Expos catcher).  Carter was an outspoken Christian who was often criticized as being “too nice.”  Pete Rose supposedly said that Carter was more interested in endorsements than winning.  But between Carter and Rose, only one of them made it to the Hall of Fame.

Maybe it’s all a rite of passage.  We want to see how much Tebow can take before he cracks. Maybe he will crack.  Maybe he’ll get pulled over with a BAC of .249.  Maybe he’ll get caught in bed with a dead girl or a live boy.  Maybe he’ll throw  twenty picks against New England when the two teams meet later this year.  (Actually, as a Patriots fan, I’d be okay with that.)

But give the man a chance.  Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?”  LEAVE TEBOW ALONE!