Have football fans lost their minds? That’s a question that the sports industry should be asking but aren’t following the Richard Sherman interview after his team, Seattle beat San Francisco in the NFC Championship Game, following his key play. Sherman a few minutes later had a camera and microphone in his face and said what he thought at the moment.
For those wanting a full on field experience, be careful what you ask for because you may get it.
It may ruin the concept of “sanitized mayhem for coach potatoes” and an idyllic experience for the fan.
The Richard Sherman rant was no big deal but football fans seem to make it a big deal. Sherman you seem wasn’t the humble football star that football fans want based on the perceived perception that a football player is supposed to be the “aw shucks it was nothing” hero of movies, cereal boxes and cartoons.
The fictional hero is a better example for the youth of the country than a madman who has just come off of three hours where his job is to literally maim an opponent.
The NFL for most seems to be a violent video game, turn on the monitor and viola, there is a game. But here is what the NFL really is and this probably will not be palatable for the NFL fan to digest.
The game is violent and for fans reaches a good number of vices. There is betting, food gluttons, and coach potato bonding for men. But there is no outrage about players who suffer from extreme hypertension, morbid obesity, whose brains are scrambled, who end up on Medicare and SSI prematurely because the league doesn’t take care of players post career, hence the court battle now. Oh the fans, killings in parking lots, fights in the stands. This is the NFL, oh Josh Brant DUI manslaughter, the player in the murder-suicide in KC, Aaron Hernandez. That’s the NFL. And the ones who get off easy with just knee and joint injuries.
Fans don’t want to know about the afterlife of a player who suffered from concussions and how football can alter lives of players. Fans don’t want to know that fewer kids are playing because of the hazards of the game. But they want the gladiators to perform for them and be humble because these guys (not the more than two dozen arrested) are somehow heroes to kids.
They want their guys to be the kind of guys who should be worshipped, be a role model for the youth.
The game is sanitized on TV. Brilliant sunshine, green fields, colorful uniforms when the season starts fading to the frozen tundra of Green Bay or Buffalo by December. It is played on Sunday and the fan can spend 12 hours a day running away from daily drudgeries and escape into a land of fantasy which includes fantasy football where people can make bets on how their favorite players or drafted players perform.
Because fans want a sanitized video game, there is a lot of whining about the Super Bowl being played in a cold weather area—East Rutherford, New Jersey. The NFL is not a video game to the owners of the ranch—the 31 individuals and the Green Bay Packers Board of Directors—the owners saw a big opportunity to make money in the New York market and have a party which combines Times Square on New Year’s Eve, a Broadway Ticker Tape Parade, the Fourth of July Fireworks display on the Hudson River and the Thanksgiving Day Parade all in one fell swoop.
They also knew that New Jersey provided about $300 million in infrastructure in helping to build the Giants new facility in East Rutherford and that New Jersey made sure that East Rutherford is getting about 10 percent instead of 100 percent of the assessed property tax on the Meadowlands property or about $1.3 million annually. The Giants/Jets pay $5 million in rent for the property.
Money talks and the ranchers do appreciate when municipalities throw money their way. That’s why “non-traditional Super Bowl” cities such as Detroit and Indianapolis ended up with Super Bowls. That is why San Diego and Miami are out of the Super Bowl rotation. Old stadiums which have not been upgraded by the adoring public, rather politicians who can allocate money, are not going to get a second chance.
The outcry from the fans is rather silly. How many out of the 140 million that will watch some part of the game are really impacted by cold weather or the possibility of some snow. Look at the Super Bowl logo. There are snowflakes on the logo.
The weather impacts maybe 80,000 people in the stadium, that’s it. If there is a blizzard, the league will shift the game to another day. Most people who will watch the game will be in a bar or a restaurant or at home partying. Those big screen televisions show everything and the mics on the field bring the on field experience into the living room. For all but the 80,000, there is no line to the bathroom, the fridge is nearby and all the comforts of being home apply.
The NFL is aware that the home experience is so good, that league officials are trying to bring the in-home experience into the stadiums.
The oddest thing about the fans carping at a cold weather Super Bowl is the line from NFL Films about the “frozen tundra” in Green Bay. The late Steve Sabol wrote the line for John Facenda describing Lambeau Field in Green Bay during one of the league’s most memorable and talked about games. The NFL championship contest between Dallas and Green Bay in 1967 is remembered as the “Ice Bowl”. That game is still analyzed 46 years later while most Super Bowls have long since been forgotten.
The NFL never started out as a sanitized video game. The game sprung out of the coal mines in western Pennsylvania and the first “professional” game was played in Pittsburgh in 1892. Pittsburgh is never going to be confused with Miami in November, December, January or February. Nor will Pittsburgh and Tampa or Glendale, Arizona ever be confused for a winter paradise.
Sherman’s rant could have been avoided had the NFL and the networks not opted to make the game the “ultimate reality show”. Post-game interviews aren’t needed unless TV wants to capture an emotion. Be careful what you ask for because wishes sometimes come true. Sherman provided an “ultimate reality show” moment and apparently football fans aren’t mature enough to digest it.
The league wants to go back to the western Pennsylvania roots and get elements involved in the Super Bowl. At least that’s the appearance publicly. Privately if a cold weather city with some cache and a public funding scheme wants the game and makes a good enough presentation, there are going to be more outdoor cold weather Super Bowls with Washington and Foxboro and maybe Denver leading the way. the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the 31 owners and the Packers Board of Directors know that the National Hockey League got 106,000 people in the cold and snow of Ann Arbor, Michigan on New Year’s Day to watch the Detroit Red Wings and the Toronto Maple Leafs and the league made quite a bit of money on a regular season game. The NHL is expanding the outdoor games to Dodger Stadium and Yankee Stadium.
Fans may scream about the cold weather venues but if cash can be made and it will be made in East Rutherford with a New York City-centric Super Bowl, that is where the NFL is going. Fans may like the illusion of “sanitized mayhem for coach potatoes” but the business of football and sports doesn’t really care what fans think. Fans are so far down the list after the soon-to-be retired NBA Commissioner David Stern’s list of musts for success. Here is what Stern’s list is, government support, a big local cable TV contract and corporate support. Government builds the ranch (stadium and arenas) on the public dime, creates favorable laws such as the Cable TV Act of 1984 and let’s corporates write off the cost of big ticket items such as luxury boxes and club seats. That’s where the money is.
Enjoy the visit to the ranch in East Rutherford and stop complaining. The complaints aren’t going to be any good.
Evan Weiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org  . His e-book, “The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition” is available (https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/365489  ) and his e-books, America’s Passion: How a Coal Miner’s Game Became the NFL in the 20th Century, (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/americas-passion-how-coal/id595575002?mt=11  ), From Peach Baskets to Dance Halls and the Not-so-Stern NBA (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/from-peach-baskets-to-dance/id636914196?mt=11  ) and the reissue of the 2005 book, The Business and Politics of Sports (http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/business-and-politics-of-sports-evan-weiner/1101715508?ean=2940044505094  ) and reissue of the 2010 e-book The Business and Politics of Sports, Second Edition (https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/business-politics-sports-selection/id771331977?mt=11  ) are available from e-book distributors globally.
2014 e-book, sports business 2010-14
The e-books are available from e-book distributors globally.