Dear Commissioner Roger Goodell,
The quality of the NFL has taken a slide in recent years to the point that after being an ardent football fan for eighteen years I’ve cut down drastically on the amount of games I watch each week. Joseph Campbell once said that rituals and traditions are occasions that we used to mark our lives. My NFL rituals of eating unhealthy food and yelling at the TV used to take up roughly a tenth of my week with Sunday Games, a Monday night, game, and the recently expanded Thursday night game. Now I just watch my favorite team and the last hour of Sunday Night Football. I didn’t suddenly develop a thriving social life or come into any major obligations such as kids.
Certain aspects of the NFL’s stewardship of the game of football have resulted in me watching less football and I hope you can take steps to address my concerns. I understand that the NFL is a business and that it’s your job to make the business profitable. Every complaint (original or otherwise) will be followed up with a solution that can help slow the NFL’s viewership decline. Television viewing habits are changing rapidly, and the NFL can either be on the forefront of a revolution or hang up it’s cleats after plateauing and declining.
Let’s first talk about the most obvious complaint I’m sure you hear all day – the commercials. As a cord cutter, I proudly broadcast my local team on a Mohu Leaf HDTV antenna that I bought before the 2016 season, and once a commercial comes on I redirect my eyes to another screen that’s streaming RedZone through the DirecTV app on my Roku. Or I’ll check my fantasy football scores. Or I’ll do anything else besides watch commercials.
The commercials absolutely kill the flow of the game, and my viewing group seethes whenever we’re about to be cruelly subjected to Touchdown Review Hell. We all hate the dreadful 10-minute stretch of the game where an obvious touchdown is being reviewed and we get commercials, a confirmation of the touchdown, the extra kick followed by commercials, the change of possession, which is followed by – you guessed it – more 30-second spots of overly good-looking people trying to sell me booze or vehicles.
What I would like to see instead of an endless train of commercials is more depth and analysis of the game I’m watching. The time out during a touchdown review can be replaced by the announcers showing viewers key plays which put the offense in the endzone. Tell the announcers to break out the yellow pen and show us why the routes the receivers ran were effective. Show more Sports Science segments. Innovate the way the NFL broadcasts the game so the presentation is enhanced, not constantly interrupted. A game with a full overtime added onto it ends up being longer than Gone with the Wind, and you’re not getting me to overtime if I’ve tuned out by half-time.
I understand that the advertisers pay the NFL’s bills, but content publishing empires are rising and falling around the fact that people hate watching commercials. I’m not expecting commercials to disappear tomorrow, but would it be the worst thing in the world if we got the previously mentioned enhanced content with ads on the bottom the screen? Increased numbers of viewers are watching NFL broadcasts on streaming devices, and the NFL could be a pioneer if they featured links that viewers could shop through. YouTube allows users to layer interactive ads onto their videos through annotations, and the NFL can take a similar approach in combining engaging content with interactive advertising. A three-and-a-half hour ritual on Sunday can yield even more profitable results if there are less chances for us to get bored with the presentation and switch to our binge lists.
My second grievance concerns NFL owners asking already-strapped local governments to pay for their stadiums. The league made over $13 Billion last year. The top 19 owners in the NFL are worth $84.7 Billion, yet cities that can’t even afford infrastructure upgrades are forced to allocate funds for private stadiums. The AFC West could’ve stayed intact if the owners on the behalf of the NFL gave the Chargers and Raiders interest free loans over thirty years for modernized stadiums. Billionaire owners financing stadiums in a self-reciprocating circle with help from the NFL’s ever increasing war chest has no downside as there is no shortage in demand for tickets.
The optics of public funds going to pay for stadiums is currently not favorable as cities can’t even get clean drinking water to their citizens. Sunday football is meant to be an escape – a place of congregation where viewers can eat unhealthy food and enjoy the emotional roller coaster that is an NFL game. The last thing the league should be doing is taking away the escapism by meddling in local politics to enhance profit margins.
Perhaps my biggest gripe in the recent years has been your office’s handling of Tom Brady and Ray Rice’s cases. I understand that in an ideal world all of the players would be model citizens – but they aren’t. Most companies don’t have public relations departments like the NFL to handle the blowback of their players’ personal mistakes and you as the commissioner have the final say in whether or not players miss games.
The next collective bargaining agreement meetings should have a serious discussion about how to create a commission with the authority to consistently rule on cases based reasonable guidelines. Such a system of agreed upon standards coupled with a commission of diverse legal minds would insert an extra level of impartiality to cases with massive public relations repercussions. In recent years, too many high profile cases regarding player conduct have commonly, but unnecessarily, been overshadowed by the NFL Commissioner’s inconsistent ruling.
In an ideal scenario, an impartial legal panel made up of women, former players, and former coaches would investigate and rule on off-the-field issues. Most NFL referees are trained and practicing lawyers whose side jobs involve making calls that determine the outcome of games in a multimillion dollar business. The amount of penalties in the NFL last year was 4166 versus 22 players arrested. A select off-the-field legal crew to deal with player misconduct would let the Commissioner’s office focus on improving the quality of the viewing experience, and growing the popularity of the league globally without distractions. I’m sure fans would feel more confident in such a thorough and impartial process, and I hope the idea can be considered during the next collective bargaining agreement.
Fans just want to watch the games with their friends and families – not be distracted by long commercials or owners trying to dig further into their pockets. The league’s future hinges on their viewing experience going international, yet numbers show it has grown stale to a typically rabid domestic fan base. The democratization of entertainment in the form of millions of YouTube videos and eSports streams indicate a shift in how content is being consumed. Addressing my ideas about how to improve the flow of the game would yield immediate results in the form of more viewers watching games longer. Our sport has survived and thrived for decades because it has evolved. As the Commissioner whose job it is to oversee this process and help the league remain profitable, I hope you’ll take steps to address my grievances as a fan of professional football.