The NFL has done a lot of intelligent things in the last couple of decades, and the soaring popularity of the game is a direct result of those decisions. It has, however, broken the string of good fortune, and if I have anything to say about it, this one will come back and bite it in its prodigious hindquarters.
For football fans, it began on Thanksgiving Day, 2006. The NFL Network would debut its “New Tradition” with a third game specifically targeted at the tryptophan-laden populace. The best game of the day: Denver at Kansas City.
The problem was and is that it was not widely viewed. Just like last night’s game pitting the Baltimore Ravens at the Cincinnati Bengals, most of their target audience couldn’t watch the game. Instead, I, like millions of others, was forced to watch the Mid American Conference Championship between Central Michigan and Ohio University. I’ve known about CMU for years, but last night I learned their nickname – The Chippewas – and while I mean no insult to CWU fans, that was a flotsam of trivia that I really didn’t want or need to know.
Today, while researching the stalemate between cable operators and the NFL, I found out why we are being punished. The NFL wants cable operators to make the NFL Network a basic cable offering. That makes sense, since that would gain it maximum exposure. The catch is the NFL wants to be paid 70 cents per subscriber per month, which is premium channel pricing.
The faux pas is, the NFL has taken its case to the masses – us viewers who are being taunted with premium matchups that we can’t watch. I for one have a message to the NFL. Take your network and shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.
I’ve been a fan since Super Bowl IV, when a Len Dawson-led Kansas City Chiefs team took the Minnesota Vikings apart. My first NFL hero was christened that day. His name was Buck Buchanan, defensive end and holy terror for the Chiefs. I became an instant Hank Stram aficionado, and studied his history and career to gain insight into his obvious brilliance.
Today I feel like the NFL Network, oblivious of its mistake, has cooked the goose that has laid decades of golden eggs. And for nothing more than what amounts to an appetizer in the grand scheme of revenue generation.
Sad. Very sad.