Whoever is running the National Football League and the affiliated sports reporting and programming needs to get in the now. After four straight weeks of what is described as “alarming” ratings drops of “America’s top sports property,” at least one sports outlet, Sports Business Daily, is somewhat recognizing that maybe politics is playing a role. See, back in 2000, during the Bush vs. Gore debacle, there was a similar drop in viewership. Not the double digit drops the NFL is seeing this season, but there was a significant drop across the board.
It’s not just the NFL. The Summer Olympics on NBC were down double digits in viewership from the London Games. ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball” posted its lowest viewership average in at least a decade. Six NASCAR races from Aug. 21 to Sept. 25 logged double-digit viewership drops in race-to-race comparisons. Four prime-time UFC telecasts on Fox registered a combined 10 percent viewership drop this year.
Could the answer be politics and a hotly contested presidential race that is eating up a lot of Americans’ free time? Maybe. But it could also be that in American culture, sports is meant as an escape from the world of politics. In the last few decades, politics has more than crept into sports. Based on the comments that people who care enough to leave on public commenting boards, that is a huge factor. And when it comes to the NFL, the league that seems to care more about profits than absolutely anything else, stomping on the fans’ love of country and their sacrifices for the security of the players on the field has left a very bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
Hence, millions of people have found other things to do while the games are being played. (This writer’s father included. The man has not watched one minute of the NFL this season. Never thought it would ever happen.)
“Sunday Night Football,” television’s highest-rated prime-time show for five years running, has seen a 10 percent viewership drop so far this season. Cable’s top sports property, “Monday Night Football,” is down 19 percent — the series’ slowest start in a decade. Through two games, “Thursday Night Football” viewership is down 15 percent.
There are some things that are acknowledged: there is more live streaming going on; many people no longer have cable, and head to another venue to watch; and, to an extent, the games are getting boring for one reason or another. (Lack of star quarterbacks is blamed by several people. Really?)
Well…maybe, but probably not. In the last three weeks, we out on the fruited plain who won’t watch the National Felons League for one reason or another have exercised quite a bit of schadenfreude. Watching the people express their opinions the only way we really can – not watching or attending games – and in turn listening to the excuses from not just the league, but the sports writers has been fascinating. Just like the people in Washington, they are massively out of sync with the fan base.
Yeah, with all the diluting of the talent base that’s gone on with expansion, some sports have gotten boring. (Hockey, on the other hand, got better with the Europeans coming over to play here.) But what they’ve really gotten to be is another way for individuals with a microphone to open their mouths about politics. That’s not why fans tune into sports, and pro football in particular.
When the NFL high brass and sports writers figure that out, come and talk to us.
Until then, We the People encourage Proctor and Gamble to pull Tide advertising from the NFL. That’s one product several of us would like to not have to boycott.