By Dan Bernstein–
Every next story about TV ratings for the NFL is full of so many new records and superlatives that it’s hard to keep track of which network is doing boffo numbers with which games.
Per Sports Business Daily, NBC’s Sunday-nighter is the top primetime show in all of television in every meaningful demo – something that has not happened for a football broadcast since the advent of modern Nielsen technology in 1987. Fox posted its highest NFL viewership since landing the rights in 1994. CBS had the best ratings for an AFC package in two decades, and ESPN’s Monday Night Football was the most-watched cable series of the year.
So don’t be surprised if MNF spawns TNF, soon. The Eagles/Vikes game allowed for a convenient test, and the time off between Tuesday and the next Sunday is the same as the already-accepted difference from Sunday to Thursday.
We can’t get enough of this, is the point.
There is no line for my bathroom. I needn’t fumble for wads of cash to grab a beer. The only profane, loudmouth oaf around is yours truly. The temperature is 70 degrees, the HD plasma is crisp, the replays eventually all but definitive, and I can mute John Gruden if I desire.
Herein, however, lies a bit of a problem.
NFL attendance is down, and sharply so in some markets. Season ticket sales are off five percent league-wide. There were 26 blackouts this season, compared to just seven in 2006. The depth and breadth of a once-in-a-generation recession have turned the in-person game experience, for many, into an unjustifiable luxury.
It was interesting to hear what Commissioner Roger Goodell thought about this in a recent interview with ProFootballTalk.com.
“It’s difficult, because there is great technology at home,” Goodell said. “The quality of what people are seeing on television sets with high-definition television and super-slow replays, all of those things make the experience at home terrific. We don’t want to discourage that. We want to encourage that, but what we have to do is make sure the experience in our stadiums is equally as great. That means it is safe, that means it is entertaining, that means bringing the best technology to those stadiums and making sure that we continue to make the game affordable for our fans.”
There is something special about attending any sporting event. The thrill of losing oneself in the collective emotion of an NFL crowd feeds an ancient, human need for connection that shakes us out of our self-absorbed daily lives of staring at the blinking screens on our desks, walls and palms. We put up with inconvenience and expense because of the reward.
But with each subscriber to NFL Sunday Ticket, each fifty-inch Vizio that trundles out of Costco, and each halftime providing just enough opportunity to change a few bulbs, do a dish or two, or fold a load of laundry so we can catch up with another blur of a week, the difference between the experiences shrinks.
Goodell and his league are confronting a slate of heavy, large-scale issues and they circle toward the bargaining table, and this is yet another.
Teams realize that the stadium must be more like the living room, and quickly. It’s an expensive prospect, too, trying to replicate what Jerry Jones has done in Dallas – site of this year’s Super Bowl – with food options galore, modern creature-comforts and massive HD screens.
The irony is, of course, that the NFL will be trying to get you to come to games by reminding you exactly why you should not.
Dan Bernstein has been the co-host of “Boers and Bernstein” since 1999. He joined the station as a reporter/anchor in 1995. The Boers and Bernstein Show airs every weekday from 1PM to 6PM on The Score, 670AM.
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