The National Football League is basking in the glow of its biggest event of the year, and yet, people are already asking if the game is up for the country’s favorite professional sports league. For several years now, the league has been dealing with falling attendance, with many teams struggling for revenue. 2016 has been one of the worst so far.
TV viewership is down. Attendance at games is down. Politics is becoming more popular than football. The NFL has to stop the bleeding and get whole fast.
It’s not like they’re not putting a good product on the field. Even though many of the playoff games have been lopsided this season, other games have been instant classics that are sure to run in the offseason on NFL Network and ESPN for years to come. And, regardless of the outcome of the Super Bowl, it’s tough to top this narrative. The top offensive team against the top defensive team.
The Atlanta Falcons came into the Super Bowl as yearlong barnstormers. They didn’t just win, they won big. Their top players were loveable marquee guys like “Matty Ice” and Julio Jones. You not only enjoyed watching these guys play, you enjoyed watching them win because they were not just good players, they were good people. Back in November, the Falcons played a game with initials on their uniforms. Not unusual for a team to do, except the reason … each set of initials represented an American killed fighting overseas. The once “Dirty Birds” were making a play to become this generation’s “America’s Team.”
And speaking of “America’s Team,” this was the year Dallas came back in a big way. After losing their star quarterback in the preseason, the team roared back on the strength and outstanding play of a pair of rookies. Has there ever been a better Cinderella story than Dallas breaking all kinds of offensive records behind two guys who were not even expected to start this season?
Now, back to the Super Bowl teams. The season began with people talking about the “wasted season” that was about to begin in New England. The Fins and the Bills were coming on in the AFC East, and the Pats were going to play a quarter of the season without their start all-world quarterback, Tom Brady. But Belichick and company had other plans. The Patriots won without their star, and they won convincingly. And when Brady was finally able to lace them up, the ageless wonder came out and had one of the best seasons of his career. Not out of spite, just because they really are that good.
All of these dramatic storylines, plus the resurgence of Raider Nation, the move of the Rams back to LA, new stadiums and more games per week to watch … and yet none of this translated into viewers on the couch and butts in the seats at games. It wasn’t supposed to be this way. Conventional wisdom says is shouldn’t be this way … but it is … and the league is running out of time to find a way to fix it.