Today, I thought I’d engage in a little thought exercise…
As the new National Football League (NFL) season begins (its 100th season, by the way), I thought I’d offer a little food for thought as to exactly what the NFL is and why do we Americans, myself included, love and support the sport so much.
My readers might be wondering why I posted a photo of the NFL logo next the logo of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE)…
I am of the notion that the NFL and WWE are not all that different from one another. Not in terms of the sports they sanction, professional football and professional wrestling respectively, but in terms of how “pure” each league is.
I feel I need to define what I mean by “purity” before I continue…
What I mean is whether the outcomes of the games in pro football or the matches in pro wrestling are scripted or not.
It is obviously common knowledge that the WWE is a scripted league (aka: fake), a fact reflected in the very name, “entertainment” being the “E” in WWE. No adult would ever argue that pro wrestling is not more akin to method acting using athletics as a backdrop than a pure athletic contest.
However, no one would ever question the purity of the NFL, though I posit in this little thought exercise that perhaps we Americans should view the NFL with a bit more skepticism than most of us typically do.
Not to sound like a sports conspiracy theorist, but I cite a book and a website in this post written and created by a gentleman who is often called the world’s biggest sports conspiracy theorist, one Brian Tuohy, author of the book The Fix Is In and owner of the website thefixisin.net (the website preceded the book).
Tuohy’s book makes a large number of valid, historically accurate points about pro sports in general and pro football in particular. I won’t delve too far into Tuohy’s book in this post, but I will hit some of the more thought-provoking, fact-based highlights.
For starters, how can a league who’s founders and original team owners were gamblers, casino owners, race track owners, and even a Chicago bookie (Charles Bidwell, who’s family still owns the Arizona Cardinals to this day) actually be pure?
Mr. Tuohy posts a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote on his site that encapsulates the next point I’d like to make in this post…
Weak men believe in luck; strong men believe in cause and effect
The NFL is replete with examples of outcomes that feel more like they were scripted in Hollywood than forged on the gridiron. For example…
-The New Orleans Saints winning a championship the year after their home field was rebuilt (using taxpayer money) after Hurricane Katrina.
-The New England Patriots winning their first championship after 9/11
-The Atlanta Falcons going to a Super Bowl the season before moving into a multi billion dollar stadium (financed by taxpayers)
-The Los Angeles Rams also going to a Super Bowl the season before moving into a multi billion dollar stadium (again, financed by taxpayers) CORRECTION: the Rams (and Chargers) don’t move into their new stadium until the 2020 season. However, the Rams made the Super Bowl prior to the taxpayer-funded bond to build the stadium was approved by city government. Think getting to the championship game was helpful in swaying a few people on the city council to support the bond?
-That both of the last two aforementioned facts involved the New England Patriots winning those two Super Bowls.
-That no team who’s home field is hosting that season’s Super Bowl ever makes it to the Super Bowl. It only came close to happening once, the Minnesota Vikings at least reaching the NFC championship game in 2017 where they were trounced by the eventual Super Bowl champions that year, the Philadelphia Eagles (beating the New England Patriots…).
NOTE: As I was creating this blog post, recently released wide receiver Antonio Brown was just signed by the New England Patriots. The Patriots are obviously a far better team than the Oakland Raiders. Coincidence?
Even the Super Bowl matchups typically involve a large market team every time usually beating another large market team. Very seldom does a small market team win a championship. They very seldom even get to the big game with few exceptions, Pittsburgh and Green Bay being the exceptions having won multiple championships despite being in small markets, but then, they are historically significant teams that are part of the original foundation of the NFL. Coincidence?
Some owners have far more power in the NFL than others (Jerry Jones and Robert Kraft being the most notable), but the NFL shares 75% of its revenue amongst the 32 teams, more than any other major sports league. It pays just as well to be the worst team in the league as it does to be the championship team. If the sport were pure, shouldn’t every team be its own entity (like they lead you to believe) meaning that the NFL should be 32 separate businesses and not one big corporate entity? Truth be told, if the 32 teams were truly independent, the Cleveland Browns would have folded decades ago. As Tuohy points out in his book, all of this revenue sharing equates to “if one team succeeds, everyone else gets to profit from it”.
If you buy a Tom Brady jersey from Sears instead of the Patriots pro shop, that revenue gets split 32 ways.
If you buy a ticket to see the Patriots in Gillette Stadium, 34% of your ticket price also gets split 31 ways (the home team keeps 66%).
My point is that there is no incentive for an individual team to be successful on the field as long as the league itself is successful, so who’s to say how pure the on-field product really is? The league actually does market research disguised as analysis to determine what the most profitable Super Bowl matchups are as well as what teams get the best ratings in primetime, Sunday Night Football flex, anyone?
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy pro football as much as the next guy, but I emotionally divested myself from football fanaticism a while ago.
I enjoyed pro wrestling for many years knowing the outcomes are scripted. I can do the same with pro football. I just remind myself that pro wrestling and pro football are multi billion dollar businesses and they are in the business of making money, not making everyone happy or being pure.
As Brian Tuohy opines in his book and website, would you leave the outcomes of your multi billion dollar business to chance?
Ask yourself that question as you take in the NFL games tomorrow afternoon. It might liberate you from your emotional investment and enable you to enjoy the games for what they are, not what you have been led to believe they are.
-The Rational Ram