As I “endure” another week of “The Dallas Cowboys Suck, Ha, Ha, Ha” fest after my favorite team drops its third game in as many weeks (as of the writing of this post), going down to the New York Jets 24-22, I’m reminded of how, as Mark Twain so eloquently put it, “it is easier to fool people than it is to convince them that have been fooled”.
Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying that while I am, and likely always will be, a diehard Cowboys fan that I emotionally divested myself from pro sports years ago and I honestly find the heckling of Cowboys fans and the team itself by fans of rival teams amusing, not annoying.
No, what I’m about to lay down in this blog post is not to throw shade back at anyone or rationalize the recent misfortunes of my favorite team, but rather to further explain why I’m not emotionally invested in the outcome of any professional sports contest anymore.
As I’ve opined on this blog a few times, I don’t view professional sports as a pure contest of athletic skills, but rather as athletics as entertainment.
In fact, the antitrust exemptions that the NFL, MLB, NHL, and NBA enjoy allow these leagues to not only make it virtually impossible for alternate leagues in each respective sport to form and compete against the existing leagues (NOTE: antitrust laws exist to prevent large businesses like the NFL from becoming too powerful), but also allow the leagues to categorize their games as mere exhibition contests, or more accurately, mere “entertainment” as opposed to acts of commerce, which would legally subject them to government scrutiny like any company that lacks an exemption to antitrust laws.
Antitrust exemptions have allowed leagues like the NFL the ability to manipulate the outcomes of its games. It sounds like pure madness on the surface, but as I mentioned in my Is the NFL Scripted (https://therationalram.blog/2019/09/07/is-the-nfl-scripted/) blog post, the NFL was founded by gamblers, horse racing track owners, and bookies, so on that level alone, one would be wise to question the league’s integrity.
That said, most Americans are unwilling to look too hard at the sports leagues, the NFL in particular, because it would shatter their image of the NFL as pure and legitimate sports competition. Unfortunately, the NFL is anything but pure and legitimate as far as the outcomes of its games are concerned. The only thing that matters to the NFL, its 32 “franchise” owners, and its television and broadcasting (Internet and radio included) partners are the ratings and the revenue those ratings generate.
As mentioned in my previous post about the NFL, no league shares its revenue to the extent that the NFL does. When one team succeeds, the other 31 teams reap the benefits as well. The NFL does not operate like 32 separate entities, but rather as one single corporate entity.
I’m not suggesting that the NFL is “hard fixing” its games and scripting the outcomes of every single NFL contest from coast to coast, but I am saying that the league “soft rigs” select games both for and against certain teams that facilitate the development of “storylines” that enable the league to put forth the matchups, and scenarios surrounding those matchups, that will drive the best broadcast ratings and allow the league and its broadcast partners to charge advertisers enormous fees. There is a reason the networks can charge millions for a 30 second commercial, not just for the Super Bowl, but also for primetime games like Sunday Night and Monday Night Football.
The NFL is constituted in a way that allows them to do this “soft rigging”, which strongly favors a select number of core NFL teams, and with a few other NFL teams outside of this core group mixed in, as the storyline goals of the league evolve over the course of a particular season.
The basic framework for this soft rigging, designed to generate interesting and compelling content to sell to advertisers, is as follows:
-Keep the fan bases in the large media markets involved and motivated to follow their teams. The large markets are Boston (New England Patriots), New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, etc.
-Do likewise with the teams with large, nationwide fan bases, teams such as the aforementioned Dallas Cowboys, Green Bay Packers, Oakland Raiders, and Pittsburgh Steelers.
-Create compelling storylines, such as the Saints after Katrina, or the Patriots after 9/11, or Peyton Manning making his comeback with the Denver Broncos (after his release from the Indianapolis Colts), and through officiating as well as the influence of the players and coaches through the owners, prop up those storylines as long as possible.
There is a reason that outside of Pittsburgh, Oakland and Green Bay, few small market teams have proven capable of getting to, much less winning, multiple Super Bowls. The reason for this is pretty obvious if you look beyond the carefully crafted show biz manipulations the NFL puts in front of you…
Markets like Houston, Jacksonville, Tampa Bay, and to a lesser extent, Atlanta, Kansas City, Carolina, and New Orleans, have mostly regional followings and are not the revenue generators the big market teams are. These small market teams often get jobbed during promising playoff runs or fall short of a title if they get that far.
Look no further for evidence of this fact than the 2018 NFC championship game debacle where the officials all but gave the game to the Rams (large market team) against the Saints (small market team) with the infamous pass interference non-call.
Unless it supports a storyline the NFL is pushing at the time, these small market teams, and/or teams that don’t fit whatever the league storyline narrative is for that season, will never, ever get favorable calls in big games.
In 2018, a Super Bowl between the Saints and the Chiefs would have been devastating to the NFL’s bottom line. As an aside and to bolster my point even more, the Patriots advanced to the Super Bowl last year on an equally questionable, but much less publicized, roughing the passer call on Tom Brady and against the Chiefs that led to the Patriots winning the AFC championship in overtime.
Two crystal clear instances in two championship games just this past year that prove that small market teams get shafted to boost the NFL’s bottom line.
It would do any NFL fan a great service to themselves to actually Google and read the outcomes of the litigation concerning both the Patriots “spygate” lawsuit brought by a disgruntled Jets fan (Carl Mayer v. Bill Belichick/New England Patriots/National Football League) and the Saints pass interference lawsuit filed just last year that didn’t get nearly as far the spygate lawsuit did.
How the NFL’s lawyers argued the former lawsuit and how the civil system disposed of the latter lawsuit amounted to the same thing…
When you purchase a seat to watch an NFL game, at best, you purchased a contractual right to witness an NFL contest (entertainment). Nothing more.
It goes without saying that fans who only watch the NFL on television have even less standing than fans that go to the stadiums in person.
Again, the antitrust exemptions allow the leagues to categorize their games as exhibition contests, not as commercial endeavors.
I know, this is a hard pill for some to swallow because to face the incontrovertible facts is not nearly as comfortable as believing in the illusion.
As an emotionally divested NFL fan, I simply get to be entertained. After all, I enjoyed pro wrestling for many years knowing the outcomes were scripted. It’s quite liberating to not have my emotional well-being tied to the success or failure of a team that I have no real stake in. To me, that kind of behavior is more maddening than questioning the integrity of pro sports.
-The Rational Ram