In the aftermath of Super Bowl LIV and the end of the National Football League’s (NFL) 2019 season, I thought I’d supplement the post I made at the beginning of the NFL regular season. If you wish to read that post, click the link below:
This season further solidified in my mind how scripted the corporate NFL is. Just before the start of this season’s playoffs, I made a “bold” prediction on the outcomes of each round:
Titans over Patriots
Texans over Bills
Eagles over Seahawks
Vikings over Saints
Packers over Eagles
49ers over Vikings
Chiefs over Texans
Titans over Ravens
Chiefs over Titans
Packers over 49ers
Super Bowl XIV:
Packers over Chiefs
Now I know my predictions didn’t go precisely as I thought, but I did predict some pretty dramatic and unexpected upsets.
Most people didn’t see the Vikings beating the Saints in the Superdome or the number one seeded Ravens losing to the Cinderella team for 2019, the Titans, so my prognostications weren’t too bad.
I’d like to tell you that as an informed football fan, I based my predictions on acumen, but in reality, my only guide was following what I thought would be the best outcomes for the league as a whole with regard to television ratings.
The newly crowned Kansas City Chiefs aside, the small market teams didn’t have a chance. They seldom do. This is the first Super Bowl appearance and first championship for the Chiefs since the 1969 season. Of course, having the new “chosen one” in Patrick Mahomes at quarterback goes a long way.
The theory that drove my playoff picks was that this being the NFL’s 100th season that the league would like to see an old-school quarterback vs a new-school quarterback in a throwback Super Bowl as Packers vs Chiefs was the very first Super Bowl.
As a side note, the “Super Bowl” is so named thanks to late Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt (who’s family still owns the Chiefs). I figured the NFL couldn’t resist having Vince Lombardi’s old team going against his first championship game opponent to win the Lombardi Trophy.
Perhaps it would have been a bit too obvious to have Aaron Rodgers and Patrick Mahomes meet in the Super Bowl given they are prominently featured in State Farm Insurance commercials together. #StateFarmBowl was trending on Twitter in anticipation of such a matchup. I don’t think the NFL is above such manufactured coincidences, but even some of the league’s most ardent fans would find that kind of coincidence suspect.
But I digress…
The point I wish for my readers to come away with is that the pattern the league uses to script the outcomes of its games is fairly obvious if one emotes less and thinks of the NFL in terms of its entertainment value. What outcomes give the league and its media partners the best ratings?
The pattern the league uses goes something like this…
There is always one Cinderella team that goes farther than it should, but then loses deep in the playoffs (Titans)
There is always one team that dominates the regular season, secures a high playoff seed (usually the one seed) and gets knocked out in surprise fashion early (Ravens). That team usually has the league’s regular season MVP on its roster (Lamar Jackson).
There is always at least one surprising upset in each round.
At least one team that limps into the playoffs that probably should not have been in the playoffs at all (Eagles)
And lately, the outcome of the Super Bowl is almost always in doubt deep into the fourth quarter (the NFL learned that blowouts are bad for ratings).
Super Bowl LIV is the most watched game in the last four years. In fact, this last game is currently the fourth most watched television event in U.S. history with the top eight such programs all being past Super Bowls:
And THIS is precisely the point…
Analyzing the aftermath of this past game will not only provide plausible reasons for how the game turned out, but drive ratings for the sports shows until the new league year starts next month.
While I clearly misread the tea leaves with my theory and my predictions, it doesn’t mean the league doesn’t script the outcomes of its games. It just means I misread the storylines that the league wanted to end this season’s closing chapter with.
Am I the only one who doesn’t find it ironic that Kyle Shanahan, he of the Super Bowl LI collapse attributed to his play calling in the second half of that game and blowing a 28-3 advantage to the Patriots, goes on to do almost the exact same thing in this game?
I think not.
-The Rational Ram