Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Little Less "More, More, More," Please

I’ve complained in the past about the Raiders being too retrograde in their operations and their marketing, and I still think there’s room for progress.

But right now I believe that the NFL could now use a dose of Raiders-style “retro-ness,” because I fear that the league is rapidly losing its roots, and perhaps undoing the very things that have made it so successful for so long.

Indeed, shortly after charging 4,000 fans $200 each to watch the Super Bowl on a big screen outside of Cowboys Stadium for a tidy profit of $800,000, the NFL is flirting with sticking a fork in the golden goose with an impending lockout.

(Now, I think that the Raiders could use more porta potties and other gameday fan amenities, but charging 4,000 folks $200 to watch a game outside of a stadium just because you can doesn’t mean it’s a good or noble idea).

One sticking point in the negotiations is the 18-game season. After a year in which the NFL tripped all over itself to demonstrate its supposed concern for player safety, it wants to add about 15% more full-speed playing time to the schedule.

We now have games on Monday night, and Sunday night, and Thursday night. Pretty soon, it will four nights, then five.

More is not always better. Quantity does not always equal quality. But that seems to be the NFL’s motto these days: More, more, more.

The league is gorging on the buffet of seemingly endless fan goodwill. Tasty? Sure. Healthy? Not in the long run.

I love how the debate about the two extra games has been framed: “Hey, it’s two more real games, which means we can now stop ripping you off for the equivalent of two meaningless pre-season games!”

It reminds me of the serial killer who left a message for the cops at one of his crime scenes: “Stop me before I kill again!”

Why do we need two more games? Did you really want to see two more Carolina Panthers games last year? Didn’t the season sort of seem long enough? By the time of the Super Bowl, we were 22 weeks deep if you count each team’s bye week and the week between the championships and the Super Bowl. For me, that’s plenty.

A big part of the NFL is anticipation. Anticipating the season, anticipating the next game, anticipating Sunday. Soon, there will be nothing to anticipate. There will be games on every day, and the regular season and playoffs will span nearly six months, or half the year.

Isn’t that baseball’s problem? The seemingly interminable, always-on nature of the season? Ask the MLB how that's working out.

In terms of the players vs. the owners, I don’t have a dog in the hunt. I don’t really understand all of the nuances of the revenue sharing, and who really deserves what.

All I know is that the NFL is starting to look gluttonous. I want the league to succeed, and I don’t mind everyone involved, the players and the owners, getting rich.

But there’s something increasingly soulless about the league. I’m not naïve. I understand that the NFL has always been a product in one way or another, and that the objective is to make money, as it should be.

My take, however, is that the product is being eroded. I think that the league’s success is being taken for granted, and that there’s an assumption it will always be this way, so that if some is good, more must be better. More, more, more.

The irony is that in the relentless pursuit of "more," the NFL might actually end up giving us nothing for 2011 if the lockout persists.

Go figure.