Wednesday, September 10, 2014

It's not the NFL. It's HBO.

And now, a super-duper rarity here in the Failing Forward Blog...a sports entry.

This whole thing with the NFL and domestic abuse is, to me, pathetic. Only a multi-billion dollar industry, dominated by men and unopposed on the entertainment landscape, could get away with the kinds of shit that has been going on in the news lately. And what are decent people supposed to do? Boycott the NFL, the one and only source of professional-grade football (not counting college, hence the professional word there)? Doesn't that just punish the fans more than anyone else?

So here's my uneducated, ignorant, football-hating solution...why doesn't a cable network like FOX, or HBO or something, start their own football league?

Here are some of the benefits I can think of, right off the top of my head:

-They can provide all of their own coverage, so no having to worry about deals with other networks.

-They could directly handle the contracts and everything for the players and staff, giving the network the ability to trade, draft, and adjust lineups for maximum excitement and fair play, rather than the current model that allows dynasties of great players all going to the same handful of teams.

-A network league could establish its own modifications to the rules, fixing loopholes in the existing NFL regulations (I don't know what exact rules could be changed, as I do not watch football myself, but hearing people argue about the minutiae of it makes me think a clean slate could do at least some good).

-Ad and merchanidsing revenue would have one less pair of hands in the pot. Cynically, this could make less people richer. Optimistically, this could allow for a better product, as less people need to be paid to produce it.

-A TV network-run football league could fully embrace the idea of football as a spectator sport and accordingly adjust its presentation, style, and layout. For example, a network-created football league could record live games and edit them for time and content before airing on national TV. You know how in sports movies, the football sequences are always so much more exciting than real-life, because the film cuts to the good parts? Imagine an entire season of football like that.
-The networks could solve their own "shifting landscape" problem by providing a product that you could ONLY get through your cable service, instead of using Hulu, Netflix, etc.. Yes, of course those services could also start their own leagues, but that kind of leads into what I think is the best part of this idea...

-The only thing that will change the NFL is competition, because it hits them directly in the only place they feel pain: their bank accounts. As said above, a boycott is impractical and virtually impossible to even conceive, let alone execute. But if football fans have another place they could go to, suddenly the NFL is going to pay attention.


Okay, so yes, I am aware of a little thing called the XFL that happened years and years ago that turned out to be an egregious disaster. But one failed case study doesn't mean the whole hypothesis is flawed, right? I think enough years have gone by that we could try this shit again, right?


Anyways...you're welcome, sports fans, for me fixing all of your problems. Now, onto world hunger...


UPDATE: I did a little research on the XFL yesterday, to see what it did wrong. Indeed, it did look like the XFL did a lot of stupid things that resulted in its failure, and if another network were to try it, it wouldn't necessarily end the same way. Here are a couple of the mistakes the XFL apparently made:

-Sexist and crude: A lot of hullabaloo was made around the sexy cheerleaders and their ridiculous outfits. Seeing the increasing amount of females interested in football and our culture's increasing strive towards inclusiveness, the XFL seemed very unclassy with this decision, sort of like the Hooters of football. That seemed destined to fail.

-Barbaric: Again, like the point above, the XFL's lax policy on player aggressiveness, symbolized by its ridiculous two-man scrum instead of a coin toss for first possession, was a step backwards, not forwards for organized sports. A network-led football league that kept the excitement of football without allowing the players to basically kill each other is possible (or, at least I think it is....)

-Wrestling stigma: I, for one, like professional wrestling, at least the idea of it, if not the execution. But even I can see the poor association professional wrestling would have with other professional sports. Pro wrestling is as much theater as it is a sport, and many sports fans didn't like the idea of those two things mixing (even if in fact they didn't; the XFL was not scripted, contrary to what many believed). If a new league was made and backed by actual football/sports icons, I think it would have a much better chance than a league made by the guy who brought us The Iron Shiek and Hulk Hogan. Again: no personal problems with that, but I can understand the general issue that could...and did...come up.

-Lack of conviction: This one, to me, seemed the biggest killer for the XFL. It was never designed to compete with the NFL; the intention was only ever to make it an off-season alternative. Who is going to respect a league that doesn't even believe it's worthy of elbowing the NFL out of the limelight? I understand minor leagues do that, but that's just it: that's a minor league move. The XFL's telecast time for the entire season was cut by half an hour because one game ran late and delayed the start of Saturday Night Live. Once. If your own friggin' network is apologizing to itself, of course no one else is going to take it seriously.





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