Earlier this week, Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian said that when it comes to the potential expansion of the NFL regular season, “the debate…is over.” No doubt as a result of pressure from his colleagues, Polian has since backed off his remarks. But the cat is out of the bag — it’s obvious that there’s no going back at this point: an 18-game regular season is coming. Yet Polian was wrong about one thing: the debate isn’t over … because Roger Goodell and the league office never allowed it to start.
In a time when hot-button political programs like Obamacare and tax reform are increasing tension between the rich and the middle class, there might be no better example of corporate bullying than what the National Football League is forcing on its fans and players.
Although an “enhanced” 18-game schedule might not be as crucial to our day-to-day lives as health care reform and tax increases, what commissioner Roger Goodell and his cohorts are doing is a gorgeous exhibition of corporate greed.
Goodell continues to insist that an 18-game schedule is “what the fans want.” And yet I continue to hear the majority of fans and observers shout that two more games would in fact weaken and diminish the regular season.
Why is the league office claiming that the people want an extended season? Well, because the people don’t like a four-game preseason. Logic says that if they want less of one thing, they want more of another.
But fans don’t dislike the preseason because it’s somehow taking away from the regular season. They dislike the preseason because they’re forced, as season-ticket holders, to pay full price to watch non-competitive football games. They’re being ripped off.
Everybody knows that more regular-season football means more injuries and more meaningless games, with the final two games of the preseason essentially being moved to the final two weeks of the regular season, which will lose its every-game-matters feel.
Using the flawed logic that the people want more regular-season games because they want fewer preseason games isn’t a miscalculation on the league’s part. It’s deliberate. Combine that with the application of PR buzz-phrase “enhanced season,” and the whole campaign is nothing short of propaganda.
From a business standpoint, the NFL’s strategy appears to be superb. With two more regular-season games in place of generally unprofitable preseason affairs, the league will make a lot more money.
But the long-term risk of making such a change could end up costing them money. No league is invincible, and pro football isn’t immune to losing its status as America’s Newest Pastime.
And if you piss off your fans by a) telling them what they want, and b) forcing that on them without any genuine debate and discussion, you run the risk of alienating those fans.
And eventually losing them.