As an avid NFL fan, for as long as I can remember I’ve waited all week, every week for Sunday afternoon – until this year.
Sunday afternoon no longer brings me the same joy that it used to, where I gathered up my friends, grabbed some snacks and watched the games. The main reason for this is honestly pretty simple: the NFL just isn’t entertaining to watch anymore.
There are plenty of reasons for the decrease in quality of NFL games, one of them being a plethora of injuries. Across the league, superstars have been injured and subsequently sidelined for many weeks, sometimes even the entire season. Notable players who landed on injured reserve include Bills wide receiver Sammy Watkins, Chiefs star running back Jamaal Charles, Vikings All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson, among many others.
When the highest level of talent in the league is on the injury report rather than the field, it can lead to uglier games to watch, with inexperienced and less talented players being forced to play larger roles.
Another important aspect to consider is the abundance of subpar teams in the league. Plagued by injuries, many teams have been exposed to poor quarterback play, which has led to many punt-filled, field goal dominated slugfests, with 13-7 scores not being too uncommon.
Perhaps the most plausible explanation for the decline in ratings can be attributed to the overabundance of penalties and fines. If you watch any NFL game, a simple touchdown celebration will draw a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and most likely a fine, as well.
Take Antonio Brown, one of the best wide receivers in the league, for example. After scoring a touchdown, Brown proceeded to twerk in the end zone, drawing laughter from those watching all around the world. For his “antics,” Brown was slapped with a 15-yard penalty and a $20,000 fine from the commissioner’s office.
People have gotten upset by this, pointing to it as an example of commissioner Roger Goodell’s authoritarian reign over the league. It’s been recognized by very prominent athletes, as well, not just the common people watching the games from their couch every Sunday. When asked about the NFL’s falling ratings, LeBron James gave an explanation for it, saying that the fun part of the game is being taken away by the strict policies put forth by the league office.
Being strict is one thing, but the main critique of the league’s policy is that they’re valuing these things over player safety. Last week, Alex Smith appeared to suffer a concussion in the middle of a game, but ended up checking back in after passing concussion protocol, even though cameras showed there were few tests being administered on the sidelines.
The hypocrisy shown by the league here, along with other game-related factors are contributing to this sharp decline in ratings and, if something doesn’t change soon, we may be looking at a very serious problem for the future of the NFL.