NFL’s Attendance Worries: My Solution

          USA Today reports that the National Football League is worried about small declines in 2008 and 2009 in stadium attendance.  Bill Prescott, the Jaguars CFO, summed up the problem as the NFL sees it:

Fans’ expectations with the prices being where they are, they’re expecting a good time, they don’t want drunk fans spilling beer all over them, they want a courteous, helpful staff, and a good overall experience. Our biggest competitor, everyone’s biggest competitor, is HDTV. There’s no doubt, to view a game in your own living room, the beer is colder and cheaper, the restroom is closer, and there’s no line. As a team, we need to deliver something they can’t get on TV.

           The NFL owes its phenomenal popularity to television.  The sport evolved as television did, adding color and replay and non-football entertainment – and ‘equipment failures’.  The NFL looks more like contact gymnastics than the Green Bay Packers of Vince Lombardi.  One now sees more dirt in a Bret Favre commercial than in a season’s games.

          Now the medium of success threatens the essentials of the game, the desire of fans to see their teams. Smaller attendance also means fewer hotdogs and souvenirs sold.  Hence, the imperative to improve fan experiences. 

          USA Today reports the gimmicks the NFL is trying:  Online feeds, flashy restaurants, pre-game concerts by stars who appeal to the demographics who can afford the ‘dogs and the tickets.

          Not surprisingly, the article does not mention the thing that keeps me from going to pro or big-time college games: TV time outs.  The ever-longer breaks make couches much more appealing than stadium seats, especially if the weather is anything less than ideal.

           A decade and a half ago, The Economist said, George ‘Will captured football aptly when he said it combined two of the grimmest features of American life: Violence punctuated by committee meetings.’  It is now committee meetings punctuated by violence.  The solution is obvious.

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