When Does the Game Become Bigger Than the Game?

Jeremy ScottAnalyst IJuly 13, 2009

6 Jan 2002: Michael Vick #7 of the Atlanta Falcons calls out the play against the St. Louis Rams at the Dome at America's Center in St. Louis, Missouri. The St. Louis Rams beat the Atlanta Falcons 31-13.  DIGITAL IMAGE. Mandatory Credit: Elsa /Getty Images

Question: When does coverage of the NFL become bigger than the NFL itself? 

Answer: It already has. 


Now that the NFL is a year-round league, there are a lot of angles being covered.  A lot of articles get published that, in days past, wouldn't have even warranted an article. 

Chad Johnson changes his name to Ochocinco.  Ochocinco decides to Twitter during games.  T.O. can't buy a house because Buffalo neighbors don't want him.  Tony Romo plays golf somewhere. 

Chris Cooley uploads his private parts to his blog.  Chris Johnson in Tennessee doesn't want to be part of a running duo anymore.  Commissioner Goodell climes a mountain. 

So on and so forth.  In a given calendar year, there is more written about the NFL that actually has nothing to do with the game than there is written about what happens on the field. 

The media would love to blame you...the fans.  Just see the latest Brett Favre offseason for proof.  At first mention of his interest in Minnesota, there was about a week's worth of normal coverage on the speculation. 

That quickly turned to an outpouring of analysts declaring how tired they were of Brett Favre.  (Hey... here's a thought... don't write about him if you don't want to write about him.)

And don't forget the week-long rush of stories we had to endure about how Brett was going to be on Joe Buck's show to talk about his plans—stories about an upcoming interview about a retired player?!?!

Of course, smart fans know that we are, indeed, part of the problem.  We like reading about what the players are doing off the field.  We like seeing their mansions on Cribs.  We like arguing over Donte Stallworth's super easy stint in jail.  We like speculating on Michael Vick's chances at playing in the NFL again. 

Somewhere along the way, we've made "talk about the NFL" into a bigger sport than the actual NFL. 

Case in point:  FantasyUnsports.com

I just read about this site on FantasySportsBusiness.com last week.  It's a fantasy football game, but with some ridiculously inverted scoring.  Instead of earning points for your players' touchdowns and yards and receptions...you earn points for their off-the-field antics. 

Here's just a sampling of the things you can earn points for, and their corresponding point values:

  1. Drug Possession – 20
  2. Public intoxication – 35
  3. DUI – 30
  4. Firing a gun illegally – 40
  5. Criticize teammates in a press conference– 20
  6. Embarrassing photo of athlete surfaces – 35
  7. Sideline tantrum during game – 25
  8. Appears on SNL – 75


As FantasySportsBusiness.com points out, this is not unlike the now infamous Celebrity Deathpool sites.  In essence, by playing Fantasy Unsports, you're betting on which players are going to screw up off the field, and then rooting for it to happen. 

In some ways, this makes perfect sense to me.  It's like TMZ meets fantasy sports.  It's a wonder it hasn't happened before now. It's kind of like prop-betting for non-game activities...turned into a fantasy game.

On the other hand, what have we come to?  What does it say about us if we are so bored with what happens on the field that we have taken to hawking players' personal behavior for anything "point worthy?"  Maybe the media would stop reporting on tantrums and personal lives of athletes if we, as fans, stopped reading stories about it.

So I'm torn.  Obviously, I can see the humor and entertainment value in something like this.  After all, if players never did anything stupid off the field then there would be nothing but the game to follow. 

However, I can't help but feel like we fans are helping to hasten the day when the actual sporting event means nothing compared to what happens before, after, and around it.

I don't know who it speaks worse of...the fans or the players...but either way, it's definitely a sad commentary on the NFL that some people would rather follow this stuff than pay attention to what happens on the field.

What do you think?