Let me premise this piece by stating that I am considered "old-school" when it comes to the NFL. Let me also state that I possess a 21st century B.A. in media studies. I know a few things about a few things...
I loved the way the NFL used to taste, smell, feel, and sound. I loved the sound of voices such as Pat Summerall, Marty Glickman, Ray Scott, Charlie Jones, and Curt Gowdy. I loved the way the game was played over makeshift fields in baseball stadiums.
I loved the smell of the cigars and stale beer in the old Yankee Stadium. A time when the Rams wore blue and white, the Cardinals were in St. Louis, and coaches had names like Landry, Lombardi, Brown, Ewbank, Grant, Shula, and Allen.
Those days are long gone, distant memories of my boyhood. The league has come a long way since then and brought technology along for the ride. Some people my age (49) have ridden it out. Others cherry-pick what they can still relate to and follow the game in a tertiary manner.
Technology has affected the NFL just as it has the other aspects of American life. No longer do we need to be present to be accounted for. We can all meet in McLuhan's "global village," the barber shop and corner bar of the new millennium. You know it as the Internet.
I am one of the few from my generation that has navigated through the changes, mainly because I saw most of them coming. In fact, I was one of the drivers of that change. I have a Shelley-esque sentiment about that. The monster I help create is now roaming through the countryside and its taking no prisoners.
Here's a short list of items that many of you take for granted or do not even realize that they have occurred or are occurring:
1. Fantasy Football
In the beginning, it was pockets of a dozen guys or so in garages, conference rooms, backrooms of bars, Joe's basement, etc. Now it's a massive online enterprise with collective revenues in the hundreds of millions.
Everyone's got a team or a part of a team. Many are learning about football through fantasy leagues or other gambling-type games. The fantasy mentality has crept into the mainstream football train of thought. Football "experts" these days are nothing but stat regurgitators—fantasy players who hold yards and points in a higher regard than a team's victories.
That's dangerous. Although I was integral in popularizing fantasy football and defining its rules, I never mistook it for the actual game itself. Football is still a game of big, strong, fast men colliding with each other at high speeds. Fantasy players tend to forget this "hat-on-hat" aspect of the game.
That is why when "unsexy" teams such as the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants win the Super Bowl, fantasy fanatics are shocked. They wonder how those teams were able to beat statistical darlings such as Tom Brady, Randy Moss, Kurt Warner, and Larry Fitzgerald.
No one has been contributing to as many blogs as I have been for the past decade, especially when it comes to Giants’" onclick="return(Jiglu.overlayOpen(this))">the Giants. In culling the major blogs around the net, I uncovered a startling fact.
Many Giants bloggers are not in the NY-Metro area. Some of them have never even been to a Giants home game.
This is not just happening in New York. It's everywhere. Blogs are a good source for stories, op-eds, and sometimes even facts. You no longer have to be in the proximity of a team to become a reporter or columnist.
3. Online Ticket Brokers
There was a time when only the vigilant would go to the games. They had to be vigilant just to score tickets. Season tickets, before they became outrageously priced, were the hardest things to get here in New York for the past several decades.
Now with the new stadium on the horizon, many of those season ticket holders have been priced out. You can go to any game you want here, providing you have the scratch.
But it's the current state of football tickets that is an even more interesting story.
Season ticket holders are being permitted to resell their tickets through secondary markets on the Internet. This is a great opportunity for non-ticket holders to finally get to go to some games.
All of this takes place on the Internet. Season ticket holders put their tickets up for sale in an online auction, hoping to recoup some of the high costs they inherently incur for maintaining the privilege of having an account with the team.
The downside is simple. Anyone can buy the tickets. Last year, many cash-strapped Giants fans re-marketed their tickets for the playoff game vs Philadelphia’" onclick="return(Jiglu.overlayOpen(this))">Philadelphia. The result? Thousands of Eagles fans scarfed them up, changing the dynamic of the stadium.
That is happening everywhere. The dyed-in-the-wool fans are not going to the games anymore. Instead, they sell their tickets to the highest bidders, who are usually fans of the opponent or business-types from out of town.
4. Cable/Satellite Television and Radio
When is enough enough? I say that every day when I turn on my TV. There is just too much of everything on television these days. Now, if you miss a program, you can retrieve it through either DVR, VOD, or TiVO.
One of the genres that has gotten supersaturated through the excessive medium of television is sports. Almost every college basketball and football game is televised these days. Every NFL game can be had for a price as well.
Not only are all the games accessible, but so is all the conjecture, analysis, prognostication, etc.
It's simply overkill. There comes a point where it just gets to be too much. Brett Favre, Michael Vick, Plaxico Burress. It's overboard. I'm sure the guy who cures AIDS or cancer won't get this much exposure. It's no wonder the Chinese are beating us to everything that matters these days...
John Fennelly is the founder of blogNYG.com, the fastest-growing blog in the NFL.