On Feb. 6, 2011, one of the 32 NFL teams will be crowned Super Bowl champions. It may be the team you root for; it may not be. Chances are no matter which two teams match up that Sunday, you'll tune in to see what happens.
The question I'm going to raise is why will you bother to do so? The 2010 NFL season has horrible for fans, and it may not be that much better for the players, either.
Here are a few of the issues that have cropped up in the NFL through the first nine weeks of the season:
Instant replay was instituted in the NFL for several reasons. One being to right the wrongs called on the field that the fans watching at home could see as being obvious mistakes.
The unintentional result of the instant replay rule is that referees have retracted their officiating muscles, becoming afraid of making the wrong call. Due to this reflex, NFL officiating has taken a severe down turn.
This season has seen poor officiating not just come to the forefront, but actually affect the outcome of games which in turn has affected teams' standings and ultimately the playoff race. Just to name a few, bad calls have marred:
- Week 1 - Detroit Lions v. Chicago Bears
- Week 5 - Cincinnati Bengals v. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- Week 6 - Houston Texans v. Kansas City Chiefs & New York Jets v. Denver Broncos (in which Mark Sanchez even claimed the Jets "stole a win")
- Week 7 - Pittsburgh Steelers v. Miami Dolphins & Minnesota Vikings v. Green Bay Packers
You could probably insert another five or six games that were directly affected by officials missing obvious penalties or making poor judgment calls. None of this should occur considering the line fans are fed about how professional and knowledgeable NFL officials are supposed to be. Yet officiating is not improving, it is in fact getting worse week after week.
While referees miss calls left and right, the NFL has now told these same crews to crack down on helmet-to-helmet hits in an attempt to save players from serious injury.
Player safety is of great concern to the NFL; however, concussions have been a league-wide problem for decades. Just because a few vicious hits have sidelined some of the NFL's top talent doesn't mean severely fining defensive players for these hits is going to alleviate the problem.
An intentionally illegal hit is one thing, but when an offensive player ducks his head into an oncoming defensive player, guess what? A helmet-to-helmet hit will occur.
But the bigger issue, the one the NFL is keeping mum on, is that more and more players are suffering concussions because the collisions themselves have become more violent. This is directly due to the increase in both player size and speed.
How can these increasingly large players achieve faster and faster speeds? Performance-enhancing drugs. Some of these drugs the league cannot and perhaps will not test players for, yet their use continues.
Instead of protecting players by limiting their unnatural growth and abilities, the NFL is attempting to control the situation in a way that is nearly uncontrollable. Football is a violent sport. Concussions are inevitable, but in attempting to limit blows to the head or the unavoidable helmet-to-helmet hits is affecting game play in ways both the fans and players don't want to see.
The Favre/Moss/Roethlisberger Fiascoes
There is no real need to dig at these scabs, but to ignore them is to ignore some of the "biggest" (and unfortunate) stories of this NFL season.
The NFL "investigated" Ben Roethlisberger despite him not being charged for a crime. The league decided to suspend him for six games (wait, make that four weeks) anyway because he violated the NFL's ill-defined "personal conduct code."
While a member of the Jets, Brett Favre may have "sexted" former Jets sideline reporter Jenn Sterger, yet Sterger isn't talking to the NFL (yet). She may never do so. The NFL doesn't seem to care despite "investigating" the incident. Favre admitted to leaving voice mail messages for Sterger, but of course, Favre didn't send her any pictures of his "nether region."
No suspension appears to be forthcoming for what may have been a bit of sexual harassment in the workplace.
Malcontent Randy Moss got himself booted from the New England Patriots, then the Minnesota Vikings, only to land on the Tennessee Titans in the course of eight weeks. Why do fans continue to care? Ask yourself that question.
Supposedly it was just a joke. If it in fact was, ESPN wasn't laughing. Nor did the network cover the story in any way, shape, or form.
After the Tennessee Titans demolished the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-3 on ESPN's Monday Night Football in Week 6, Titans head coach Jeff Fisher was asked about using star running back Chris Johnson so late in the fourth quarter during an obvious blowout.
Fisher's response raised more than a few eyebrows. He said he kept Johnson in the game because of the time-outs called by Jaguars head coach Jack Del Rio...time-outs called because of a referee's request.
Fisher elaborated that the head referee approached him at the two-minute warning—something that apparently isn't unusual—and asked him to use some of his time outs because ESPN had advertisements they still needed to air during the game. Fisher refused as the game was in the Titans' control.
Del Rio did, however, calling two completely unnecessary time outs at ESPN's request.
Some say television cannot influence the play on the field. Week 6's Monday night game proved that perhaps television and advertising means more to the NFL than fans would like to believe.
The Looming Lockout
The owners want an 18-game season. They want to rewrite the collective bargaining agreement to lessen the players' share of the league's total revenue. To get these "concessions", they are threatening to lock players out prior to the start of the 2011 season.
The players response has been an overwhelming amount of unity against their masters. Players, to a man, have voted to decertify the players' union if a lockout occurs. This move would give players a better bargaining chip, and if need be, legal stance against NFL owners.
In other words, it ain't pretty.
Likely, there will not be a 2011 NFL season. If that happens, NFL owners will still rake in approximately $5 billion thanks to their TV revenue contract with the networks.
This season, the debacle that is the 2010 NFL season, will be the last taste of professional football fans will have to savor for some time.
These same fans, meanwhile, will suffer as MLB and NHL fans have suffered in the recent past. No games, no fantasy football and perhaps no "Super Sunday" all as a means to better split the $10 billion the NFL earns each year.
Should that happen, when the games finally resume, how many fans will stay true to that inevitable pledge "I'll never watch another NFL game again" and leave football behind after a disappointing 2010 season?
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