If the NFL Keeps Dumbing Down the Characters, They Will Lose My Interest

Glenn CardSenior Analyst INovember 17, 2008

I think the NFL has forgotten what the product is. The season and games are more than a series of sporting events. The NFL is the original reality TV, just on a much grander scale' it's entertainment. They have to keep it real to keep my interest.

For the most part, it is a seasonal show, which has its preseason teasers, the draft, minicamps, the preseason, a season—finally, the Super Bowl, a trailer show, and the Pro Bowl.

The weekly time slot is huge and variable. We have all day Sunday, the prime spot on Monday, and now there is a push on Thursday, too. We can tune into the NFL pretty much all year round now.

There are the teams and what a soap opera we have here. With the owners and coaches you’ve got disciplinarians, power brokers, good ol’ boys, evil masterminds, drill sergeants, dapper dressers, ranting maniacs, and the inept all leading an even greater number of diverse players with their own personalities and quirks.

Then there are the locations, 30 plus regions across the U.S. that provide a fanbase particular and as individual from one group to another except for the one common trait of fanhood.

For instance, take a San Diego Charger fan compared to a Green Bay Packer fan. Do you think a Charger fan would be caught dead wearing cheese on his head? You can bet that the Packer fan is not going to be serving a raw veggie dip with bean sprouts at their tailgate party.

How about the Detroit Lions fans; Uh, I haven’t actually met one, but somebody shows up to the games, unless those are paid extras.

The point is, these maniac fans, show up week after week despite the weather conditions, their team’s rankings, or the price of admission. That’s what makes them one of the characters of the show.

In their infinite wisdom, the NFL is trying to go global, more market more money. Apparently, there is too much drama for the wider audience. In this effort they are pushing their employees to be more vanilla, more politically correct, tone down the characters, to soften the brutality, clean up their act.

I applaud the efforts to help prevent the players from career ending injuries. I’m opposed to players getting fines for self expression on or off the field of play. On the field, the players get penalized (at the very least) for any overt celebration, there are no more touchdown celebrations or at least not the kind of extravaganzas we used to witness.

Off the field, they get fined for speaking their minds, it’s detrimental to the team, insubordination or subversive.

This is American football. Let’s face it, internationally, as a people (Americans), we are known for our arrogance and brashness. We embrace the individuals. We want our sports idols (please, let’s not call them heroes) to have personality. Where would this league be without characters like Howard Cosell, Brian Bosworth, Ocho Cinco, Jim McMahon, Jeremy Shockey, T. O., Joe Namath, Mean Joe Green, Brett Farve, or a countless number of remarkable personalities?

Oh sure, there are those parents that are going to complain that some of these guys don’t make good role models for the kids, and I agree. (This is not an article about parenting or the correct venue either but I’ve things to say on that subject.)

Corporate sponsors listen to those parents’ complaints and put even more pressure on the NFL to do something about it as well. The NFL even tried to penalize teams for fan behavior.

Is the NFL trying to divorce itself from its main constituents, the American fans, who use to be their No. 1? We, the fans, have helped make this sport what it is today, the ones who buy the jerseys and other NFL paraphernalia.

Pay the increasing prices for admission to the games. We’re the ones that scour the Internet for any mention of our favorite teams and players.

When did this league forget how to laugh at itself? They forgot that the product is not just a sporting event; it's entertainment. Can you imagine the league where all the players all act and talk like the Patriots' players do? No, it’s not as bad as that, yet.

They have put a muzzle on the players, and it won’t be long before the team logos become mellower. How about the NY Marshmallow Men or imagine, the Eagles, Seahawks, and Falcons become the Doves, Pigeons, and Sparrows, or how about the Arizona Cardinals, oh that’s right, see they’ve already started.

If the NFL is going to make all the characters in the show all walk, talk, and act the same, then I think I just might have to change the channel to Survivor, Dancing with the Stars, or My Name is Earl. At least the character personalities are more interesting.