Why Are NFL Ratings Down?

Here’s some surprising news:  NFL TV ratings are down.  So far down, in fact, that the NFL league offices have taken the unusual step of sending a memo to team owners, trying to reassure them that the NFL brand remains as strong as ever.

AMFOOT-SUPERBOWL-NFL-PRESS CONFERENCEThe NFL’s memo says that its data indicates that the perception of the NFL and its players is actually up in 2016.  But the TV ratings for NFL games during the first four weeks of the season are down 11 percent.  Not all of that drop can be attributed to Cleveland Browns fans recognizing that their 0-4 team isn’t going anywhere and deciding their are better ways to spend their Sundays, Monday nights, and Thursday nights.  So what gives?

The NFL says it’s a confluence of events and predicts ratings will bounce back.  Other people think the presidential election is causing the drop-off, as males — the core audience for NFL games — have become more interested in presidential politics than football.  Others say it’s the protests of some players during the National Anthem, the fact that some stars like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady have retired or aren’t playing, and the NFL’s decision to move more content to digital platforms.

It seems hard to believe that an awful presidential campaign might have suddenly caused long-time NFL fans to switch off games.  I suspect that the real reason is simpler — people are just tired of the barrage of NFL glitz and hype, hype, hype that has seeped into every crack and crevice of the game.  People like football because they like the game.  The NFL has done so much to change a game into a product that the game itself is getting hard to recognize.  I think many people are just tired of it.  I know I am.

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The Pope And The Donald

While aboard the papal plane today, flying back from an appearance in Mexico, Pope Francis was asked about Donald Trump’s notion of building a wall between Mexico and the United States.  The Pope said that “a person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian.”  When Trump heard about the Pope’s comment, he replied that it was “disgraceful” for “a religious leader to question a person’s faith.”

pope-mexicoI suspect that the Pope will soon regret his response, if he doesn’t regret it already.  It’s not that the Pope doesn’t have every right to give his opinion on what qualities or actions are “Christian” and what are not — of course he does, because after all this is the Pope we’re talking about.  As the head of a Christian denomination with millions of members spanning the globe, he obviously can, and regularly does, speak about such topics.

In this instance, though, I think the Pope’s comments were ill-advised, because they come in the middle of an American presidential campaign and obviously were directed at a particular candidate.  It seems to diminish the Pope, somehow, for him to weigh in on something so secular and tawdry as an American political campaign.  We’ve come a long way since the days of the Kennedy-Nixon election of 1960 — when John F. Kennedy’s Catholic faith was a big issue, because opponents whispered that he would be taking direction from Vatican City — but the Pope’s comments on a candidate still seem . . . unwise.  When most people associate the Pope with a focus on the spiritual, even a brief foray by him into an increasingly bitter, mud-slinging political campaign is a bit jarring.

And, of course, Pope Francis’ comments just serve to allow Donald Trump to mount his high horse, clothe himself in righteous indignation, and further burnish his reputation as the anti-establishment candidate.  I’m afraid that Pope Francis will learn that anyone who associates or interacts with Donald Trump ends up being tarnished by the experience.  Why stoop to comment about such a person?