Saturday, April 27, 2013

The New Sheriff In Town

I grew up watching the Phillies. Most of you readers already know this. I also spent several years of my life disliking American football. With that said, this is an awkward reality that I, myself, may have to come to terms with in due time.

Thursday night was the equivalent of Christmas Day to football fans everywhere - The 2013 NFL Draft. Because social media is such a massive force today, outlets such as Facebook and Twitter were flooded with spoilers and results for the people who were out and about or refused to listen to commentary on the NFL Network or ESPN. In fact, these stations waited until the draft results were broadcast on television before posting it to Twitter or Facebook in order to keep viewers from straying to these forms of media and get faster results. [Side note: The NFL website was slower than dirt on Thursday night. My Internet may be awful at times but the NFL website was seriously running like AOL 4.0 at one point. First world problems, I know.]

I had written a blog post last year about the MLB Draft and how events like these bore me to the point of tears. However, I bit the bullet this year and decided to follow the NFL Draft. Since I got faster results through Twitter and the wonderful Jason La Canfora, I didn't bother watching the broadcast on television. Because of that, I saw a lot of different responses and reactions going on through the social networking world. For starters, I purposely follow a lot of sports figures and analysts on Twitter. Of all of the tweets that were created from 7PM until 11PM EST, about 80% of them were NFL-related, and throughout this period, there were nine--yes, nine--baseball games going on throughout the country. Even though it is early in the MLB season, you will also notice this trend occurring in September and even in October when the NFL season is in full-swing. This is where I bring up the question we've all been asking ourselves but not openly: Are we seeing a shift in power? Is baseball no longer America's game?

My friends, I believe that there's a new Sheriff in town, and it's the NFL.

People will argue that this has been the case for several years now, but with the powers of social media flexing their muscles every which way on this planet, it's even more evident that the NFL has become more of a past time than MLB. In today's fast-paced environment, the hard-hitting action and ability to conceive advertising/revenue is unique to this sport. It's one of those flashy-looking horses you see at the track on derby day. With that said, it's easy to see that the NFL has been doing everything possible to come out on top and outclass the sporting competition in the country.

There are numerous aspects that sets the NFL apart from Major League Baseball in the overall attractiveness and shaping of today's culture. Some of them are quite obvious, while others may be generally understood without the wanting of going into detail. It's safe to say that I will be going into some detail about these aspects. Why? Because I've studied this stuff. I can do this. And you're going to like it a lot and go, "Wow, I think I actually learned something today. Thank you! Who do you work for?"

Point #1 - A unique product is a memorable product.
Aside from Canada and the now-defunct NFL Europe, nobody else really does this other than the United States. The rules and the gameplay may be similar to other sports such as rugby and Australian Rules Football, but the strategy and tactics are something all its own. Even though something such as football could really gain from having competition from other countries beside it, it has instead looked to the other sports within the country itself to gain strength and set itself apart as a uniquely powerful force in the sports world. What makes you different makes you beautiful, people.

Point #2 - KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.
The one huge difference between the NFL and all of the other sports in the country is the length of the season. Sixteen games in seventeen weeks for a regular season keeps things short, simple, and avoids things from being redundant. People can bring this argument up with baseball since there is 162 games in an MLB season and it may begin to drag come August. For a baseball fan like me, it doesn't bother me at all, but for the casual sports fan, you might need a little more spice thrown into your life. In short, football doesn't overstay its welcome.

Point #3 - Whether you like it or not, violence sells. No buts about it.
This is self-explanatory. When you want to watch a game, you want to see strength and skill. You will get both in football. Sometimes you will see rough hits that send guys flying, and it will get people's blood pumping, saying, "Yeah! Give 'em the chair!" Okay--maybe not that, but human instinct causes us to enjoy some form of violence. Heck, we crave it. No, I don't mean the blood and guts and such, but rough physicality. It's the same reason why MMA is so popular--sure, the athletic skills are king, but we do want to see someone get their block knocked off too.

Point #4 - Chicks dig it.
Let's not all act surprised at once here... Women make up a huge chunk of the demographic for spectators at sporting events. In fact, it may often be the biggest and most important one. No, I'm not tooting a horn because I am a woman myself, but let's be frank: it doesn't take much to get a guy to a sporting event (unless if it's a women's league, but that's beside the point). The NFL has been incredibly effective in attracting women to the game. Although other sports leagues have been doing the same things in the same vein of each other [Susan G. Komen--need I say more?]. Due to the popularity of the sport among men, it is sprinkling across the women of the world and is giving them a need to watch. I won't lie--fantasy football leagues are pretty darned fun.

Point #5 - Today's society has a rough case of ADD. Keep it quick and keep it flashy.
Statistically, the average time a football game is played in is 11 minutes. The rest is time management and play-calling. I'm serious. Although there are "media timeouts" and the like, the game is more efficient in keeping the attention of spectators and television viewers than a usual baseball game. Baseball games can be quiet at times and can drag for three hours, depending on how well the game is going. Each football play that occurs can spark a huge burst of energy from the crowd, adding electricity to the full side of the game itself. Sure, football and baseball games last about the same amount of time, but time flies when you're having more fun, instead of suffering from start-and-stop momentum. Immediate gratification.

Point #6 - This is a business. They're a juggernaut. They know it too.
Anything and everything is marketable in this sport. They're completely aware of this too. At Thursday night's first round of the draft, analysts were sharing success stories of the young men that were being drafted by NFL teams. For example, the Oakland Raiders drafted D.J. Hayden, a young man who suffered a life-threatening injury during a college football practice. After suffering a knee to the chest, his interior vena cava was severed, and there is a 5% survival rate for that injury. He survived the ordeal, and became the #12 pick on Thursday night. Stories like that will tug at heart strings. It is a human interest story at it's finest. I'm not saying that there's anything bad about this, but stories like this is what makes sports like the NFL so much more appealing. It's the "if he survived and went through this, I can do it too" kind of deal. The world of the NFL is so open through their advertising deals and their ability to inspire young boys to follow in these guys' footsteps. They know how to plug, and they know the audiences to target. It's simple, and it's incredibly effective. They've also adjusted their forms of marketing effectively over the past few years as well.

I am pretty sure that this is more than enough proof that there are a couple of knockout punches stored in the NFL that could officially dethrone MLB's title of "America's game." While it may already be implied that football has already won the hearts of most Americans, it may also be a testament to how American culture has changed and what is the true appeal to the American people. When you think about it, it really isn't all-too-confusing. It makes a lot of sense.

What else do you think about this? Are there other reasons why football has become the face of the American sporting culture?