Thursday, September 15, 2005

NFL State of the Union

I'm in a large, long running football pick 'em league with friends called the Head to Head Football League (HHFL). My team name there is the Falcons (everyone gets an NFL team to make scheduling easy), and since joining the league I've traditionally written a (usually) weekly column on the site called the Falcon's Faulty Pick of the Week. Basically the gag is that I pick the game I am most certain of, explain why I made the pick, and then encourage everyone to pick the opposite because of my rotten luck at football prognostication.

This week I posted something a little more universal, which I'm pasting below. If you don't like football, don't bother:

Surprised by Week 1 of the 2005 NFL season?

If so, you haven't been paying attention for at least the last 5 years.

Let's face facts kids: the NFL is, by and large, crap.

Before you send me hatemail, allow me to explain.

Each year, the NFL has become more and more mediocre. This mediocrity has been encouraged by the league through its financial structure, because they want parity. The only way you can get parity is by leveling the playing field, and the only way to level the playing field in a sporting event is to spread the talent thinly between all teams.

To that end, the league's salary cap, free agent, and other personnel rules encourage this environment. In most cases, it no longer makes sense to hold onto marquee players when they reach their contract year, because you can get 3 young players for his price. Most often, the teams that sign marquee players do NOT improve because the large contract they've now taken on limits them to that one move.

Franchises like the Eagles and the Patriots have managed to pull themselves above this because they seem to be the two teams that understand this economic environment. There is no reason NOT to sign most of your young players to long term deals, because you can always release them with minimal penalty anyway. They're aided by their own success as well: many players will play for them for less money than they could get elsewhere because they want to win.

All this adds up to a league where every week during the regular season the overwhelming majority of the games pit one mediocre team against another mediocre team. The NFL is full of "upsets" every week because if one mediocre team goes on a 3 game win streak, suddenly they look like a powerhouse compared to the rest of the mediocrity... but really, they're still just mediocre.

Last week, the Bears and the Redskins were on Fox. They combined for 16 points, and hundreds of man-hours of naptime (I contributed one myself). The sad part is, people actually PAID to watch this stinker.

The NFL's popularity, I think, survives and even thrives because of pick 'em leagues like this. I'd rather pull out my own fingernails than watch some of the garbage being served up in week 2, but because I'm in a pick 'em league I'll check the score.

I think the average number of fantasy football teams per football fan is over 3 now. When you watch a game at a bar, people cheer on every play because somebody just scored points on their fantasy team. It's gotten worse than loud cell phone conversations at the movies, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Plus, there is so much coverage on the trash talk during the week that between Sundays the NFL is more like the WWE... or at worst, Days of Our Lives.

All of this provides the great smokescreen the NFL needs to hide the fact that their product just isn't that good.

SO - all that being said, last week I picked all the teams I thought would win. Then I picked the opposite. And I got 11 right. I intend to do the same thing for a couple more weeks.

There are lots of terrible games to choose from this week (Detroit at Chicago? Cleveland at Green Bay? Buffalo at Tampa Bay?), but I'm going to go with St. Louis at Arizona. My inclination is to pick the Cardinals because everybody seems to think they're better this year, and I really don't like the Rams one bit.

For that reason, I'll pick the Rams.

FALCON PICKS: Rams
YOU PICK: Cardinals

Be warned: the sports media will attempt to make this game interesting by discussing Kurt Warner's ties to the Rams and the possible resurgence of the Cardinals (or is it just "surgence"? They've never been good) under Dennis Green's second year. I won't blame you if you get caught up in the hype. It's the only thing that will make the game palatable.

And stop worrying about the Eagles. All that game proved was that if you pit two of the half dozen above average teams in this league (and certainly the only 2 in the NFC) against each together, the result can still put you to sleep. Why do you think more people are talking about the pregame fight than the game itself?

The bottom line though is that every Sunday I'll still sit down and watch the Eagles, and I'll still watch the scores on the ticker... my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

1 comment:

chornbe said...

All I can say is, I miss the days of Landry and Staubach.