Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The NFL: The Master of Delusion

The NFL is back and already the writing is on the wall for certain teams. The same teams that have stunk for a decade now will apparently continue to stink, and their play this weekend proved that. But the NFL has become a master at marketing itself, and like Barack Obama, it's biggest achievement (Nobel Prize-worthy perhaps) is the selling of false hope. Indeed, what's fascinating about the NFL is just how well it has deluded its fans.

People in cities like Oakland, Tampa, Cleveland and Detroit should all know that their teams will be lucky to win 5 games this year... or any year. They are poorly managed, they choose the wrong players, have the worst coaches, and lack the long term plans and stability that better teams use to stay competitive year after year. Yet, every off season, fans in these cities tell themselves "this is the year we finally put it all together."

Why do they think this? Well, the NFL is great at selling false hope. Right at the end of each season, the crappy teams shuffle their coaches. Suddenly the guy who couldn't get it done in Dallas is the guy who will save Buffalo. . . this time it will be different. And that new offensive coordinator? He was on that team that won all those game a decade ago (forget the ten bad years in the meantime)!

Then they shuffle players. Remember that washed-up never-was who quarterbacked that team to 6 wins two years ago? He's our new starter and he's awesome!! We know how to use him, that other team didn't!

Then comes the creme d la creme: the draft. The NFL has built a ton of hype around these players, raising their profiles to the point of messianic, even though experience shows that almost no rookies contribute in their first year and few will remain with the team after three years. . . yet fans know that they got the one guy in the draft who will turn their team around! Booo yah!

Then we have preseason games. These are the games that let the guy who couldn't get open if he was allowed to use a shotgun suddenly shine against a guy who will be bagging groceries by the end of the month. And the fans start thinking. . . wow, where was this last year?!

And the whole time, the NFL sells the story of the Cinderella team that went "worst to first." In fact, every step of the way, the NFL sells stories of redemptions, of second chances, of miracle finishes, of "any given Sunday," and a dozen other angles that are designed to make you think that this time it will be different no matter what the evidence says to the contrary. And it's fascinatingly effective. Year after year, the fans of teams with no real shot of even getting a winning record convince themselves that they're going to the Super Bowl because the NFL has given them just enough lottery tickets for them to think they must be holding a winner.

I guess Barnum was right about that sucker being born every minute.

So who's your team and how are they going to do this year? My Buccaneers? Well, this is the year we're finally putting it all together. . . heck, we just squeaked out a win against the awful Cleveland Browns, and that's got to count for something, right?

39 comments:

Tam said...

I'm still living off my football fantasy of back to back Broncos wins from about a decade ago. I've hardly watched football since John Elway retired, so that high is still fresh!

JG said...

I'm obliged by marriage to be a Packers fan and a Favre acolyte. (Seriously, my sister-in-law cries every time he retires. Every time.) Actually, I'm pretty apathetic about the NFL and I think Favre is the court jester in this false kingdom of hype you've described. But, for the sake of my marriage, I fake it. :)

Joel Farnham said...

Andrew,

Even though I live in Tennessee now, I still love the 49ers. Even though they lost last week.

Titans look very good this year. Maybe I should change my favorite team. :-)

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I totally miss John Elway. I used to hate the Broncos when I first moved to Colorado because their fans were nuts. And I did not like Elway because he refused to play for the Colts, but he won me over eventually because it was just amazing watching him play!

There's no one like him in the league today!

Tam said...

A game was NEVER over when John Elway was taking the snap. I loved him. I also loved his 16 years with one team, and retiring on top instead of shuffling off to past-prime mediocrity with some other team.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, "for the sake of my marriage, I fake it"! LOL!! That's really, really funny!

I take it you're more of a college football fan?

I kind of go back and forth on the NFL. I love the games, but the intense, constant marketing drives me crazy. Plus, it feels like the game isn't much of a game anymore so much as it's become a product. Yuck.

AndrewPrice said...

Joel, The Titans do look good, which is quite a turn around from where they seemed to be heading with Vince Young's first couple years.

San Fran huh? It's funny how many people live in one place but still pay attention to teams from other places. I think that's distinctly American -- you don't see that in European sports.

AndrewPrice said...

Tam, I agree on all points. Broncos games were always exciting because you knew that no matter what the lead was, Elway could catch up in the last seconds of the game -- very exciting.

And I totally respect that he stuck with one team rather than trying to jump around, and that he retired at the top rather than hanging on to the point where people wanted to be rid of him.

Very class act.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy my Skins beat the Cowgirls Sunday night! Since they haven't been in a Superbowl since 1991, I don't have a lot of hope for them this year.

It's interesting at our house. I'm a Skins fan, my husband is originally from Pittsburgh, but his favorite team is the Vikings and our son loves the Steelers.

My husband and I are absolutely in agreement about our dislike for the Cowgirls and the Patriots.

Also, I think poor Detroit can't get a break. I'm sorry, the ref's may have interpreted the rule correctly, but that was a touchdown in my book and they should have given it to them. Just my two cents.

TJ

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew (and Joel): This is the year the Forty-Niners take the crown back. It'll be another Montana-Rice-Clark year, and considering the competition, they'll probably do it with the original cast. LOL

AndrewPrice said...

TJ, I totally agree, that was a touchdown!

I can't stand the Patriots. . . the definition of smug.

I like the Redskins, always have from the days of Joe Theisman and John Riggins. BUT, I have to admit I've been a Cowboys fan much longer than that. Those are some of my most favorite games each year Cowboys/Redskins, and I'm glad when both teams are good. I hope Shannahan turns them around!

Anonymous said...

Andrew, me too!

TJ

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, Umm... you may not have gotten the paper yet (being out in the country and all), but Seattle crushed your team this weekend. :-(

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: BFD! The symbol of San Francisco is the phoenix arising from the flames. We shall prevail! If not this year, then next year, or the next. LOL

AndrewPrice said...

Lawhawk, The Phoenix? Hmmm. Strange, I was pretty sure the symbol of San Fran would be something like Big Bird and his domestic partner? ;-)

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Homophobe! Racist! Sexist! Speciesist!

AndrewPrice said...

That's my favorite team! The Colorado Racist-Homophobe-Sexist-Speciesist!

Ponderosa said...

The symbol of SF?

Whatever it is - I'm sure it's flaming.

Ponderosa said...

And the Lions were completely robbed.

Megatron landed on both feet, his butt, a knee and his off-hand then the ball touched the ground.

Perhaps if he walked home to Detroit then it might have been a catch...maybe.

And I'm a Bears fan. Yes, we'll take the win.

But I also understand that they just lost to a 2-14 team at home that was using the second string QB. Gonna be a long year.

LawHawkRFD said...

Andrew: Oops, apparently we're rooting for the same team.

Ponderosa: Check out my intro on tomorrow morning's blog. I think you'll find something familiar.

AndrewPrice said...

"I'm sure it's flaming!" LOL!!

Yeah, the Bears seem to be headed in the wrong direction.

At least you're not a Bucs fan. Our coach and GM are both incompetent, but the owners won't admit their mistake because they don't want to pay to buy out their contracts. Our coach is in so far over his head that he makes Obama look like Reagan.

Ed said...

Go Jaguars -- right out of town.

BevfromNYC said...

First of all, Anon, the Cowboys WAS ROBBED last week against the 'Skins!!!! We was robbed!

I am a Cowboys fan going all the way back to the Craig Morton days, so don't be dissin' my 'Boys!!! It's a family thang... Okay, diss Jerry Jones all you want, but my 'Boys are off limits!

And Texas Longhorns are goin' all the way this year!! Hook 'Em Horns !!! Woo-Woo-Wooooooo

[I'm just a bit of a football fan...)

AndrewPrice said...

Ed, I understand they aren't the most popular team in the league! LOL!

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, I used to have a poster of the 1978 team on my wall when I was young -- Tom Landry, Staubach, Dorsett, Randy White, etc.! Good times!

I think the SEC is going to have a lot to say about Texas winning it all this year! LOL!

StanH said...

You should try being a Falcons fan …sheesh! But! …there is hope, we have a very wealthy owner, and we’ve just had our first back to back winning seasons in franchise history. I was fortunate in one way, as a kid in the ’60s and ‘70s I spent my time between Atlanta and Miami, so I can claim the Dolphins of the early ‘70s and their perfect season.

As far as the NCAA, It will be the Alabama Crimson Tide again, did anyone see them eviscerate Penn State…wow!

Anonymous said...

Gosh Bev, I'd really hate to see what you'd be like if you really LIKED football.

And your Cryboys were not robbed - they messed up all on their own (thankfully for once that pull a win out of thin air magic was not on display Sunday).

I'm truly sorry you and Andrew prefer the Cryboys to the Skins, but I guess I can't hold it against you since you both offer such great commentary on other issues - LOL!

I totally agree with you about Jerry Jones though. And I think I can say the same for Dan Snyder. I really miss Jack Kent Cook, and Riggins, Theisman, Monk, Green, the "Hogs" - those were the days.

TJ

BevfromNYC said...

Game on, TJ! Oh, yes...game on! LOL

The day that Jerry Jones fired Tom Landry was they day Jones lost every Dallas fan. He also threatened to move the 'Boys to Arkansas! He wouldn't have made it out of town alive, if he had gone through with it...

Tom Landry, Roger Staubach, and all of the other oldies were just one giant class act especially off the field. And on the field, I still remember Landry with his suit, tie, and hat on the sidelines for every game. A true gentleman all the way.

JG said...

Andrew,

Yes, by far, I prefer the NCAA. Thank goodness we had all this conference hullabaloo to make the summer interesting. I just hope we have a decent showing against Air Force on Saturday.

The NFL has always seemed to me like Professional Wrestling. I have a hard time taking any of the drama seriously.

JG said...

And he knows I'm faking it. :) So usually we just don't talk about it.

AndrewPrice said...

Stan, If I had to bet on it, I'd say Alabama will be the team this year. As for the Falcons, yeah, they've had a pretty bad history -- but they seem to be heading in the right direction.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev and TJ, I hate to sound nostalgic, but I really liked the game a lot more back when Gibbs and Landry roamed the sidelines!

AndrewPrice said...

JG, That's even funnier! LOL!

As for Air Force, they are the home team here and I've been cheering for them for a long time, so I have to root against the Sooners this weekend.

As for the conference thing, don't get me started. What the heck was Colorado thinking? I'm really upset about that one. And forget arch-enemy Nebraska... jerks.

Writer X said...

I'll always be a Bears fan but I've been trying to warm up to the Phoenix Cardinals for many years. It hasn't been easy.

BevfromNYC said...

Andrew - Rooting AGAINST the Sooners is always the preferred choice amongst us Texas Longhorns...

And you are all wrong - Texas will win.

AndrewPrice said...

Writer X, I can see where that would be difficult. They're a hard team to like. I liked Warner a lot, but the rest of the team (and the owners) don't impress me.

AndrewPrice said...

Bev, And here I thought football wasn't that big of a deal in Texas! ;-)

JG said...

You cannot imagine how excited I am to move to Texas during football season. :) Although I do think Colt McCoy should have gotten a Heisman, too.

Yeah, I don't think anybody will miss Nebraska. I really don't know what any of them were thinking. That was crazy. That's been one of the nice things about being stationed in the South, even though we're in SEC territory. People love their college football.

AndrewPrice said...

JG, I like the SEC. They have tremendous tradition down there and they really seem to enjoy it. One of the problems with being a Colorado fan is that their fans don't really care much about the team. It was more of an excuse to party and go spend some time staring at a football game.

And now we need to get use to being beaten by a whole new set of teams we have no connection with -- like Washington State. I don't even know what their mascot is... a coffee cup I think.

Ug.

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