Recent news sources have indicated that NFL television ratings are significantly down – 11% in fact – throughout the first six weeks of the season. While the reasoning behind this shift in viewership may seem apparent, there are multiple possible theories.
The obvious rationalization for this decrease in NFL ratings stems from the current presidential election that’s taking place. And you might think to yourself, “Gee, a presidential election happens every four years, so how come the ratings don’t drop during every election?” It’s a sound question, but it’s answered and summed up with three words: Trump and Clinton. We haven’t had a presidential showdown quite like this. I can’t recall another presidential debate in my short 21 years in this country that featured two candidates as polarizing as these two, and I bet many older adults would agree with me.
On the one hand, you have an unbelievably boisterous, blunt, and somewhat too-honest man in Donald Trump, and on the other, you have the first female primary winner who’s often accused of delusional motives, corrupt tendencies, and lies in Hillary Clinton. With a drama-filled race to POTUS, who would have time to tune into a football game?
Speaking of drama, the NFL is remaining relatively drama-free through these first six weeks compared to previous seasons. There’s no controversial rule change. Native American imagery in sports is less of a major topic right now. There’s no reported cases of rape, domestic abuse, or homicide. Peyton Manning retired. Tom Brady didn’t play in the first four games. Everything is subdued in the NFL right now and it’s a quiet season as far as drama is concerned. People like drama; that’s how the Bravo TV channel stays in business. And right now the drama lies in politics.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t some drama, but the drama in the NFL today would, if anything, turn off viewers. I’m referring to controversial rules such as penalizing players for creative celebrations. In fact, there have frequently been questionable officiating calls in general this season. Not too many fans like seeing a 15-yard penalty enforced on their respective team for doing a seemingly innocent touchdown dance. And not too many fans like seeing their team penalized for tapping their opponent’s quarterback in the head lightly.
Then there’s a little thing called Netflix, which takes over many of my friends’ lives. If our heads are glued to a computer screen there’s no way the NFL can compete.
One also has to wonder if violent football culture is starting to turn a few heads, literally. Perhaps sports fans are getting repulsed by witnessing injury after injury, blow after blow, and concussion after concussion. At the end of each year it seems there’s at least one or two more ex-NFL players chiming in about lingering side effects from the brutish nature of the game.
And finally, it would appear that as time goes by, people are bringing awareness to arising global, social, and economic problems. Political correctness has also drawn our attention. Football has been around for several decades now, so whether it be modern day concussion protocol, black lives matter, or feminism, activists and minorities are heard now more than ever, and pinpointing areas of concern. We can only focus our efforts on so many problems that football might remain on the back burner until these conflicts are resolved.
Whatever the reasoning may be, 11% is rather eye-opening. It’s still very early to tell, but should this decline in ratings continue, the NFL may attempt to commercialize the league even more, endorse products, and sell more apparel. Football is America’s game and if ratings don’t increase over the course of the season, baseball and basketball might climb the ranks of America’s most popular sports.