Robert Kraft bought the Patriots 20 years ago. During two wildly successful decades (both on the field and financially), Kraft has noticed one significant change to the culture that has helped football become as popular as it now is.
With technological advances creating more isolation, football creates a true sense of togetherness.
“I think what’s happened in America, but pretty much the Western world, is people are wedded to their smartphones and their iPads, and they’re texting and they’re not connecting with one another,” Kraft told Bil Littlefield of 99.9 WBUR’s Only A Game. “When 70,000 people come to our stadium on a Sunday, they’re all about the team on the field, and I think everybody has a sense of community in supporting these teams.”
It’s a phenomenon that extends well beyond stadiums.
“It was amazing to me: this past weekend we had the [NFL] draft, and almost 50 million people watched the draft, double the ratings of the NBA [playoffs], triple of the hockey [playoffs], and this is a draft, that’s passive,” Kraft said. “And it’s just because people are into — they play fantasy football with their kids, and they’re just into what we try to create and integrate into community.”
While he never may have seen it coming in 1994, the NFL remains one of the few, if not only, products that can unite a multi-million-person audience in real time. Every other popular form of entertainment can be consumed at many, or any, specific hour or day. Live NFL football happens in the now, and that’s when the vast majority of the audience take it in.
As technology continues to provide more and more options for the individual, the NFL will continue to be the thing that is defined by the collective. Which means that it won’t be disappearing any time soon.