NFL becomes victim of its own success

The NFL Network’s former ad campaign said it all: “Football season never ends.”

That’s why this work stoppage is unlike the player strikes of the 1980’s.    The enormous increase of fan interest over the last decade in the NFL offseason will only amplify anger at ownership and players.  The league has become a victim of its own success.

Things were much different as recently as eight years ago, when I started writing at Rotoworld full time.   Back then, the morning newspapers set the agenda of the news day.  After they were digested, very little information came out.

There were practically no newspaper blogs.  Team-owned websites were barely updated, if at all.   There was no unending stream of Twitter updates.  Heck, Florio only updated PFT very early in the morning or very late at night because he had a real job to attend to.

Things have changed dramatically since, in no small part because of NFL Network.  The league’s saturation coverage of the Combine, free agency, and OTAs forced ESPN to step up their game.  There certainly didn’t used to be daily NFL Live episodes in the dead of the offseason, much less weeks of Combine talk on Sportscenter.

Websites like PFT and Rotoworld started to notice a voracious appetite for all things NFL, no matter the month.  The highest trafficked day of the year, after all, is annually the first day of free agency.  PFT’s offseason traffic routinely beat the regular season.

Newspaper blogs and team sites quickly realized that readers wanted more than sporadic, daily updates.  Fans wanted information all day. Football season never ends, and neither does the NFL news cycle.

The NFL’s plan to grow the game into a 12-month-a-year obsession worked.  The NFL became the nation’s ultimate reality show and everyone got rich(er) as a result.

Trey Wingo noted on Saturday the three most-read articles on were NFL-related lockout stories.  The fourth-rated story — on college hoops — had half the traffic as the third NFL story.

The NFL’s success has suddenly become a weakness.  The NFL and its players don’t have the luxury to wait until August before they look like greedy fools that take their success for granted.  Fans are understandably outraged that the richest league in the country is in a work stoppage — even though it’s only March.

The question for the league and its players — who share responsibility for this lockout no matter what they say — is whether fan anger could possibly turn to ambivalence.   They don’t think it will happen.

The league and players say they care about fans, but it’s a half truth at best.  They care about the bottom line.  They are counting on fans not really punishing them unless part of the season is missed, if then.

They fail to truly realize that March is the season for so many of us.

Their ad campaign worked too well.

49 responses to “NFL becomes victim of its own success

  1. it’s absurd they can’t get in a room and fix this…. seems to me $9B is sufficient for everyone in the NFL to make more than any of us….

  2. Nice job Rosenthal. Very well said. We should be in the middle of free agency right now and we aren’t and I miss it. I enjoy seeing, hearing and reading about what my team is doing in free agency to try to get better. This whole situatioin ticks me off right NOW. I don’t have to wait til August to be upset.

  3. I love the NFL too much to seriously consider boycotting or whatever people are saying in the midst of their heated emotion. I will say I am going to be very upset if game time or even training camp or any part of the offseason is missed.

    No idea what we could do as fans that could “stick it to them” for this situation. At least nothing that we will all stick to….

  4. At first I was on the players side, and then they decertify after Mr. Smith assured us we would get something done. I guess he just didnt have the guts to tell us he would be glad to get something done..just through the courts because they already got something good out of it when they took the NFL to court over the TV contracts…

    Won’t SOMEONE be honest here? my goodness

  5. Teams may be making less than in recent years, but they’re still making tidy profits. The owners are trying to turn “smaller profits” into “losing money”, as if they’re saying they’re “in the red”. They’re NOT. They’re just not happy with the size of their profits.

    And that’s what this is really all about. The owners want bigger profits. iow, Pure. Greed.

  6. For some of us, the ambivalence has already set in. Right now I’m less interested in the NFL than I’ve ever been since I even started watching as a kid.

  7. I hope it DOES turn to ambivalence, that the NFL loses a a quarter of its fans, and that these greedy people wake up from this with the realization that they ALL are going to make substantially less moola. Then I hope that the greediest of the greedy drop over with a heart attack from that realization.

  8. I’m glad someone said this. The League and Players keep saying it’ll be ok, the games don’t start getting played until september. What they fail to realize is fans miss the excitement of free agency signings, trades and all the other things that build up to the draft. We’ll miss the OTA updates, Minicamp/rookie camp videos, training camps etc.. All of which builds fans interest in the upcomming season. How the clubs and players don’t realize this I will never know.

    I should be checking the site daily to see who is going where, to see if what my team can do to solidify the Oline, to see how the rivals are getting better. Instead I chek to see what has happened next with the lockout/decerticiation…. The NFL/Union really missed the boat.

  9. The 87 Players Strike was in the middle of the season (well, two weeks in, whatever). So while it’s inconvenient that we are missing free agency, at least it’s not taking place out of nowhere during the season.

  10. What has been tainted for the moment is “the brand”, but there’s still room for opportunity. EA Sports should make the CBA negotiation into a new video game. And where can I get a Jeff Pash jersey? Surely Jets fans will line up for this…

  11. Gregg this is the best thing that I have ever read of yours in the three years I have been following you. Well said my friend.

  12. I’ve never backed the players. Now I’m hoping that the NFL will do what’s necessary to put them in their places once and for all.

    Baseball lost a World Series and failed to do it. Well just wait the players out. Wait until they really need that income and realize that one third of their average 3 year NFL career is in real jeopardy. And then wait some more. Wait until they crawl back and we never have to hear the terms “CBA”, “union” or “bargaining table” again.

    I can wait. There is other stuff to do and watch on Sundays. Especially in the early fall, when it’s really nice.

  13. No scudbut, they walked away from the agreement and demanded more money or threatened a lockout; all without providing sufficient financial justification.

    Which isn’t to say the players don’t share blame. They did walk away from the table once it was clear the owners weren’t going to provide the financial information they needed. And they could have kept negotiating instead of going the litigation route.

    But to think it’s a clear cut case is silly and uninformed.

  14. Let’s not forget that 2 years ago the owners took out strike insurance – they are prepared to sit this out until the union folds, as in gives in.

    At the same time let’s not forget the adage about killing the goose that laid the golden eggs. The golden goose, in this case, is the fans – the people whose money they are arguing over.

    The geese are getting restless

  15. Here’s an idea …

    $9 Billion in the pot …

    $4 Billion for the owners
    +$4 Billion for the players
    +$1 Billion for the Lawyers

    Football for the rest of us
    = Priceless!

    … now can I have some of the Lawyers share

  16. My first rant: as a business owner it is unbelievable to me that the players just don’t get it. To enjoy a game for just 2 fans cost well over $400.00. Spiraling cost of doing business have got to slow down. I am not sure there is any business out there that has 59% labor cost, even if these player are “entertainers”!!
    it makes zero business sense. I hope for the next CBA will get it right!!

  17. I paid half my season ticket money in February, I bet the rest of my hard earned dough is still due in 2 weeks even if no agreement. Because – the NFL doesn’t care about the fan, just the fan’s wallet.

  18. All of a sudden the players are acting like victims,like the owners did something to them,they did it to themselves they got too complacent in the fact that they themselves are the employees not the employers sooner or later theyll figure out they can’t pay themselves and will be begging for a deal.

  19. The fans that claim they will be boycotting the NFL permanently are being just as stubborn as the players and nfls for not negotiating. The NFL might lose a few fans; most will come back because it’s the most entertaining sport bar none.

  20. Murphy said the Packers actually might be in better financial shape than other teams carrying significant debt service on new stadiums. He does not expect other teams to open up their books.

    “The players have all the information,” Murphy said. “They have audit rights to all of our revenue. They have everything they need to reach an agreement. [Late former union head] Gene Upshaw never had access to the owners’ books and was able to negotiate several extensions.”

    credit: Kevin Seifert via a rival network

  21. “it’s absurd they can’t get in a room and fix this”…they’re going to be in a courtroom, but will they “fix” anything? maybe, after multiple appeals, and after both sides lose credibility. They keep looking at how to make more money, they’re not realizing that they’re tainting the NFL name.

  22. The players have NEVER “flat-out refused” to give back $1 billion, or any portion thereof, they just want to know WHY first.
    The owners on the other hand, HAVE “flat-out refused” to answer them. Repeatedly.

    I gotta admit though, if I ran a business and was paying out millions in salary to every son-in-law and idiot cousin, I’d probably want to hide that too.

  23. “They fail to truly realize that March is the season for so many of us.”

    I have been known to give Rosenthall some crap, but damn, he hit the nail right on the head.

  24. The filthy liberal unions are the reason that the NFL is in a lockdown right now. The growth of player salaries and the increase in the cost of doing business in America is hurting franchises. Look at the Packers since the last CBA, who five years ago had 35 million in profits, they now boast only 5 million. In a few more years, under the union demands, they will come up BROKE!


  25. foozie, you may be privy to some information that the rest of us are not, if so, please enlighten us with your documentation. I started off very neutral in this issue and I am certainly no smarter than anybody else on here but this is what I know has transpired over the last week. The owners have said from the outset that their revenues are down and that some franchises are in unsustainable positions over the long run. They say that labor costs, stadium costs and other associated costs are up at much faster rates than revenue. May or may not be 100% true. What is undeniable is the following: Player compensation is higher than it has ever been. The league last week offered 82 million to retired players over the next 2 years and a much improved life long health benefit plan. The union doesn’t dispute that. The league originally asked for 1 billion back and last week cut it to 325 million. (The original number may have been ridiculous and merely a bargaining ploy but none the less, they moved significantly). The league also said they would table their idea of an 18 game season. The union has said from the outset that this is about more than money, it is also about better and safer working conditions. All I can go by is reading the same things everybody is. You tell me who looks like they are trying to get a settlement. In my humble opinion, the union has misjudged the political and economic climate and may very well end up with less than what they had offered last week. I think the union has gambled on the anti-trust issue and public sentiment and there can always be a new precedent, but to date, history does not favor them on either issue.

  26. Seriuosly the greed of all this is stuid. I mean I would like to all these people try and live off of 40000 daollars ayear and see what it means to work to live. They act as if their job is the most dangerous or most important.

  27. lets not forget the fact that roger goodell goal is to take hits out of the game so the nfl can lengthen the season so the billionaires can generate more and more income. i for one will not buy my season tickets or support a touch football league

  28. I wish I could get this to every owner AND player.
    I have been an addicted Football fan since I was a kid. I’m 55 now.. I haven’t watched or followed Baseball since the strike other than the Rays playoff run and I did that at a distance.
    I PROMISE you I will NEVER watch or go to another game if there is a stoppage. I will take back my Sundays and trust me my family will be delighted..
    I assure you from talking to others ,I’m hardly alone in my attitude. I’ll save not only time but for me a ton of money as well.

  29. Nice work Rosenthal. I agree with your assessment 100%.
    I haven’t really taken any side in this, but can’t help but think the players are the greater of the 2 evils considering that a vast majority of them would be pumping gas, rounding up shopping carts at Walmart or diggind ditches without the NFL. The owners by and large are successful businessmen. Just how many houses, exotic cars and trips to the “scrip club” must these guys have to be satisfied?

  30. Isnt the pie only $9 bil if fans keep it that way? A lockout/missed season that could drive fans away means fewer ticket sales merchandise sales parking and concession sales. Fewer fans means lower tv ratings and lower advertising revenues. I find it funny that $9bill being split can become $5bill if the fans wanted to rise up and truly voice our opinion.

  31. Victim? Think they’d prefer the alternative? Ask the NHL. Their sport went away for a year and no one cared. They’ve been back for a while and their only “national games” are on the former lumberjack channel on cable.

    Believe me, the league and union will take a 12 month public firestorm 8 days a week and twice on Sunday. You really want to hurt them, give them silence. Cancel your tickets, cancel the Sunday ticket packages, stop buying stuff and turn off NFL network and ESPN. When they do come back, find something else to do with those crisp autumn days. It may be later than sooner, but they’ll learn.

  32. As soon as the league is back up and running, the fans will be back in droves. There will be no backlash, we are simply too much in love with this game to voluntarily go without it.

  33. As a business owner I just can’t get that other business owners don’t get that their relationship is with their employees is dramatically different than the relationship between NFL Owner and NFL Player.

  34. vomitingliberals says: Mar 14, 2011 12:16 PM
    “The filthy liberal unions…”

    Congratulations, vomitingliberals, you are a spineless pushover suffering from Stockholm syndrome toward your corporate overlords. You will make a wonderful peasant when we revert to feudalism.

  35. coyoteptm says:
    Mar 14, 2011 12:04 PM
    I paid half my season ticket money in February, I bet the rest of my hard earned dough is still due in 2 weeks even if no agreement. Because – the NFL doesn’t care about the fan, just the fan’s wallet.

    Check with your ticket rep. Mine (Saints) stated that if the season is cancelled the money will go for the next season or refunded if the account is closed.

  36. I’m a huge NFL like the rest of you. I am not going to quit watching out of current frustration but we as fans need to have our presence felt. I say we decertify for the first 2 to 3 weeks and not watch a game till week 4 just to make them nervous

  37. If i hear one more person say players are employees and should be treated as such, wrong the players and the ownwers are really more of partners. There is no league without players and there is no league with out owners. The onwers are asking for 1 billion on top of the billion they got in the last cba. the players arent asking for a penny more than they got in the last cba. the owners are saying we are not making enough and need more. Why is it so crazy that the union ask to see the books if the owners are saying they need more money. Are they just to take an owner at his word. Come on people the players are not the bad guys in this instance, if they were the ones going on strike that would be one thing but they are being locked out. Its funny the owners are the 1% of this country controlling 90% of the wealth and a majority of people commenting are siding with them.

  38. Great Blog Gregg !As you stated, much has changed since 1987.There are thousands more businesses and tens of thousands more fans today, many of whom rely on the NFL for their livelyhood. The layoffs have started last friday!As this drags on, more & more people will be affected who are not going to forget how they were treated and taken advantage of especially, in view of the fact that, the fans are paying most of their salaries.We have a vast social media via the internet now and every knows what everyone else is doing or thinking at lightning speed. Millions of people can be energized at the same instant and create a snowball movement affect about any issue of concern.I have been reading dozens and dozens of blogs this last weekend and seen very angry fans growing in dispair at a rate of 15 to 1 against comming back to the NFL with open arms and open wallets.If we lose games, I believe there will be fan backlash, the likes of which we have not seen before.There are many fans who never came back to baseball or hockey after their fiasco, and I was one.It could happen again.

  39. Billionaires fighting with millionaires over who is going to get more of the money…I hope they stay shut down for so long nobody even remembers what the argument was about.

  40. First, the NFL Network needs to work out a deal with Time Warner and other cable carriers to be relevant enough to actually reach their “fans”.

  41. Alright do you really want to send amassage to the players and owners? Here’s how say from april 1st to april 7th,the fans boycot the nfl network both tv and internet and all player websites. let there ratings fall through the floor for just one week just to let them know how pissed we are and maybe just maybe they get the hint.

  42. A lot of players in the league are not millionaires. We need to stop thinking that. yes there are players who make a crap ton of money. Jeff faine said it best, players like a lot of americans live above their means. while that is not a reason to feel sorry for them, the union is looking to protect what the players have already earned. what union is going to give back money that the two sides agreed on in the last cba?

  43. It’s funny. The players union totally buys the point that it’s the owners who made them rich and famous. This is untrue. It’s the FANS who make them rich and famous.

    Consider this scenario. The NFL simply chooses to ignore the current members of the ‘former’ players union entirely, and hires completely new teams, using UFL, AFL and CFL players, plus an expanded draft. They can do this because the NFLPA decertified, I believe. The existing players who have contracts can then either honor those contracts, or fail to report, and not get paid.

    The owners form their 53 man rosters, and the new players form the Football League Player Council, and sign a CBA with the owners, good for 10 years, at about a third of what the decertified NFLPA wanted. No Manning, Brady or Brees. No Revis. No Larry Fitzgerald, and they start the 2011 season. The first few weeks things are a bit rough, but the games count, regardless, and things get better, steadily.

    And at the end…

    Blaine Gabbert throws for 4000 yards, Mark Ingram runs for 1700, and the Ravens beat the Cowboys 35-31 in SB XLV. Gabbert and Ingram are the new darlings of football, and life goes on, with occasional arguments of whether Gabbert is as good as Peyton Manning WAS.

    NFL fame is a one year commodity. Players live on what they did the year…or perhaps two years…before, and when they aren’t playing, the fans find new favorites and cheer for them. Ask Brian Westbrook. Try Shawn Meriweather. Dial up David Tyree.

    The NFLPA, and especially De Smith and his ‘war’, need to figure it out. They’re bluffing, and if the owners call their bluff, they could lose everything, because it’s the fans that give the NFLPA all their influence, and if that disappears, they have nothing left to trade on. The NFLPA can smugly claim they’re the best in the world, but if they aren’t playing, that’s a pretty useless victory, because the guys playing are gonna get all the fame…and eventually, all the money.

    Wake up, players. You could lose it all.

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