Take it from me because I see the Nielsen television ratings every day: NFL football is riding a huge wave of popularity in America. In the first week of play, the ratings are up by double digits, and the games have even taken some viewers away from my news program, which is a complete and utter outrage.
Why are more people watching football?
The first reason is economic: It’s free. Because of the recession, fewer people are going out for entertainment. Instead, they grab popcorn and a beverage and watch huge men run into each other. Simple and inexpensive.
The second reason expands on the simplicity factor. We are living in a time of incredible spin and gross dishonesty in the public arena. Propagandists are everywhere, and they’re spitting out so much bilge it is sometimes hard to even breathe. Football is an honest game. The toughest, smartest team usually wins. There is something pure in the presentation.
As this week’s primary votes prove, Americans are fed up with b.s. Most of us understand that we are being used by powerful forces beyond our control. The country slid into recession because greedy fat cats decided to create risky mortgage schemes, and guys like Congressman Barney Frank, who were supposed to be watching out for bogus investments, allowed it to happen.
Let me ask you something: Had you ever heard of subprime mortgages before President Bush told us they had ruined the economy? I’m in the news business, and I had no idea this giant con was in play. And if I had to bet, I’d say Bush and Frank didn’t understand the situation, either.
Thus, many Americans have developed a bunker mentality and are being very cautious with their money and time. The folks are walking away from flimflam artists and are throwing the bums out with their votes. They want a simple, understandable message. And football is one of the things Americans understand.
The downside, of course, is the brutality. NFL injuries are reaching catastrophic levels. Three-hundred-pound guys running up and down 100-yard fields will yield some brutal collisions. The danger of the game is part of its attraction, and there’s no doubt that a well-played contest is a tremendous escape from the sorry real world. The worse things get the more escape mechanisms are needed. Welcome to the NFL.
But the league should be careful. There is a move to expand the schedule to 18 games from 16. That would lead to even more injuries and carnage. Also, many teams have priced tickets so high that working class folks can’t afford to go to the stadium. Nobody likes to be excluded from something because of money.
So football is flying right now, one of the few beneficiaries of the recession. But what goes up can also come down. In a hurry.