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Posted by on Nov 14, 2008 in Media | 11 comments

How the NFL Network is Destroying America

football.jpgEver since the National Football League made the self centered, cash grabbing decision to launch the NFL Network, fans of various teams around the country have had to resign themselves to the idea that, for at least one week out of the season, they would be robbed of a chance to support their team. This week it was supporters of the New York Jets and the New England Patriots who were forced to take their turn in the barrel. Last night’s battle pitted two historic rivals who were tied for first place in the AFC Eastern Division against each other, both having a legitimate playoff shot. The game turned into an action-packed shootout, with regulation play closing out on an incredible touchdown pass by the Pats just as the final seconds ticked off the clock, sending them into overtime. The Jets managed yet another charge down the field under the generalship of Brett Favre, setting them up for a game-winning field goal.

Of course, if you were one of the millions of football fanatics in America living in an area where your cable company doesn’t carry the NFL Network – or if you happen to be one of the even larger number who refuse to pay blackmail funds for access to eight Thursday night games per year – you didn’t see it. In the eyes of the NFL, the fans are no longer the reason for the season. The game isn’t played for its ardent supporters in each franchise today. Those fans are seen as nothing but a revolving ATM which the league management will try to raid for as much cash as they can and as frequently as possible. The already bloated fat cats at the NFL have worked to strong arm the nation’s cable companies into carrying their network (charging them premium fees to do so) and putting the channel on the basic service rack. The cable companies, not wishing to allow these corporate bullies to hustle them out of business, are left with three choices. They can not carry the service at all, (the choice made by my provider) charge extra for the channel as a premium service, or jack up everyone’s rates for basic cable to cover the pound of flesh demanded by the League.

Even the most devout fans are unlikely to want to shell out additional cash each month for a service which they will possibly watch on eight Thursday nights during the second half of the regular season. And one can only imagine how happy non-football watching households (there are a few left, you know) will be about having their rates jacked up just so this largely irrelevant slot shows up in their cable directory. Small wonder that many cable companies are willing to simply pass on it and put up with the occasional howls of protest from subscribers during the one week when the home team gets targeted this way. (You can see some typical reactions from fans here.)

And please, don’t even get me started on “other alternatives” such as watching the game live at the website. Here’s one fan who already put it much as I would. (From the previous link.)

Yes, if you don’t mind them constantly cutting to three talking heads in a studio.. even when the game is going on. 3 pontificating idiots, not even really talking about the actual game itself. It was the most frustrating experience in the viewing of sports. You’re better off streaming a local radio station in your team’s market than being stuck listening to three clowns talking over the game, not letting you watch the game, because the idiots need camera time.

The NFL seems to be testing the waters to see if they can move closer and closer to making professional football into a pay-per-view event. You can see how well that worked out for boxing. If the NFL can’t manage to control the costs of their operation and the outrageous spending and salaries of the individual teams, this isn’t the problem of the fans, and we shouldn’t have to pay for their errors or their greed. The year of the great baseball strike injured that sport’s reputation severely and they never fully recovered. If the NFL wants to go down the same road, it’s their decision, but it’s also a sad day for a great American tradition.