The NFL is a Pile of Boring.
Our long national nightmare is almost over.
The NFL season is almost upon us.
Too bad it is unspeakably boring.
Make no mistake, the NFL is a money-making beast. A ratings monster. Recession-proof weekly reality TV. By pretty much any measurement, it is the king of the sports landscape.
But it lost me years ago. I was a hardcore Eagles fan as a kid, segued into serious fantasy football after college. Eventually, I had kids, and I lacked the time to follow football closely enough for that fantasy league. I pulled back a bit, joined my sister’s Yahoo fantasy league. Doesn’t take a lot of effort, a bit of fun.
But for me the NFL has become like a casino: nobody really wins but the house.
NFL fans like to extol the great, defining characteristic of the NFL: each year, any team can win, because each team has the same resources to manage over time. This is called parity. It means that if your team is a stinko 5-11 this year, hey, they can win it all next year! But that is hardly the virtue it is touted to be. It means that Seattle or Kansas City has the same chance over time to win as every other team. It means that Jacksonville can field as talented a team as New York.
It means … the teams are no real reflection of their cities. You could take any team’s roster, swap it with any other team, and the chances for winning in the next five years don’t change. Fans, in the age of a hard cap and free agency, have learned to root for the “laundry”.
Nowadays, two factors dominate in determining how talented a team will be: the front office and luck. Let’s assume luck is fickle and blesses and/or screws everyone equally over time. So your front office’s ability to manage salaries and recognize talent is the single contributing factor to success. (Coaching helps, but talent will swamp coaching every time.)
Don’t I wish Jerry Jones was free to spend as he could; maybe the Cowboys could be a dynasty again. I’m not sure money could solve the dysfunctional Raiders, but it might. And so on.
I’m sorry, but if I go to see a production of Hamlet on Broadway in New York City, I expect it to cost more than Hamlet in Seattle. I expect it to be better in New York too. New York, not to disparage Seattle, is a bit … more.
In baseball the Yankees and Boston have more resources to expend than everyone else. Tampa Bay can win, sure, but New York, Boston, and other big city teams ought to contend every year. New York and Boston are bigger towns and have more fan dollars to work with. (A more interesting question regarding baseball involves things like the long darkness the Dodgers endured until recently, and tragic underspending by teams. Cubs fans, I am sad for you.)
But in the NFL? Heck, if Toad Suck, Arkansas could get an NFL franchise, with the TV money guaranteed they could contend in five years! And where are the rivalries? Since the playing field is so level, don’t worry: you’ll beat your big rival. About half the time. If your GM is any good. And you’ll lose to them too, about half the time. If their GM is any good.
And that makes the NFL a gambler’s dream, but a joke on the sports fan.
Go ahead, root for your team. Eventually it will be your turn to win, and you can pat yourself on the back that you or your city had some role in that. But the house is just taking your money.