#nfl

Eric Kester has a good yet balanced take on the current state of the NFL (not only was Kester a ball boy in the NFL, he played college football) in an op-ed today. His best bit:

A sniff of my salts would revive the player in alertness only, and he would run back onto the field to once again collide with opponents with the force of a high-speed car crash. As fans high-fived and hell-yeahed and checked the progress of their fantasy teams, and as I eagerly scrambled onto the field to pick up shattered fragments from exploded helmets, researchers were discovering the rotting black splotches of brain tissue that indicate chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Known as C.T.E., this degenerative disease is the result of players’ enduring head trauma again and again. Symptoms include dementia and extreme aggression, and C.T.E. is considered at least partly responsible for the string of recent suicides of former and current N.F.L. players, whose anger, sadness and violence eventually collapsed inward.

As with everything, this isn’t as black and white as it may appear to some. But it’s just really hard for me to see how this game exists in its current form in 20 years. We’re basically cheering as giant men destroy themselves before our very eyes — both physically and as a result, mentally.

Dawn Chmielewski:

Bose secured a league sponsorship deal that effectively allows it to elbow Beats — and any other rival headphone manufacturer — off the playing field.

Under terms of its agreement with the league, the NFL confirmed, Bose received a broad set of rights that entitle it to prevent players (or coaches) from wearing any other manufacturer’s headphones during televised interviews.

There should be a term for this nonsense. An “on-the-clock-block”? Just thinking out loud here.

This is a classic example of a company paying up so they can appear to be “winning” (or maybe more apt: “not losing”) rather than actually innovating and winning legitimate market share. See also: the NFL’s deal with Microsoft to use Surface tablets to block the actual and natural use of iPads.

Bill Simmons, Weasels, and Jackals

A week later, I still find myself thinking about ESPN’s suspension of Bill Simmons. The fact that it’s based on what was said on a podcast. The fact that Simmons is now effectively muzzled and can’t say a word about the suspension (he can’t even use his own Twitter account, let alone podcast). The absolute insanity of the suspension being longer than Ray Rice’s original suspension. The whole thing.

Amy Davidson brings up a couple good points. First, on the situation itself:

Simmons’s anger is absolutely earned. Goodell’s denial is absurd; as I’ve written before, what did he think it looked like when a football player knocked a woman unconscious? (Note that Simmons is saying that he lied about knowing what was on the tape, not whether Goodell saw it himself.) There are a few levels of dishonesty here: when Goodell hears that a player—a man whom he watches on the field every week using the force of his body in violent collisions—has hit a woman, and says that he just can’t picture the mechanics of that action without a video, how many lies is he telling, to others and to himself? Perhaps in other cases, when players choked women, shot them, or dragged them by the hair, he needed a sort of animated diagram.

It’s pretty simple, really. Goodell, and by extension, the NFL, has taken what is a serious, sad, and bad situation and has obfuscated it in trying to save their own asses and hiding behind technicalities. Like weasels.

Second, specifically on Simmons part here:

Maybe Simmons was deliberately looking for ESPN’s limits; if so, he found them. What does it mean, anyway, for a journalist to be suspended? Simmons presumably won’t be able to write his columns, appear on television, or record his podcasts. But he still might be asking questions.

Whether he was doing it on purpose or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that ESPN was foolish to suspend Simmons for this. Whether they’re acting as the hand of Goodell here or not, it appears that they are. That’s all that matters. It has destroyed their credibility.

It’s interesting to think that Simmons was smart enough to know exactly how this would play out — that he would goad ESPN into suspending him and that it would elevate the firestorm even further as a result. Regardless, he comes out of this looking great, while Roger Goodell, the NFL, and ESPN all look like conspiratorial jackals.

But it also puts Simmons in a precarious situation when he returns from suspension. Does he continue on with business as usual? Can he? Won’t it look like ESPN (and again, by extension — rightly or wrongly — the NFL) ultimately “won”? That money continues to talk?

It would seem like the perfect reason for Simmons to break away and re-start Grantland (he’ll undoubtedly be blocked from using the name) on his own? Maybe he has a non-compete (I assume so). And there are probably a half dozen other reasons why it would be hard for Simmons to leave ESPN (aside from the large amount of money they pay him, of course). But doesn’t he have to now?

By forcing ESPN’s hand (for the right reason) did he force his own?

Ashley Burns:

Hell, the Microsoft Xbox even showed up as the sponsor of last Thursday’s NFL Kickoff Concert in Seattle, as Pharrell and Chris Cornell put on shows for the fans, who were undoubtedly hypnotized by the endless barrage of product placements. So you’d think that with all of that money spent on getting the Surface in front of our faces that the NFL would have sent out at least one memo to the networks to make sure that this specific sponsor was mentioned by name. If anything, someone might have written “Please don’t call it an iPad!” and emailed it to the announce teams.

If that did happen, Fox’s John Lynch didn’t get the memo, because he went ahead and called the Surface tablets “iPad-like tools” during yesterday’s Saints-Falcons game. Whoops.

$400 million well spent by Microsoft. It just goes to show you: you can buy placement, but you can’t buy mindshare.

Meg James:

Overall, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN and DirecTV are paying the NFL more than $5.5 billion for TV rights deals this year. That’s a 22% increase over last year, media analyst Michael Nathanson of the MoffettNathanson research firm wrote in a report Friday.

Still plenty of money (and life) left in television, apparently. I just wonder how long this lasts? I imagine live sports (and the NFL in particular) will end up as the last stronghold for traditional television. This may not happen anytime soon, but nothing lasts forever.

If television advertising ever starts to dwindle, even slightly, how fast does the NFL shift the focus to other means? Fast, I imagine.

And how long until we see one of the online players (Netflix, etc) strike one of these deals as well? I’d bet on sooner rather than later.

Benny Evangelista:

Each team will have 13 Surfaces on the sidelines and 12 in the coaches box. The league owns and operates the tablets, which run on a secure wireless network. The devices will be locked in a temperature-controlled cart between games to prevent any team from manipulating the information.

I can’t believe Microsoft would let the NFL release the total Surface sales data for the quarter already.

And:

The league’s competition committee placed restrictions on the Surface tablets: They can display only still images, not video, and they won’t have Internet access.

There’s an Internet Explorer joke in here somewhere as well.

Last link on the Browns for a while, I swear. But I’m fascinated by the Johnny Manziel pick. A few other tidbits from Darren Rovell:

Team president Alec Scheiner told ESPN.com that, in the time since Manziel was selected through 5 p.m. ET Friday, the team has sold more than 2,300 season tickets.

"We know right now that every one of our games is going to be sold out for next season," Scheiner said.

And:

A higher percentage of televisions in Cleveland were tuned into the ESPN broadcast for Thursday’s first-round coverage than in any other market. An astounding 20 percent of all tweets related to the NFL draft on Thursday night included Manziel, according to Poptip, an analytics tracking firm.

Why this matters:

The Browns, who haven’t won more than five games in any of the past five seasons and haven’t won a playoff game since 1994…

I was 13 years old.

Naturally, it’s not all good news for the Browns this week.

James Vlahos:

By the opening kickoff of the Super Bowl, sports books in Nevada are expected to crack $100 million in wagers, the most that has ever been bet on a single game.

There is no greater unifier in American culture than professional football, which is followed by 68 percent of men and 42 percent of women — Republicans and Democrats in equal numbers. Game telecasts accounted for nine of the 10 most-watched programs in 2013, and the previous three Super Bowls were the most-viewed television programs of all time in the United States.

Crazy stats from a must-read on the state of sports gambling — which, I agree, is fueling the continued rise of the NFL at this point. I happened to be in Las Vegas during the AFC and NFC Championship Games last week, it was absolute mayhem. In every casino. Everywhere.