The two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl is the busiest time of the year for the NFL PR Department. It is like that period of American History known as the “Era of Good Feelings” when there were no serious divisions among political parties and folks worked together and got along with each other. In these two weeks – - if you were to believe all that comes from the NFL – - everything is sweetness and light. Come on everyone, sing along:
“Where seldom is heard, a discouraging word,
And the skies are not cloudy all day…”
Except, that is not always the way it is…
In Sunday’s game between the Niners and the Giants, Kyle Williams made two bad plays on special teams. Those two plays provided the Giants with easy access to 10 points and one can argue that those two plays cost the Niners the game. The players and the coaches have said the right things such as “we win as a team and we lose as a team,” or “no one play determines the outcome of a game.” Whether or not they all believe what they said is unknowable, but that is what they said. Now consider what fans said…
Let me acknowledge from the outset that I know where the word “fan” comes from; it is a shortened form of “fanatic”. Nonetheless, according the the San Jose Mercury-News, here are what two “fans” had to say via Twitter:
“Jim Harbaugh, please give @KyleWilliams_10 the game ball. And make sure it explodes when he gets in his car.”
“I hope you, youre [sic] wife, kids and family die, you deserve it.”
Folks, the man made two mistakes in a football game. For that heinous crime, one person thinks the coach should give him the moral equivalent of a pipe bomb and another one thinks it would be a just outcome if he and his family all died. As one might say on Twitter when trying to save space to fit one’s thoughts into 140 characters:
Those sentiments are beyond outrageous. The only marginally rational explanation I might offer is that there is an underground group of Niners’ fans in SF that has decided to seize the reputation of “Football’s Most Boorish Fans” away from the current top contenders for that honor, Eagles’ fans and Raiders’ fans. Recall that there was a shooting at a Niners’ exhibition game earlier this season and another beatdown of a fan in a men’s room. Perhaps that underground organization is signaling to its sleeper cells opportunities to demonstrate world-class stupidity? If you do not buy into that theory, come up with a better one…
I have no idea if the geniuses who penned those thougtlets on Twitter were in attendance on Sunday; but if they were, their presence underscores a problem that the NFL will have to confront. The “fan experience” at the stadium is becoming less enjoyable. It has not yet reached the point where it is repulsive to enough fans that stadiums are only half-full much of the time, but that is not the point at which the NFL has to figure out a way to make some changes.
Interestingly, one of the major ways that most teams have gone to improve the “fan experience” is to install humongous high-def screens in the stadia so that fans can see replays in exquisite detail. All the luxury suites have high-def TVs and just so no one will miss the action while waiting in line for a beer – - or to get rid of the beer that was consumed an hour ago – -, there are more high-def TVs all around the concourses. The league and the owners realize that fans appreciate those amenities.
Recall in the movie 2001 – A Space Odyssey, enlightenment came when the glowing obelisk appeared. The NFL and the team owners have to hope that fans do not encounter the glowing obelisk at one of their new “fan friendly” stadia because the obelisk might allow tens of thousands of fans to put these pieces together:
I see lots of the game on high-def TV here at the stadium.
I have high-def TV at home.
It does not cost me $100 to enter my living room; it does not cost me $35 to park in my garage; it does not cost me $10 for a beer at home.
There are no lines to go to the bathroom at home.
There is no annoying DJ in my living room to annoy me with irrelevant noise and chatter that he thinks is humorous.
Friends and family watching the game with me at home are not likely to beat me down or draw a gun on me.
No one in my living room is likely to be so drunk as to throw up on me.
The glowing obelisk appears…
So, why am I here…?
Oh, and one of these days, the NFL will show up in living rooms in 3-D television format…
In Europe, soccer hooliganism drove some fans away from the venues. Even today with plenty of security presence at European soccer games, you can see empty seats even for some games involving the “top teams”. The NFL needs to find ways to maintain an environment in the stadia that balances out excitement and decorum lest they risk driving their fans away from the games and to their living room couches.
The NFL will only behave in the next two weeks as if the league and the games exist in some modern day version of the Garden of Eden. They would have you believe that all is wonderful and that next season will be even more stupendously wonderful than this year was. However, the Garden of Eden is an apt metaphor here because just as mankind found itself banished from the Garden of Eden, so might the NFL find itself in a much less desirable place. The NFL has a problem and a part of that problem is that its fans are getting out of hand.
Finally, here is an interesting Tweet from Dan Daly of the Washington Times that I came across via Facebook:
“Under the new CBA, I hear, players can’t start dreaming up excuses not to play in the Pro Bowl until they’ve been voted in. #NFL”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………