The NBA And The UFL Today …

The defending champion Denver Nuggets are in deep trouble in this year’s second round of the NBA playoffs.  It’s not just that they lost last night or that they are now down 2-0 in this series against the Timberwolves despite playing both games at home.  The champs have a bleak reality to face:

  • One of Denver’s stars – – Jamal Murray – – is either injured or totally discombobulated.  He shot 3 for 18 from the floor in last night’s loss and struggled to get open.
  • The Nuggets’ bench was basically AWOL in last night’s game.  Other than Justin Holiday who hit a bunch of 3-point shots, the rest of the Denver subs scored a total of 10 points and grabbed a total of 7 rebounds in a combined 41 minutes on the floor.
  • The Nuggets managed to score only 80 points in last night’s loss despite the fact that the Wolves’ best defender, Rudy Gobert, sat out the game.

The Nuggets have – arguably – the best player on Planet Earth on the team in Nikola Jockic; so, it may be premature to count them out.  However, the Nuggets looked like a beat up Chevy last night and the Wolves looked like a Ferrari.

Switching gears and sports …  I have not watched an entire UFL game so far this year, but I have watched parts of several games.  From those bits and pieces, I have a few generic observations to share:

  1. The quality of the play is not quite at the level of games involving the elite college teams.  I suspect that “deficiency” is not due to a lack of talent on the field; I suspect it is because the UFL teams have had much less time practicing and playing together than top-shelf college teams have.
  2. The UFL defenses are ahead of the UFL offenses.  Half of the league teams average fewer than 20 points per game; one team averages only 14 points per game and that team is not winless in its 6 games.  To some degree, football fans have been conditioned by the NFL to expect to see explosive offense; if the UFL is going to capture a significant part of that audience, it needs more offense.
  3. Attendance is spotty at best.  Some of the games I have seen take place in “full-sized football stadiums” meaning the sparsity of the crowd is magnified.  The team in St. Louis – – the Battlehawks – – leads the UFL in average attendance in the first six weeks of the season; the Battlehawks draw about 35,000 fans per game which is outstanding for the young league.  However, the other seven teams average only about 10,000 fans per game and that is bad for the league in two ways.  That means seven teams do not generate a ton of “gate revenue” and that means that any televised action in those seven venues makes it clear to viewers that this product is not “the in thing.”

Both FOX and ESPN have equity stakes in the UFL.  That does not mean the league cannot possibly face insolvency, but it does mean that there are some deep pockets involved in ownership that could allow the league time to set down roots.  But from a TV perspective, the UFL has to find ways to get more people in the stadiums to convince a few viewers to come out and spend a springtime afternoon taking in a UFL game in person.  I have often mocked weeknight MAC games for their lack of attendance and interest; some of the crowd shots for UFL games show even sparser attendance.  There have been field goal attempts shown where the caption on a still screen shot could easily be:

“Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse…”  [Hat Tip: C.C. Moore]

Here is an idea for the league to consider.  It is not a new idea; it has been done before.

  • The UFL should consider “wallpapering the house”.  It should throw a celebratory party at the venue of its network televised games and then anyone who attends the party can see the game FREE.
  • If all the league can expect is 10,000 paying fans at a game, it might be better in the long term for the league to forego that chunk of ticket revenue today in order to try to create “juice” for the league games that then translates to larger game attendance and larger TV audiences.

Just a thought…

I don’t want to give the impression here that all is gloom and doom with the UFL in its inaugural season.  Actually, some of the data show that the UFL is pretty healthy:

  • The televised games average audiences of more than 800,000 viewers.  That is a larger audience that SVP gets for the late-night SportsCenter; that is a significantly larger audience than First Take or Get up! draws; that is more than double the audience for Pardon the Interruption.
  • The league following on social media sounds impressive to someone like me who is not heavily involved in social media.  The UFL has more than 4 million followers over the spectrum of social media networks – – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc.

Finally, Ambrose Bierce lived and wrote in the latter part of the 19th Century, but this observation might have some resonance today:

“The gambling known as business looks with austere disfavor upon the business known as gambling.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………



6 thoughts on “The NBA And The UFL Today …”

  1. These Nuggets don’t resemble the NBA champs from last year. I am VERY surprised.

  2. In 1960, New York Titans owner Harry Wismer declared the fledgling AFL franchise had averaged over 16,000 fans in attendance per game. To which the New York press stated that most of those fans came disguised as empty seats.

    Just look at the AFL today. John Madden would be proud.

    1. TenaciousP:

      Note that Wismer’s Titans basically folded when they could not make payroll in the early days of the AFL. The Jets’ freanchise could not/did not draw flies in NYC until they drafted and signed Joe Namath.

  3. 2024 Me: “Hey defending champion Denver Nuggets are down 2-0 in the NBA finals to the Minnesota Timberwolves!”

    1996 Me: (spits out coffee): “The defending what are down to who?…”

    1. *playoffs – I didn’t mean to say “finals,” but I still stand by the concept of the comment…

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