The League

Mark Maske
Staff Writer

Mark Maske

Writes the NFL News Feed blog

Violence Equals Success

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I have always thought that the NFL's enormous popularity was based on a few key factors.

First, the league has a brilliant business model. By sharing revenues to the degree that the teams in the league do, the NFL keeps its clubs on relatively even financial footing. It's not baseball, with the New York Yankees opening the season with a $200 million player payroll and the Florida Marlins at $20 million. No, a franchise in tiny Green Bay, Wis., spends roughly the same amount on players that a franchise in mammoth New York does, and no team has the luxury of being able to outspend its mistakes. Fans in every NFL city can begin each season with mostly realistic hopes that a championship is within reach for their team.

But it's not just that. It's also the inherent nature of the sport--the violent inherent nature of the sport. All sports serve on some level as metaphors for warfare--two pretend armies clashing on a pretend battlefield. In football, the metaphor is more apt because the game itself is so violent. There are collisions. There is a toll taken on the bodies of the participants. Football is the perfect sport for television, in part because the cameras and microphones allow us to see and hear the collisions, up close and vivid and loud.

Former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue used to tell people that football wasn't about the violence. It was about the drama, he would say, of following a team or following a player trying to overcome contrived adversity. But he wasn't quite right. The violence is part of the attraction for fans.

Roger Goodell, the current commissioner, was right to send a memo to players and coaches this week threatening severe penalties for anything that happens on the field that poses an injury risk to a player. The league was right to suspend Buccaneers cornerback Elbert Mack for a game for his helmet-to-helmet hit on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan during an interception return in a game last weekend. The game should be made as safe as possible for players. But it never will be completely safe as long as it's about blocking and tackling. And that, whether the participants or fans are willing to admit it or not, is part of the reason why people find it so compelling to watch. There's no two-hand-touch football league out there pulling in $3.7 billion a year in national TV revenues, is there?

By Mark Maske  |  September 19, 2008; 12:50 PM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I use to love football, I just cant stand to watch it anymore, tired of watching these guys make millions then go out after the game and get DUI's and drug chargesYou just cant believe how many of these guys have DUI's and criminal records But they can play ball, Seems to be the only thing relevant anymore. www.duistar.com

Posted by: Gregg | September 19, 2008 5:54 PM

Goodell is going to kill the golden goose with this sissy stuff.

Who cares if some QB gets his brains scrambled? It's a collision sport.

Posted by: Baltimoron | September 20, 2008 12:11 AM

>>>And that, whether the participants or fans are willing to admit it or not, is part of the reason why people find it so compelling to watch.

Change that to ..."some" people find....and oyu might have a point. But that would mean your entire article was just a waste of space...which it largely is. No multi-billion two hand touch league...but to date I haven't seen where the NFL allows players to carry weapons or try to kill others off camera or away from the refs...so it isn't about the violence, Mark. Please shut up...find something you know about to blog your way through.

Posted by: PanhandleWilly | September 20, 2008 8:43 AM

Hey Gregg, here's an idea, why don't you mind your business about "watching them go out and get a DUI and drug charges"

How in the world do you let your enjoyment of a sport be ruined by minding the private lives of athletes-You weren't a big sports fan to begin with.

Gregg, do you like NASCAR? Seems one of their drivers was competing while high on heroin, has an NFL player has ever done that? It seems as though only the NFL and NBA players are the only one who generate this ..." I hate (these sports) and I'm never watching again harrummpph!!!"... hmmmn...

Sorry Gregg, it just this constant standing on soapboxes by people such as yourself can drive me crazy, you're not perfect, nor am I, we just don't have people creating phony news stories when we go to strip clubs and throw money at the ladies.

Posted by: ArmchairGM | September 20, 2008 10:50 AM

Its not the violent hits that do the most damage to players. Violent loud hits can stun you but usually the blow is taken by the pads. Its the quiet hits and the sneak attacks from down low that end seasons and careers. Except when Joey T's leg snapped. I bet that was loud!

Posted by: will_ga | September 20, 2008 12:05 PM

Is it not obvious that most contact sports are a metaphor for war? Enjoy it.

What is disturbing to me is when advertisers and an a-moral
corporate hegemony take an innocent diversion (football) and so efficently package / bloat/ amplify/ distort/ agrandize the sport that it takes on a sad super-sized importance in the psyche of the audience ( ie Mr. "Sissy" Baltimoron).

I don't mean to be a joy killer here but I know televised sport fans, friends of mine, who consume this mind-numbing /male bonding/beer fog/ Dodge Ram buying/ fake tit cheerleader- lusting
stupidness and are duped into useing this entertainment as a replacement for an awareness of real deal life.
I mean, there is a REAL WAR and there are
REAL spleens and intestines and legs and brains being splattered out there!
Fuck injured players, they knew what they were getting in to. And fuck the NFL.

Posted by: Bruce Allen | September 20, 2008 8:55 PM

I loved pro-football as small boy. Jerry Kramer's autobiography was great pleasure. I watched (wasted) Sundays before the television instead of playing sports myself. I tried to play high school football, but 5'8" and without any speed, what was the point?

I attended the Big Ten school with the winningest record in history. Not following the season was considered "trying to be different".

As an adult I have come to enjoy playing sports and enjoy watching those sports occasionally. I still hope my university will make to the Rose Bowl but I also feel that football is a waste. Why do we encourage kids to play a sport that they most will stop playing the age of 18. Most never make it on to a high school varsity team. The sport causes tons of injuries to the legs that you need to run, walk or hike on for a life time.

Basketball, tennis and swimming last a life time. Football is a deadend.

Posted by: earthling404 | September 21, 2008 2:19 AM

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