The League

Gene Wang
Fantasy Guru

Gene Wang

A sports staff writer at The Washington Post

Cinderella's a Fairy Tale


The Arizona Cardinals' run to the Super Bowl is certainly a compelling story. We can't seem to get enough of the redemption of quarterback Kurt Warner, the emergence of Larry Fitzgerald into the national sporting consciousness and the long-suffering franchise that is making its first Super Bowl appearance.

Yet the NFL would be better served on many levels if the Super Bowl featured the Pittsburgh Steelers against another traditional power, not an upstart. After all, Cinderella is a fairy tale. The NFL is concerned with the reality of profits.

You can bet a high profile franchise like the New York Giants, Dallas Cowboys or San Francisco 49ers, for example, would attract many more viewers than the current matchup. That means more advertising and thus more money for the league.

Let's say Dallas was playing Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XLIII. Games involving the Cowboys are the most watched in the NFL. Pittsburgh games get especially high ratings as well, and the combination of those teams playing in the most watched sporting event in the country is advertising gold.

In this economic climate, even some of the most faithful Super Bowl advertisers have decided not to air commercials during the big game. If they knew, however, that this Super Bowl had the potential to be the most watched program in the television history -- as a Dallas-Pittsburgh matchup could be -- advertisers would have to reconsider strongly whether to keep their checkbooks closed.

That's not to say Arizona-Pittsburgh won't be entertaining. It might even turn out to be one the best Super Bowls in recent memory. But from a simple marketing perspective, the NFL could have gotten better.

By Gene Wang  |  January 24, 2009; 3:24 PM ET  | Category:  Arizona Cardinals , Dallas Cowboys , Gene Wang , Pittsburgh Steelers Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Dude, seriously, what kind of fan actually measures what's "good for the game" by the health of advertising dollars in a given season? It's still a multi-billion dollar profit factory, even if you matched up Detriot and the Jaguars. Fans love the game because they love their teams. And the day the "industry" of the NFL captures your fancy more than your team, then you've stopped being a fan and turned into an dispassionate academic--and nothing would hurt the game more than a world of people approaching it like that. I kind of feel sorry for you for even thinking about it the way you do, Mr. Wang.

Posted by: CRPren | January 24, 2009 8:43 PM

This is precisely what makes the NFL so much better than MLB. The Yankees can buy their way in way more often than would be expected. Except for Boston, nobody else in their division really has much of a chance and so interest dies. Only because of the basic socialism of the NFL can a Green Bay have a team. It is ironic that the most socialistic league is the most profitable because they spread the wealth and thus are more competitive. This whole national fixation with the Super Bowl (originally the league saw that as a derogatory term and did not like it) got started when a supposedly inferior Jets team won in III. That is precisely what it is all about. Granted, the place will probably be 75% black and gold, but that is sometimes true even for Steeler away games. As long as it is a reasonably close game, the ratings will be high. And, given the amount of money in pools etc., they could be high anyhow.

Posted by: TomfromNJ1 | January 25, 2009 8:10 PM

Riiiiight, the NFL is hurting for money... Forgive me if I'm able to sleep at night if the millionaires have slightly less money because the super bowl matchup does not maximize their profits.

Posted by: wwc4g | January 26, 2009 8:51 AM

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