The Times Promises To Explain “How the NFL Stays So Popular, Despite Its Many Scandals”

It doesn’t. But I can.

As the football season approaches, the New York Times muses about why television viewership for the NFL last season was its strongest in six years, the television networks committed about $110 billion for the rights to show the league’s games for the next decade, and how the NFL can be on track to meet Commissioner Roger Goodell’s goal of earning $25 billion in revenue annually in 2027. After all, the game and its players were once again engulfed in scandals during the off-season:

Among the incidents the league contended with this off-season:

  • The N.F.L. fined and suspended Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross after an investigation found he tampered, though it absolved him of accusations that he deliberately tried to lose games, saying he didn’t mean it when he suggested the idea to his coach.

  • The Buffalo Bills released the rookie punter Matt Araiza after he was accused of rape in a lawsuit, but only after they had already handed him the starting job despite some knowledge of the accusations.

  • Three Black coaches accused the league of racial bias in an ongoing lawsuit.

  • Henry Ruggs, a former Las Vegas Raiders first-round pick, has been charged with four felonies, including D.U.I. resulting in death, after prosecutors said he killed Tina Tintor, 23, when he drove his car 156 miles per hour and rear-ended her.

  • New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara will go to trial later this month on charges that he punched a man eight times at a nightclub the night before the Pro Bowl in February….

Wait! There’s more!

  • Deshaun Watson, a star quarterback, was suspended and fined after two dozen women accused him of coercing them or behaving lewdly during massages.
  • Britt Reid, a former position coach for the Kansas City Chiefs, is scheduled to plead guilty to driving while intoxicated in an incident that severely injured a child after Reid left the team’s practice facility.
  • Dan Snyder, the owner of the Washington Commanders, spent much of the summer on a yacht, seemingly dodging a subpoena to testify before a congressional committee that is still investigating his franchise for a toxic workplace.

Ah, what a fine example pro football gives to the young of America! Such fine role models in its players! Such dedication to good citizenship and ethical values!

That was sarcasm. In fact, the NFL is a primary cultural ethics corrupter, aided an abetted by the TV networks, the gambling industry, colleges and the companies that eagerly use the games for marketing. Note that I didn’t even mention the worst of the NFL’s ethics rot, its continuing lack of concern for the health of its players whose brains the game is slowly destroying.

With all of that, the Times conclusion about why the NFL maintains ist hold on the culture is, as they say in the NFL, a punt:

The N.F.L. and football, in 2022, are deeply embedded in American culture. It is not merely a game or an entertainment option, but a ritual, a way people connect to their families and communities, a way they identify themselves. It is a unifying institution in a country that has fewer and fewer of them left. The game is deeply American, which perhaps better than anything else explains its hold on society despite a litany of problems.


This should be a cognitive dissonance scale slam dunk…

If the public cares about ethics, as in having a culture that encourages and supports good and productive behavior, then that value would be extremely high on the scale. Plus 100. Plus 1000. What is more important that a just and virtuous society? If pro football’s flagrant lack of concern for ethics were seen in a rational perspective, then the NFL’s would popularity would drop like a stone. In truth, however, it is football that is plus 100 or higher on the positive end of the scale. Ethics is barely in positive territory, if it registers at all.

The NFL maintains its popularity and profitability because, at their core, the vast majority of Americans don’t think about ethics very much, and when they do, they don’t do it very seriously, very long, or well.

5 thoughts on “The Times Promises To Explain “How the NFL Stays So Popular, Despite Its Many Scandals”

    • If bread and circuses killed the Roman state, she would have died before Gaius Octavius had time to become princeps. Unless one assumes that Rome fell not in the 5th century A.D., but in the 2nd century B.C., when the brothers Gracchi and their populist policies began to take hold, including a permanent grain dole for the impoverished, urban citizens of Roma.

  1. The NFL maintains its popularity, quite simply, because it has no direct competitor for professional American football. College American football is extremely popular too, but is organized in a way that makes it developmental to feed players to the professional leagues, for which, there is only 1 stable option.

    Another reason NFL maintains its popularity is the limited number of games and high stakes of each game, the cooling off after the Super Bowl for half of the year, and the build-up to start a new season. It’s a boom and bust cycle of anticipation, excitement, stress, relief, and calm.

    In summary: American football is popular in America and thus the NFL is popular as a monopoly of professional football and great marketing. Even when the XFL makes its 3rd go of it in the new year, it will have an extremely difficult road to become anything other than background noise.

  2. I’m still going with gambling as a big measure of why it’s popular. I’m including fantasy leagues in the guise of gambling. Between the office pools and fantasy leagues, a good chunk of people don’t really care about the game itself. They just want to know how their player/team did for their league.

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