Thursday, August 8, 2013

Why We Love Football - Kickoff 2013

Pre-season NFL action is in full swing and die-hard fans can't wait until the real season begins in a few weeks. What is it about the NFL that attracts millions of people to tune in every week of the season? Why do fans, like me, become so addicted to the pageantry and spectacle of the NFL? Here are five reasons:

  1. Colors: Each team has a unique identity that's instantly recognizable by rabid fans. Whether its the hallowed Silver & Black of the Raiders, the deep Purple & White of the Vikings, or the iconic Aqua & Orange of the Dolphins, NFL fans are attached visually to the teams that they cheer for. Connection through color is reflected in the painted toenails, iPhone cases, and other self expressed manners of NFL fans. While every player on the field wears a helmet, cleats, and pads, what makes them different are the colors on their uniforms. The Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines color as "...a phenomenon  of light (as red, brown, pink, or gray) or visual perception that enables one to differentiate otherwise identical objects...". Personally, I'm more than partial to the Red & Gold of my beloved Niners. 
  2. Drama: NFL games that are competitive are truly must see TV. A tipped ball, fumble, or penalty in a hotly contested game can lead to severe heart palpitations for viewers. In less than a second the emotional fortunes of fans can go from euphoria to despair.
    All fans have been sucked down the elevator shaft of a painful loss. Niner Fans experienced it after last season's Super Bowl. Raider fans still reflect on the Tuck Rule game. And if you are a fan of the Buffalo Bills, losers of four straight Super Bowls in the 1990's, well, I know that you are still  hurting. Drama and aftermath are key elements in our addiction to the game. 
  3. Stars: Successful NFL Players become highly visible marketing machines that line the coffers of corporate America. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but the mega stars of the league become idolized demi-gods embedded on our cultural psyche. Peyton Manning is on just about every commercial during the season. Years ago, that valuable space was held by none other than O.J. Simpson who at one time was one of the most admired men in America. Go figure. Here in the Bay Area everybody is koo koo for Kaepernick,the Niner's young superstar quarter back. 300 days ago he wasn't even starting for the Niners. Today, his jersey is the hottest selling jersey in the league. The NFL knows how to create stars and that is another reason for our addiction.
  4. Sacrifice: Fans feel great after a win. We high five each other and talk smack the next day at work. We don't really think about the physical sacrifice that the players put themselves through every Sunday. Injuries are real and can be catastrophic to the young men who fly around the field with such great abandon. Here is a typical example of one team's injury list after a regular season game last year: sprained knee, pulled groin, torn hamstring, neck sprain, dislocated finger, and hip contusion. This team played sixteen games last year so you can speculate that the team suffered about ninety-six injuries during the year. There are thirty-two teams in the league, and each one had about the same amount which equates to approximately 3,072 injuries during an average season. The men of the NFL truly leave it all on the field, body and spirit. Why are we attracted to that? Because of big hits! The violent clashes around the ball keeps us glued to the set. Is this attraction a holdover from some primitive need for blood sport? Probably. 
  5. Gambling: It's no secret. NFL fans love to gamble on the sport. CNBC estimates that $80 - $100 billion dollars are bet illegally each year on NFL games. According the the Nevada Gaming Commission another $1.1 billion dollars are bet legally on the NFL. That's a LOT of money flowing through the economy. Wagers on NFL games can intensify the drama of an outcome by ten fold. Point spreads are readily available leading up to the game. Parlay cards are common in barber shops and sports bars across America. While the League puts gambling at an arm's distance, and openly lobbies against states that explore allowing legalized gaming, it depends on the subculture of wagering which brings tremendous exposure to the product that they're selling. 

These are some of the reasons that keep the NFL in the pantheon of sports in America. And as the season begins I want to wish all of the fans a successful year for their team, unless they're playing the Niners.

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