Los Angeles Times NFL writer Sam Farmer on Sunday examined some of the biggest issues facing the league. While he noted that the league has benefited from great storylines, it also has some problems to tackle head-on.
“There’s an uneasy feeling around the NFL, because although the league is arguably more popular than it’s ever been before, there are also these glaring areas of deep concern about player safety on the field, and the players’ health off the field and after their careers are over,” said Michael MacCambridge, author of “America’s Game: The Epic Story of How Pro Football Captured a Nation.”
“I’m convinced that the NFL gets it, and is working very hard to make the game safer. But if you’re a fan, you have to be concerned about some of the trial balloons that have been floated: an 18-game regular season is not just a bad idea for the people who play the game and watch the game, it’s also totally out of step with the cultural mood of the moment. You want to believe that the owners are guided not only by revenue figures but also the greater good of the game.”
Farmer recalled some of the recent rule changes, but also brought up some recent suggestions that might or might not make the game safer. He also noted the tension that exists between the NFL and the NFLPA over player safety.
“It’s a two-way street, and that’s why the NFL and NFLPA need to work together,” said Jed York, chief executive of the 49ers. “Because if you don’t work together on those things, then you just have a fight that doesn’t resolve anything.
“There has to be an honest conversation — not a negotiation — but an honest conversation of, is there HGH in the NFL? If there is, let’s make sure that guys aren’t putting themselves at risk. We need to sit down and solve this problem. We need to make sure it’s a level playing field for everybody. We’re doing that with steroids, with narcotics and things like that. We need to address the next level of performance-enhancing drugs.”
The NFL and NFLPA might have achieved a breakthrough this month on HGH testing, with both sides saying they would be amenable to the type of testing done in Major League Baseball. But the league and the union have been close to such an agreement in the past before digging in, firing salvos at each other, and failing to put a testing plan in place.
And the article also pointed out that more fans are staying home to watch games on TV while ticket prices continue to increase.
The New York Jets charged an NFL-high average of $117.94 per ticket this season, and the next four most expensive teams — New England, the New York Giants, Chicago and Dallas — all charged an average of more than $110 per ticket.
“We’ve gotten to a point where it really hurts to go to a football game,” MacCambridge said. “I’ve been to a couple stadiums where, and think about this, this is your first contact with a team. You’re coming there because you love the team, you want to root for the team, and your first contact with the team is: parking $30. You’re not even in the stadium yet, and you’re already out 30 bucks.
“The league does not want to be in a situation where the only teams that sell out are the teams with winning records. Then you don’t have a healthy product.”
– Bill Bradley, contributing editor