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NFL, College Football Playoff ratings and what the media is missing

The NFL ratings have dropped, while CFB Playoff ratings are up, what gives and why isn’t this a story the sports media is harping on?

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American college campuses are bastions of liberal thought and practice these days, a fact few dispute. Yet, when it comes to the sporting world college football seems to get what the NFL doesn’t — politics equals bad business.

One doesn’t have to look any further than what took place over the first full weekend of January 2018 to see that.

How so?

Well, the ratings are in from both the wildcard weekend in the NFL and the national championship game for college football and they tell two very different tales.

On the one hand, the NFL saw a dramatic drop in its playoff viewership, as in a 14 percent drop versus last year alone in the Wild Card round alone.

The news only gets worse when you consider easily the best and most recognizable game of the weekend also was the worst of the bunch in terms of ratings drop — Carolina versus New Orleans.

Yes, losing the Green Bay-New York matchup is a big deal to the ratings, but of all the matchups on the weekend Carolina-New Orleans was the one with the most national name recognition and even that couldn’t save it from the biggest drop off year-over-year.

Cam Newton versus Drew Brees couldn’t draw? Seeing the most exciting offensive rookie not playing QB in a long time couldn’t draw? Seriously?

If that’s the case, the NFL has some major problems (and HINT: they clearly do).

Things didn’t get better for the divisional round of the playoffs either, as they hit lows not seen in a decade including all three games in the same time slots down over last season and way down compared to 2016.

Ratings for the divisional round of the playoffs were down a whopping 16 percent year-over-year, but the only media outlets to really cover it were those that report of sports TV ratings. That should tell you something fishy is going on here.

On the other hand, the All-SEC national championship game for college football drew a massive crowd and a huge increase. Ratings were UP 10 percent compared to last season when Clemson defeated Alabama in another regional matchup.

Yet, outside of reporting the raw numbers for both of these big events few in the mainstream sports media world have connected the dots.

Which begs the question why haven’t they?

Is it because it flies in the face of their leanings politically? Is it because it flies in the face of the narrative that the ratings decline isn’t politically motivated and they can’t give up on the investment made over the past two years? Or could it be a third thing all together?

It’s hard to argue the point that at the very least on-field political activism isn’t a driving force. All things being equal, how do you square ratings dives for the professional version of the sport and ratings boosts for the college version with any other explanation? The professional version is seeing declines while it’s not tamped down on-field political activism while the college version has largely kept a lid on the on-field actions and it’s the latter that’s seeing ratings multiply instead of decline.

There’s also a good case to be made that there’s a large investment in a narrative formed two years ago by a lot of people in sports media. Their coverage of the protests were a huge draw and controversy means more clicks and thus more advertising pennies in the pockets of those that are running media outlets. But, admitting the narrative may have been wrong would mean discrediting two years of work, and that certainly isn’t a good look.

As for that third option thing, there are few theories out there.

Timing? That can’t be the case. All four NFL games were played on the weekend devoid of college football. The College Football Playoff national championship was played on a Monday night, where plenty of eyeballs are tempted to go elsewhere on the TV dials, yet it increased its viewership from a season ago.

Lack of interest? Maybe that’s something to look in to, especially in the case of Buffalo-Jacksonville or Kansas City-Tennessee. It isn’t as if those four fan bases can be found all over the country in droves (although KC and Buffalo fans are pretty easy to spot in a major city near you). But, is that enough to give the full disparity we see in ratings?

Even the third rail options seem flimsy at best. With all the options considered, it’s simply insane to deny that the different measures in which political activism by players have been handled between the two sports matters.

Yet, here we are on the week of AFC and NFC championship games and a quick Google search pulls up just one article on the issue — from Clay Travis at Outkick The Coverage.

I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, as Travis has been on the NFL ratings decline like his fans have been on CNN trolling them on New Year’s Eve (seriously, it may be the best on-air NYE troll job I’ve ever seen).

But, I digress.

Let me clue you in to something about myself that should help explain everything the NFL should be taking note of as to why fans are leaving at a clip of 20 percent over the past two seasons.

First off, I’m a diehard Green Bay Packers fan and have been since my birth on November 10, 1981. Yes, I’m 36 years old and yes, I’m a 36-year-old who has never in his life missed a single Packers game viewing for a regular season matchup.

That’s 558 regular season matchups and another 36 playoff games for a total of 594 games seen for the Green and Gold to date.

I’ve grown up remembering and living in the late lean years of the mid to late 1980’s (when the NFL was king in places like Wisconsin and hardly anywhere else on TV yet believe it or not). I also grew up more on the highs of the 1990’s Packers and then the awesomeness that was being an adult and celebrating my team’s victory in Super Bowl XLV.

I also used to be a junkie for any and every NFL game that would be on after the Packers. Put me in front of the TV, watch whatever NFL game was on next no matter who was playing and I’d find a way to be entertained. The NFL is what got me hooked on sports, but it was my gateway drug in to a life obsessed with sports in general.

Sunday’s were for football from noon to bedtime in my house. PERIOD.

Fast forward to this season and I have still tuned in to every Packers game, agonized over Aaron Rodgers’ injury status (maybe even shed a tear and said a prayer for a speedy recovery) and cheered my team to a bitter (and I mean bitter) end.

I also can count on one hand the number of other NFL games I decided to take in in full this year. Simply put, I’ve enjoyed my Sunday’s watching football as a refuge from the real world, a chance to escape and just enjoy teams competing against each other on the football field and that fun and relaxation has been taken away from me.

It’s not just the protests, but it’s also the way they’ve been covered and the harping on political activism during broadcasts that’s been really annoying. There are amazing stories to be told around the NFL, but media outlets have chosen to highlight politics as its bet to driving viewers.

That has worked — in the opposite direction that many thought it would though. It’s made a weekly ritual turn in to something that’s just not fun anymore.

The philosophy so many others, and I subscribe to is really simple, yet the NFL managed to bungle it over the last two years. It goes something like this:

You, the player, can certainly use your famous name and celebrity to affect change for whatever cause you want. Just do it on your own time, not while a football game is to be played — kind of like the rest of society checks political theater and protests at the door of their office every Monday through Friday. Work is work and as an athlete your work is to play football for 16 Sunday’s a year.

Where have the questions about the games gone? Instead, you can tune in to SportsCenter every night and see interviews at locker rooms or practice facilities look like they belong on CNN or Fox News. Who wants to see that while they try to escape the political divide that bombards us everywhere else in life?

An even deeper dive in to the comparison between the NFL and college football suggest a very big problem for the professional (at least out about it) version of the sport.

Take a look at what ratings were like for the two College Football Playoff semi-final games and the picture for the NFL is very bleak in terms of viewership indeed.

According to ESPN’s release of the final ratings numbers, the 2018 Rose Bowl featuring Georgia-Oklahoma was a massive draw. It drew a combined 26.8 million viewers between its coverage on ESPN and ESPN2, while the Sugar Bowl featuring Alabama and Clemson drew just 21.1 million.

Both of those numbers are better than anything the NFL wildcard weekend put together this season and only the Green Bay-New York matchup last year topped the Alabama-Clemson matchup from the college ranks this season.

So, what really gives here?

It’s hard to draw any other conclusion than how these two seemingly similar products have handled political activism while playing the game matters.

Partners of the NFL and college football are certainly aware of what the dichotomy between the two has done to their bottom lines. Reports have indicated that ESPN and other NFL partners are losing nearly $500 million in advertising revenue alone.

But, the only response from the NFL and its partners has been to hide what has been happening on the field in the hopes of it going away. The broadcasts have gone from panning shots of protesting players during the national anthem to not a single mention of them happening even when they continue to this day.

It’s as if the protests never happened anymore after about Week 4 or 5 of the 2017 regular season. Yet, anyone in attendance in person could still see those protests happening and after a season and a half of weekly protest shots the damage was done. Who exactly are the NFL and it’s broadcast partners fooling?

The Genie is out of the bottle and it isn’t fitting back in anytime soon, at least not without the NFL and the media admitting what the real problem is and working to regain the trust of those it has lost.

Will they get the message after this dismal season of ratings or will it be too little, too late for the once king of sports ratings?

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Veteran of the Digital Sports Media world, with work featured on Fox Sports, ESPNU and other outlets. Previously employed at Bleacher Report, The Comeback and FanSided. Consumer of sports media and member of it since 2011, you can find me still beating the drum of independence and truth in sports coverage.

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Nick Bosa in trouble with sports writers for having the wrong opinions

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The Social Justice Sports Warrior has struck again. This time, the offender is potential top NFL draft pick Nick Bosa.

His crime? He had three old “takes” surface from his Twitter account after he went through and deleted them.

Those three takes? Apparently he didn’t care for Black Panther, believed Beyoncé’s music was “trash” and that Colin Kaepernick was a “clown.”

But even worse, he had the audacity to support Donald Trump and more conservative-leaning commentators as well.

Immediately the SJSW’s sprung to action, because those opinions are wrong and they can’t stand. In fact, Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman took action long before Bosa deleted the tweets.

How dare Nick Bosa have an opinion and express it via Twitter!

Does anyone else see the hypocrisy in the SJSW’s here? Most literally make a living off of stating opinions on Twitter and in front of whatever camera they can get in front of.

Should they be shamed and publicly flogged for anything that steps out of the SJSW orthodoxy? Well, look at what happens to Jason Whitlock on a regular basis.

This self-important group of writers and talking heads won’t stand for someone else speaking their opinion? How strange and hypocritical of them.

There’s a difference between debating the merits of what someone said and the public shaming of someone for daring to have a different opinion than yours.

It’s gotten so bad that in anticipation of the wokest city in the NFL, San Francisco, having its team draft him, Bosa found it necessary to even consider having to delete his former Tweets. He admitted to it in an ESPN interview recently.

It may be a smart move in terms of crafting an image, but this is the internet age and it isn’t going way — especially if you are one to step out of the orthodoxy.

Bosa’s opinions were so wrong to the SJSW crowd that deleting them is a crime too.

So, the lesson here is to not step out of the bounds of thought that the SJSW’s deem okay or they will pounce. You must think, act and talk like them or they will get you no matter what you do.

An apology…not good enough.

Deleting the “offending” tweets? You’re just hiding that you’re a racist.

Literally, there is no path to redemption if you step out of the thought spectrum of today’s sports writers and opinion makers.

Let this be a lesson to everyone. EVERYTHING you say on social media can and will be used against you if you don’t agree with the mob.

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Why the sudden obsession with Julian Edelman as an NFL Hall of Famer?

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Just stop it…stop it right now.

Stop the talk of Julian Edelman as an NFL Hall of Fame player.

After last night’s Super Bowl LIII performance the glowing reviews came in and Nate Burleson told the world that Edelman just cemented his Hall of Fame career.

Edelman racked up 10 receptions for 141 yards en route to helping his team win the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in the history of the game. Tom Brady completed just 11 passes to players not name Edelman in the win too.

His performance got the attention of ESPN’s Adam Schefter too.

But, the Super Bowl MVP isn’t a Hall of Fame player, he just isn’t. Ranking 148th in receptions and in the 250’s in receiving yards is not Hall of Fame worthy.

Sure, his 115 receptions for 1,412 yards, plus five touchdowns in 18 career playoff games are amazing numbers to put up. But, are they a sign of his overall greatness or just the fact that he’s been around long enough to accumulate postseason stats few players would be able to?

The Washington Post points out that even the great Michael Irvin couldn’t put up those kind of postseason results on the stat sheet. Irvin put up 87 catches for 1,315 yards and eight touchdowns in 16 playoff games during the Cowboy’s run in the 1990’s.

Yes, the New England Patriots spread the ball around and yes there’s something to be said of longevity.

But, the Hall of Fame isn’t an award for being on the right team for the longest period of time. It’s supposed to be about individual greatness throughout a career.

If we are going to award people a bust in Canton based on a few snippets in time, then there are about 100 other players who deserve to be in the Hall of Fame.

In fact, look at some of the names who have recently been elected to the Hall of Fame from the last decade or so and I’d have serious questions about just how special making the Hall of Fame is anymore.

Kurt Warner comes immediately to mind in this discussion. He’s in and he is one of the statistically worst quarterbacks in the Hall of Fame. But, he did have some great years with the Rams and Cardinals and two Super Bowl wins seems to be the

But, I haven’t even gotten to the biggest strike against Edelman yet — his four-game suspension for taking performance enhancing drugs. Given the age we are in, getting popped for PED’s is a big no-no and should disqualify one from Hall of Fame consideration as it is.

Beyond that, let’s just consider how the NFL’s Hall of Fame has treated some of the best players of all-time in the past.

Let’s just remember, it took Jerry Kramer, arguably the greatest guard in the NFL during the 1960’s and a member of a team that won 5 NFL championships in 7 seasons, until 2018 to make it in to the Hall of Fame.

Leroy Butler, one of the most revolutionary safeties, has not sniffed the Hall of Fame. Same for names like Shannon Sharpe or Steve Tasker as wide receivers.

In fact, Tasker is perhaps the best mirror for Edelman’s career. He was the spark plug and key component to the Buffalo Bill’s AFC dynasty in the 1990’s thanks to his special teams acumen. He played a very different role than a star receiver would and his contributions in post-season play were key in getting the Bills to four straight Super Bowls.

He’s not in, neither are names like Alex Karras or Tony Boselli just to name a few.

Yet, we’re supposed to believe Edelman is in over these historic contributors to the game?

It should be difficult to get in and the regular season numbers should matter too.

Edelman has carved out a niche as a clutch player in big games, but that’s not a reason alone to put him in the Hall of Fame…at least by the standards the hall has given us to date.

Now, if you want to argue the Hall of Fame needs to change its thinking, that’s a different discussion for a different day.

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The Undefeated uses questionable polling to advance Kaepernick narrative

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What is Super Bowl LIII’s prevailing narrative? No, not Tom Brady’s ageless wonder. No, not Jared Goff’s sunshine good looks. No, not the fact that the Patriots once again made it to the Super Bowl. No, not the Rams refreshing offense and new-age take on NFL football.

If we’re take The Undefeated at its word, the biggest story surrounding the Super Bowl is Colin Kaepernick…of course.

On the eve of the Super Bowl, ESPN’s bastion of woke sports takes has this as it’s main article on the site: “Kaepernick rarely speaks but still dominates every NFL conversation.”

Because of course…everything in the woke world of SJSW has to be about the king of protest and wokeness in sports today.

But, is Kaepernick really the dominant discussion in the NFL these days?

Literally, the only one’s talking about Colin Kaepernick when it comes to this Super Bowl are the folks at The Undefeated and their SJSW ilk.

The Undefeated has decided to prove their article true with a poll. That poll states 77 percent of blacks (their word, not mine) believe Kaepernick is being penalized by the NFL for his political stances. It also says 59 percent of whites (their word, not mine again) believe the same thing.

Those numbers are certainly interesting and they certainly bolster a public that has bought in to the narrative of the league blackballing him. It’s something we’d love to see come out in the lawsuit, one way or the other.

But, it is also important to understand the poll and how serious we should take it.

The rub? Naturally, the poll was done by the scientific geniuses at SurveyMonkey. To make matters a bit fuzzier, The Undefeated won’t publish a link to the poll’s findings nor how the poll was set up.

Add in the fact that we don’t have the actual question that was asked in the poll in the article and something doesn’t smell right.

If ever there’s a sign of something fishy it’s commissioning a poll and never bothering to release anything beneath the surface findings. It’s almost as if they don’t want us prodding in to their methodology or their conclusions from the poll.

However, that would just be a distraction from the narrative they want us all to believe in.

Proof of that came in NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s pre-Super Bowl press conference earlier today. The SJSW’s gathered in Atlanta just had to make it about Kaepernick, despite very little actual news happening in his ongoing lawsuit against the league.

Goodell, who is part of the named parties in the lawsuit, attempted to walk a careful line in what he would say about the matter.

“I’ve said it many times privately, publicly that our clubs are the ones that make decisions on players that they want to have on their roster,” the commissioner said Wednesday.

“They want to win, and they make those decisions individually in the best interest of their club.”

Naturally, the wokeness on Twitter came immediately and unflinchingly after Goodell’s words on the matter.

But, that’s what happens when it’s all about click-bait journalism. Instead of being able to simply present the facts and let us make a decision, they’ve hidden data that is important to make an informed decision about the matter before us.

How are we supposed to trust the numbers of a poll that they won’t even bother to even give us a sample size for, let alone the full polling data set?

We simply don’t have an answer to the question this article is supposed to be asking because The Undefeated wasn’t even honest enough to publish it’s poll.

Publishing an article that creates more questions than answers can be a good tactic…if you are creating questions about the subject of your article and not your own methodology.

But, this continues to prove why woke sports reporting can’t be trusted these days. It’s clearly narrative over journalistic integrity and transparency for the SJSW’s at The Undefeated.

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