I committed a cardinal sin of writing yesterday … oh wait. I do that all the time. Up on the right above it says something about the difficulty of being concise. It takes work, and with blogging writing is throwaway stuff, seen once and forgotten. So I don’t put much effort into it. Anyway, my sin yesterday was writing about more than one topic in a post. I started off writing about football and gambling when I really wanted to write about that sociopathic monster. I’ll get better at blogging. I’ve only been at it eight years now.
But I started to write about when I was young and in Billings and when we went to the horse races, drank beer, and when the horses were coming down the stretch if we had bet a winner, our brains were just lit up with excitement. For a measly $2 bet. Later I read that the sensation we experienced, the combination of beer and gambling, is the same nerve center lit up by cocaine.
Not too long after that I was the guy in charge of the office football pool. All we did was pick winners, and the person who got the most right won $30 or so. Again, small stakes, but we watched football as if there were a huge stake involved. A little bit of gambling goes a long, long way.
I have talked to a few people now about the Seattle/Green Bay game, and we are all in agreement it was an amazing athletic performance, but each person I talked to also mentioned the bet he made, taking the points, giving the points. Football is about four things, maybe in order of importance: gambling, drugs and alcohol, advertising revenue, and the game itself. That last item is in the right spot. The first three, I am not sure.
I watch a couple of talk shows on sports now and then, and have picked up a couple of insightful remarks. One had to do with the games that were broadcast from London earlier this year. The commenter, whose name I’ve forgotten of course, said that the league does not care if fans actually go and watch the games in London. What they want is an early morning Sunday game to go with the three others, so that Sunday from 9 AM to 9PM is all football. The NFL understands television.
On another occasion someone mentioned that perhaps 7% of NFL fans had ever actually been to a game. I have been to games in New York City, and found them boring. It was hard to see the action, half the time at the other end of the field, and the wind was freezing cold. The players spent an inordinate amount of time with helmets off just standing and talking. TV ads were playing.
Football is made for TV. TV is owned by advertisers, everything else secondary. Get a group of people with jobs and money in one place, and advertisers light up like they are high on cocaine. It should come as no surprise that the Superbowl is an advertising celebration more than a football game. They are spending hundreds of millions on those ads, which have become an event.
Back in the early 90s I was invited to join a new gambling enterprise called “Fantasy Football.” With a friend I formed a “team” of players we “drafted” and then “played” other teams each Sunday to win maybe a couple of hundred bucks at season’s end. By luck of the draw I was given the first draft pick, and so took Joe Montana. Our team did not do well. But eventually I ended up being the “league commissioner.” Each Monday morning I had to gather the stats off the sports pages and put out a sheet showing winners, losers, scores. I did that for two years, and burned out.
And dumb as I was, I thought that perhaps the NFL was not keen to the fantasy idea. After all, it was turning the game into a gambling spectacle. Little did I know that the NFL invented the idea. Football was already popular, but fantasy football took it to yet a new level. As Green Bay fan, I wanted to see their games. As an owner of a fantasy team, I had a stake in just about every game shown on TV. I now had a reason to watch football all day every Sunday. That is all Fantasy leagues are for – a way to get people to watch more games, out-of-market games.
I gave it up, and now only watch some football, usually with an iPad or a book in my lap. If I am interested in the outcome of a game, I record it so I can fast forward through the ads*. If I am really bored, I can fast forward between plays too, as a game is really only about 18 minutes of action.
As I watched the crowd reaction to Seattle’s impressive win, I realized that they were experiencing that rush I experienced watching horses – gambling fueled by alcohol, probably other drugs too. This nation is not addicted to football. It is addicted to gambling. It is like cocaine. That is all the NFL is – a gambling vehicle.
*The NFL has to be concerned about fast-forwarding through ads and must be working on ways to get people not to do that. Here’s one I heard about recently: Texting. People are chatting about the game as it goes on with their mobile devices, and so have to stay in real time. Clever, eh? By power of suggestion, I expect texting to be part of each Sunday’s religious experience along with the booze, the gambling, the advertising, and – oh yeah, almost forgot – football.