If the NFL wanted to improve the preseason, it would make games more accessible to fans
So the NFL preseason got under way over the weekend with the Hall of Fame Game between Dallas and Cincinnati (the Titans’ opener is this Saturday at Seattle).
That means the annual uproar over the fact that such contests are: A) meaningless; B) boring; C) don’t feature enough of the “real” NFL players; D) all of the above has started.
The NFL exhibition season has become the sports world’s version of the health care debate. Nobody’s happy. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, seems to think it’s a good idea to cut the preseason in half — to two games — and increase the regular season to 18 games. Goodell’s reasoning is that such a change would satisfy the best interests of the fans because it would give them more value for their money every time they come to an NFL stadium.
It’s clear he intends to push this agenda as the league and its players negotiate their next collective bargaining agreement.
Here’s a thought, Rog: You want to take care of the fans? I’m talking about the real fans here, not the corporations that buy the high-dollar seats and dole them out to clients; not the club-level set who know more about tax law than blitz protection.
If that is indeed the goal, then keep the schedule as it is, only take the preseason games out of every team’s season ticket package. Then offer every seat to every preseason contest to the public at large at reasonable prices, say $10 up to about $50 for the best seats in the house.
That way, fans (again I’m talking real, hardcore supporters here) who otherwise have no opportunity to see a game in person actually can take their kids to the stadiums and get a sense of NFL football.
It’s obvious the everyday folks are clamoring for any opportunity to get a little closer to their teams. How else to explain the fact that hundreds, sometimes thousands, file into MetroCenter on a daily basis to watch the Titans practice? The exact same thing goes on in other cities around the league.
Those people are likely to stay for the entire game and soak up every minute they possibly can. When they do, it will look better on TV (sports always look better with people in the seats), and they will continue to buy concessions all the way to the finish, which helps offset some of the money lost to the discounted tickets.
See, there’s something in it for the league and the owners as well.
Still, the real benefits are for the average fans, who will return to the front of their television sets every Sunday beginning in September. Just imagine a father taking his son or daughter to LP Field for the first (possibly the only) time and pointing out the sideline Kevin Dyson raced down during the Music City Miracle. They could look down on the field and talk about the type of player Steve McNair was or all the things Bruce Matthews and Eddie George and Keith Bulluck did. If they’re lucky, they might even get to see Chris Johnson rip off a touchdown run during his brief appearance.
Goodell is concerned with the value of the preseason? Make it available to those for whom the regular season is out of reach, welcome them into the stadiums and let them see the players do what they do.
Chances are, they would consider such an experience priceless.