The Super Bowl, a football game lasting no more than a few hours, is six days away and anyone and everyone with sports credentials is flocking to New Orleans like its Jerusalem and Christ Almighty has risen once again.
When you weigh this against Ravens safety Bernard Pollard’s notion that the NFL will cease to exist in 30 years, the only possible course of action is to point and laugh Bernie.
I’m sure Pollard is a smart guy — he went to Purdue, after all — but smart guys have been wrong before.
The NFL isn’t going anywhere. Whether it be 3 years, 30 years, or 300 years, the only two things that could potentially destroy the NFL is, A, the annihilation of earth, or, B, the fall of the United States a la Red Dawn. And even then there’s no guarantee the Russians or North Koreans won’t find the sport amusing and keep it going.
I’m being facetious, of course, but my point is the NFL’s business model is fool-proof and this week is Exhibit A. Super Bowl Week, as it has been dubbed, is an iconic example of the league’s sheer success with brand marketing. If you go on to NFLShop.com right now, you can buy over two dozen hats, shirts, and jackets that have nothing more than the Super Bowl XLVII logo on them. No teams, no players, just the product of the league itself.
And someone is buying all this stuff, mind you. It’s not just the fact that the NFL is selling, it’s that we’re buying all of it hand over fist. We live in a day and age now where the average American household receives nearly 200 channels. It is literally impossible for you to watch all of the television programming in your natural life that airs in just a year on basic cable. And still, on February 3rd at 6:30 in the evening, more than half of Americans will be watching the same channel.
The Super Bowl is the last televised programming around to still accomplish this. Not just in sports, but in EVERYTHING. From the NBA Finals to NCIS, nothing else comes even close.
The league’s overwhelming success in promoting their product has created an inelastic demand for professional football, even when the league itself has lacked institutional foresight. Think about the last 24 months. The NFL has suffered a labor stoppage, a pay-for-performance scandal, concussion crises, and overwhelming criticism that the commissioner — quite literally the face of professional football — continually oversteps his bounds and rules in somewhat of an oligarchical fashion. Through all this the NFL has not only survived but actually prospered.
How? Because Americans crave football. It’s become an addiction. So professional football cannot simply cease to exist. And what exactly, I ask, is going to compete with the NFL? Can another American professional football rise up and compete with the league? Well let’s see, the USFL tried when the NFL was much weaker and couldn’t get the job done, the XFL didn’t even “flash” in the pan and the Arena Football League, to their credit, is still around, but lurks in the shadows like the ugly stepchild no one talks about. Now, the USFL is trying a second go of things, but its plan for success THIS time around is to immediately concede it is a minor league of sorts.
Internationally, there’s the Canadian Football League, but Marc Trestman’s defection is the only evidence you need of how they stand when stacked up against the NFL. Then you go across the pond and the only football (not futbol) organization making inroads there is — oh, look at that — the NFL.
There’s never going to be a catastrophic decline in demand and no competitor has EVER risen up to present a challenge. Unlike AIG or Lehman Brothers, THIS is what is too big to fail.
But if you actually question why Bernard Pollard said what he said, that whole examination of the business of professional football was academic anyway. Look at who Pollard is: a safety (the position most often targeted by the league for the newly-minted illegal hits) with a reputation as a “Bonecrusher” that just got slapped with a hefty fine for the last football game he played in.
Pollard isn’t a newfound Nostradamus, he’s a disgruntled employee.
And don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing Pollard for saying what he said. A lot of his frustration with the new direction of the league holds merit. Concussion epidemic or not, the incumbency of traditional football will always have a cogent argument.
However, that is all Pollard’s comments were about. He didn’t think it was fair that he got penalized (not once but twice if you count both the in-game penalty and the fine) and he gave his dissenting opinion.
ESPN and whoever else can play the blurb all they want, but that’s all it was. Super Bowl Week, like the NFL as an enterprise, is only going to get stronger. In fact, the only guys that aren’t going to be around three decades from now are guys like Bernard Pollard.
Because the human body, like every sports organization past and present, is just intrinsically weaker than the immortal, invincible National Football League.
NOTE: This story was originally published on SportsHead. To read this article and others click here.
When Bryan isn’t writing, he is on Twitter! Make sure to give him a follow @bclienesch for NFL updates and other shenanigans!