Got cable, satellite? You’ll foot the bill for Fox’s Thursday Night Football

Super_Bowl_LII_logo
Wikipedia

How many of you watched the Super Bowl this year? Of course, in Philadelphia, that’s a loaded question with the underdog Eagles in the game and beating the seemingly perennial winners, the New England Patriots.

Same thing in New England. Their team was in the Super Bowl and they don’t get sick of Tom Brady nor Bill Belichick. They watch.

But what about the rest of America? Apparently two thirds of Americans did not watch. And this was the Super Bowl!

Thursday Night Football logo

Imagine how that would translate to Thursday night National Football League games, known for having bad matchups and also being available on the NFL Network and streaming, besides being broadcast on a local TV station.

Fox Sports

But three weeks ago, Fox decided to pay a fortune — $3.3 billion for the rights for five years, and expanded digital highlight rights — and the money it’ll cost is going to trickle down to you and me.

Thanksgiving

Let’s talk schedules, the reason and then the money.

Starting this fall, Fox will broadcast 11 games each season from week 4 to week 15. That won’t include Thanksgiving night when you’re eating with your family shopping or resting up to work at midnight on Black Friday.

ESPN reports when Thursday Night Football went to the networks in 2014, CBS paid the NFL just $37.5 million per game for only eight games. Same story the next year, in the 2015 season.

Then, for the past two seasons, NBC joined CBS. They each broadcast five games for a total of ten, at a cost of $45 million each.

Now, ESPN sources say Fox will pay an average of more than $660 million a year. Divide that by 11 and that makes $60 million per game – a big increase over the past four seasons and 33 percent more than the latest. Amazing number!

money x 33

Is that price increase worth it? It depends who the buyer is.

In 1994, Fox arguably overpaid for Sunday afternoon NFC-away games in order to get better TV stations to secure it as a reputable fourth network.

money x 5

(Not many remember Fox trying to take Monday Night Football from founder ABC back in early 1987, even before it started programming. That didn’t work and it took until 1994 for Fox to get an NFL package. Oh, and five times as much money as CBS would bid!)

Monday Night Football ABC

These days, Fox doesn’t have much of a regular Thursday night lineup. The NFL would draw viewers.

Are NBC and CBS upset about losing the rights? No, according to CBS CEO Les Moonves. He says he’s not worried because CBS has The Big Bang Theory and Young Sheldon instead. Also, Sunday games are much better than Thursdays because they’re exclusive. Thursday night games can be seen on The NFL Network and also streaming.

A CBS Sports spokesperson was more specific:

“We look forward to continuing our terrific long-term partnership with the NFL on Sunday afternoons with more than 100 games per season (Lenny: many in markets where the home teams are playing) including next year’s Super Bowl LIII.”

Speaking of streaming, the price to do so recently increased fivefold, according to ESPN.

Amazon Prime logo

“Amazon paid $50 million this past season to stream the games on Amazon Prime, up from the $10 million Twitter paid in 2016,” it reports. “Rights for the upcoming season have not yet been sold.”

money x 5

So you can say it’s “1st and goal” when it comes to the NFL and Thursday night streaming rights.

Miami Dolphins twitter

Now, look back to 1972 and the Miami Dolphins’ perfect season. At the time, the NFL regular season only had 14 games over 14 weeks. Monday Night Football was only in its third season. Otherwise, football fans were left to Sunday afternoons.

These days, the season has 16 games over 17 weeks. Economically, more games should lessen demand.

On top of that, Thursday nights mark a regular third night of football (before Sunday and Monday), along with early and late Sunday afternoon games.

Plus, ESPN reports players don’t care for Thursday Night Football. Games on so many days cuts down on their time to rest up, recover and stay healthy. And as a side note, just last month, I wrote about how hits and concussions have literally killed former NFL players, years later.

ESPN logo

The last NFL schedule expansion was in 1987 when ESPN started carrying some Sunday night games. It was the first time the NFL aired games on cable and they only took place in the second half of the regular season. Two years later, the NFL added games on TNT in the season’s first half. TNT aired those games until 1997, when ESPN took the whole season. Like today, games in each competing team’s home market also aired on a regular TV station, so the games were not cable-exclusive but close. But the arrangement ended after the 2005 season.

nbc sports cbs sports

That’s because NBC had no football for seven seasons and was desperate to get it back. It had lost AFC team away games to CBS, which itself had been outbid by Fox for NFC team away games.

Fox TV stations

Part of Fox’s reason to spend so much in 1994 was to take TV stations in big-markets with (mostly) NFC teams and make them affiliates of the new network that would air the games. Fox eventually bought those stations (but STILL doesn’t tell you what it owns on the Fox Television Group website) and sold about half.

ABC Sports
Not “Reaching New Heights” as Wang Chung might sing — but this brand is history and the ESPN name is in.

Back to the story. In 2006, Sunday Night Football moved to broadcast TV, on NBC, and Monday Night Football went the reverse.

Cable network ESPN took rights from sister-broadcast network ABC, which came up with the idea in 1970.

That didn’t mean a new night of football but Sunday night games became especially popular since they air on the most-watched night of TV, they follow other games on CBS and/or Fox but most importantly, the NFL considers Sunday Night Football its featured game of the week.

Sunday Night Football NBC

NBC was given flexible-scheduling for most of the second half of the season, meaning it can “steal” regular Sunday games from CBS or Fox that are better than what was on its original schedule, and the whole country can watch.

cbs fox

When that happens, NBC will tell the league at least 12 days (two Tuesdays) before, and move that CBS or Fox game to NBC. However, CBS and Fox can “protect” five Sunday afternoon games over six weeks, weeks 11-16. Also, the league can move games between 1pm to the more-watched 4pm ET slot.

For the last week of the season, games are decided just six days earlier, so match-ups with major playoff implications could air in as many cities as possible.

football

Now that you understand that, Thursday night games were actually added back in 2006 and air on The NFL Network, so the NFL could push cable and satellite companies to carry the network very few people were able to watch (and thus charge the subscribers more, which is the crux of this post).

But that’s history. It was really an eight-game package: five Thursday nights and three Saturday nights. More Thursday games were added in 2012.

It wasn’t until 2014 that Thursday Night Football got real recognition. The NFL decided to let a network produce the game – which would air on The NFL Network — but let the producing network simulcast some of the games. That’s what CBS did in 2014 and 2015, and NBC joined to split the Thursday package in 2016 and 2017. The contracts for the rights were short.

Until now.

Fox network

That’s when Fox decided to pay a fortune – much more money – for a longer period of time, over five years.ABC

There are several reasons, which may or may not turn out to be right.

21st Century Fox plans to sell off most of its assets to Disney/ABC, although Philadelphia-based Comcast/NBC had really “offered substantially more” – maybe $10 billion – according to Philly.com.Rupert Murdoch wikimedia commons

 

But it said last Monday, The Wall Street Journal reported Fox boss Rupert Murdoch “was concerned that a Comcast deal would be opposed by U.S. regulators and instead opted for the lower Disney offer.”

Besides a lower price, that would pretty much leave the so-called New Fox with its network, the TV stations it actually owns, and cable’s Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network. That’s it.

Add the Thursday rights fee of $3.3 billion to the cost of producing all the games, estimated to be even more than that, and you wonder how Fox will pay for it all.

That’s where you and I come in.old tv sets

For years, if a TV station wanted to appear on a cable or satellite company’s lineup, then the cable or satellite company would have to pay the TV station. Otherwise, the TV station could take away the right to carry it, the station would not air on the cable or satellite company’s lineup, the viewers wouldn’t be able to watch it, both sides would blame each other, and finally there would be a secret agreement and our prices would go up.

tv airwaves

That happens all the time.

But the TV station doesn’t get to keep all that money the cable or satellite companies pay it. The networks figure they’re the reason the TV stations are worth so much to the cable and satellite companies, and demand their share in retransmission fees.

comcast new 595x227

In December, I wrote about Comcast starting to charge more just days before Christmas. Comcast is in a unique position. It’s a cable company, it owns the NBC broadcast network, the TV stations owned by the network and various cable channels.

Also, it used to be that a network would pay its affiliates in every city to carry its commercials (which kept them in business), and the programming that surrounds them (that attracts more people to the commercials and therefore more money). That has been completely reversed and it’s called – of all things – reverse comp, meaning compensation. The stations now pay the networks.

networks

And when a network decides to pay for a special event, it asks its affiliates to help out.

That’s what Michael Nathanson, at MoffettNathanson, predicts Fox will do, according to TVNewsCheck editor Harry Jessell: demand extra bucks from its affiliates.

NFL Logo

Peter Rice, president of 21st Century Fox, said, “NFL football continues to be the most valuable commodity in all of media.”

Yes, ratings may be lower – down 9.7 percent this season after an 8 percent drop in 2016, according to ESPN – football may be available at more times, over more weeks and not even exclusive anymore, but there’s nothing else that brings America together like NFL football these days. That’s worth a trifecta: viewers, attention and money.

squeeze money

So Jessel reports Nathanson’s thinking is Fox will demand more money from stations in cities with NFC football teams because they air on the local Fox affiliates most Sundays.

He also says it can happen to stations in AFC markets because Thursday night games have teams from all over competing, not mostly the NFC but nearly equally the AFC.

That means Fox stations can expect a call from the network demanding more money for providing better programming – especially in cities with NFL teams – and that may not be so bad, considering what Fox airs on Thursday nights these days? (Do you know?)

Sports Illustrated reported Thursday Night Football is the No. 2-rated show in primetime.

And where will these stations get that extra money? Sure, selling ads for higher prices, but also demanding to charge your cable or satellite company more when its contract is up — Fox will insist they do — and that will raise your bill.

girl watching tv

It has been estimated cable and satellite companies pay ESPN about $6 per month per subscriber. Think about what your cable or satellite bill is. Do you watch ESPN? Would you be willing to go without it and save $6 every month? If your answer is yes, then do you have a choice?

Jessell calls ESPN “a network that forces people who have no interest in sports to heavily subsidize it.”

It’s the same story here, but on a much lower, local level. We may be talking about a quarter – 25 cents – every month for the local station if Fox gets Thursday Night Football. Check out your bill and see what you’re paying for local stations (as a whole) every month. And while you’re at it, see what it costs to get your regional sports networks.

And besides calling on stations, New Fox — much smaller after selling what it plans to sell — needs to make money somehow.

It has two possibilities and is reportedly looking into both.

First is to air as many live events as possible. Scripted sitcoms and dramas are expensive. Live programming, especially sports that’s also expensive, is supposed to draw viewers.

Second is to buy more stations. A TV station used to be a license to print money. That’s not the case anymore, with so much competition and paying networks instead of getting paid by them, but life isn’t so bad.

sinclair broadcast group

Sinclair Broadcast Group – the largest TV owner in America – has been waiting to buy Tribune Broadcasting, which is also one of the top TV station owners in the country.

sinclair before tribune
Sinclair without Tribune, from http://sbgi.net/tv-stations/

If the $3.9 billion deal goes through, Sinclair will have to sell off some stations because the Federal Communications Commission (public airwaves) and Justice Department (antitrust) ownership limits. Also, Sinclair and Tribune already own stations in some markets and compete, so the combined company would own multiple stations in one city.

Tribune Broadcasting Company

Fox wants to buy some of those stations, Sinclair will be forced to sell, and New Fox will have the money from selling so much to Disney/ABC.

LATE-BREAKING NEWS: Variety is reporting Sinclair plans to sell off Tribune’s New York WPIX-TV (CW) and Chicago’s WGN-TV (independent) if the merger is approved, despite wanting to continue filling the map of the U.S. (above). The company filed that with the FCC yesterday. That would leave out two of the three largest broadcast markets in the country based on population. (New York is #1, with 6.4 percent of the nation’s households; Los Angeles is #2; and Chicago is #3 with 3 percent.) Also reported to be spun off instead of taking part in the merger is San Diego’s KSWB (Fox affiliate).

However, there is concern that in the filing, Sinclair said it has buyers for New York and Chicago, and it intends to run the stations through an “options and services agreement” with those buyers. Media watchdog groups have long criticized Sinclair for using shared-services agreements to control stations without owning them, which they see as a loophole around the FCC’s ownership rules.

Sinclair did admit there are eight cities — including Seattle, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Oklahoma City — where it needs to sell a station to comply with FCC rules on the number of stations a single owner can have in a given market. But again, Sinclair said it has buyers for Seattle, Oklahoma City, and Greensboro, N.C., so it can continue operating those stations after a sale.

On the other hand, Sinclair also made a case it should be able to own more than one of the top four stations in Harrisburg, Indianapolis and Greensboro, N.C.

Ajit Pai fcc wikipedia
Ajit Pai (Wikipedia)

If all that sounds complicated, you should also know last April, FCC Chair Ajit Pai — appointed by President Trump — pushed his agency to loosen rules letting TV station owners “greatly increase the number of stations they own,” according to The New York Times. Then, a few weeks later, Sinclair announced its deal to buy Tribune. Coincidence? The new rules made the deal possible.

Last week, The Times learned from New Jersey Rep. Frank Pallone and two congressional aides, “The top internal watchdog for the F.C.C. opened an investigation into whether Mr. Pai and his aides had improperly pushed for the rule changes and whether they had timed them to benefit Sinclair.”

People strongly opposed to the mega-deal argue it would reduce the number of voices in media and diminish coverage of local news.

Seattle Seahawks

So Fox wants to buy more stations and number one is KCPQ, its Seattle affiliate in the home of the NFC’s Seahawks, and where Sinclair already owns a competing station.

Other NFL cities where Fox doesn’t already own a station are the next biggest possibilities. Keep in mind, we don’t how how the late news of Sinclair’s FCC filing and the FCC’s inspector general’s investigation could change or stop things.

I never understood why Fox has insisted on buying station in NFL (especially NFC) cities. Back in 1994, it made sense. It made a network. But consider this: NFL teams play 16 games per year, unless they make the playoffs.

NFL playoffs

Preseason doesn’t count. Those rights are usually bought locally. Not all of the NFC games air on Fox. Not when an AFC team comes to town. Not when the game is on Sunday or Monday nights, or Thursday night until now.

And a competing station can be the local team’s “official station” even if its network doesn’t carry the games. That means special promotions with the team, greater access and maybe a show with the coach. Not too bad.

memory

So will all this work out for Fox? What about your cable or satellite bill? You just read about a lot of variables, and when the Thursday night contract ends and the number crunchers have their say through the 2022 season, the NFL’s other TV rights will be up for grabs. This could greatly determine the price of them then. And don’t forget all the other sports out there, out for rights money!

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School out, Eagles’ championship parade on!

I really didn’t know what to make of school districts cancelling classes for a parade and celebration for Super Bowl LII champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s probably because I’ve never been in this situation before.

And it’s certainly historic, not just for me but for everyone around here. The Birds have won championships before, but not the Super Bowl, as we’ve known it for the past 52 years. According to Wikipedia, they won NFL Championships in 1948, 1949 and 1960.

The School District of Philadelphia will be closed.  So will all administrative offices.

Superintendent Dr. William R. Hite explained, “The excitement of the Eagles first Super Bowl victory is a once in a lifetime event. For this reason we have decided to give our students, teachers and their families the chance to witness history.” #EaglesGreenSDP

no school

So will Archdiocesan high schools and parochial elementary schools in Philadelphia, although the Archdiocese said it was because of “projected city street closures and heavy demands on public transportation.”

But it didn’t end there.

“In order to permit members of all our school communities to participate in this celebration, Archdiocesan high schools in the suburban counties will also be closed,” the Archdiocese continued.

Also to be closed, according to KYW-TV: the Upper Darby School District, the Mantua Township School District, Temple University, the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University.

Philadelphia City Seal

But not just schools. The city announced,

“All Philadelphia municipal government offices will be closed. … These closures include Philadelphia Park and Recreation’s recreation, environmental, and older adult centers. All Courts and Philadelphia Courts offices will be closed. If you are scheduled for Jury Duty … do not report for service. You will be rescheduled at a later date. All critical Court services are expected to remain operational. Philadelphia City Council has cancelled its stated public meeting for Thursday. Trash and recycling pickups are suspended on Thursday.”

So there will be significant travel delays. Look for detours and especially slowdowns everywhere even close to the parade route: Broad Street (no cars in the median!) from the stadiums up to City Hall, and then the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the Art Museum (across the street from me) and its Rocky Steps.

Maybe the schools SHOULD be closed. There won’t be any way to get around. Also, if the teachers, students and other employees won’t be there, then it’s not worth having a day of school. I don’t know if the testing pressure is as intense here as it is in Florida. (Days before the test count because learning can take place. It doesn’t matter after students have already taken the test.)

But why have class if nobody will be showing up, and any lessons will have to be repeated? Why spend money paying substitutes under those conditions? I’m comparing it to the Jewish holidays.

And since this is so historic as I explained above, shouldn’t children be part of it and have something to remember? I didn’t get that privilege at least twice, while growing up.

Due to bad decisions, when I was in kindergarten and it (barely) snowed in Miami, nobody took us outside. (You can do research and math if you’d like. You’ll have to work for those details!)

And when my parents and grandparents got to visit one of the most important Jewish/Yiddish writers of the 20th century — Isaac Bashevis Singer — at his condo in Surfside, Fla., between Bal Harbour and Miami Beach, my parents didn’t want me to miss a day of 5th grade. Who the heck knows what happened in school that day? I didn’t know about the visit under after. Singer — who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1978 — died in 1991. The opportunity is gone forever.

philadelphia eagles
Wikipedia
aldi closed sign
Wednesday’s sign at the Aldi on 31st and Girard.

There will be other closures, possibly because of the crowds, or employees wanting to be part of history. That’s kind of like restaurants without TVs being closed during Sunday’s game.

Don’t plan on visiting the Whole Foods or Aldi by me. Same story down at Society Hill Synagogue, which is far from the parade route but will be following its established plan.

society hill synagogue
http://www.societyhillsynagogue.org/events/building-closed-for-super-bowl-champion-philadelphia-eagles-parade/
So I’m hoping everybody has a good, safe time, and behaves themselves. But that may not be easy for some.
I do think it stinks that Bud Light will be offering free beer at two dozen bars along the parade route. Drinkers can thank a promise the beer maker made to Eagles offensive tackle Lane Johnson before the season.

Also, Yards Brewery is telling Eagles fans to stop by for a free beer.

Neither will help behavior, and the world knows Philadelphia sports fans “have a reputation for bad behavior and sports-related violence.”

Police report these eight people have been arrested so far for violence after the Eagles beat the New England Patriots, 41-33, Sunday night, and they expect many more to come.

Of these eight, KYW-TV reports one is charged with flipping a car at Broad and Walnut streets in Center City, another for throwing a bottle at a car, and a third who destroyed property.

Video is everywhere these days, so finding the people who vandalized an A.C. Moore store, looted a gas station, smashed windows at the Old Navy at 17th and Chestnut, and did the same at the Macy’s across from City Hall shouldn’t be too hard.

The station also reports several poles taken down, and who can forget the Ritz Carlton awning collapsing under the weight of so many people?

As for me, I don’t plan to be on the parade route. It’s going to be freezing and windy, so it’ll feel even colder. But the wind will help get rid of the water, so the dry weather arguably beats Wednesday’s snow-turned all-day rain.

temperature 1 temperature 2

So there will be very cold weather and free beer along the route, along with crazy fans. Definitely not a good combination.

“Patience will be the order of the day,” KYW-TV reports Police Commissioner Richard Ross said. “It will be a lot of people, a lot more than most have ever seen in any one gathering in this city.”

That could mean another record.

The city says the celebration will have 14 jumbotrons placed along the route.

The parade will end and the celebration will begin at the Art Museum (my neighborhood, of course!).

Hundreds of crews did weeks, if not months, of work in just days including a wet Wednesday. The Eagles are “foot”ing the bill. The tab has reportedly not been calculated yet.

Once it starts, I’ll head out for a few minutes to take in the scenes. Then, I’ll go back in, warm up, and watch everything on TV!
harold lenny pedro
Harold, me and Pedro watching Sunday’s Super Bowl at my place
Wednesday night porta potties
Wednesday night: lots of green porta potties hard to see after a day of rain

And another reason to watch the festivities on TV while warm, indoors: Will there be enough porta potties to accommodate the amount of people who are expected to attend?

Some people are skeptical, with reason, due to drinking and cold weather. You know how that works!

2017-05-06 porta potties
May 6, 2017: Can’t figure why but the pink must be for girls and women, with the blue for boys and men!

My friend Hadas talked to a man who said he expects to have to hose down his driveway.

Another reason I’ll be mostly staying indoors! (That was always something I liked about being a news producer.)

Click: Eagles’ fans give April the Giraffe an ‘F’

prediction link

Click: Eagle eye: Most Philadelphia media ignore possibility of local terrorism

daily express

Click: Philadelphia Eagles on Twitter

Click: City of Philadelphia’s up-to-date information on Twitter

Eagle eye: Most Philadelphia media ignore possibility of local terrorism

You would think anytime there’s a possibility of terrorism in Philadelphia, the Philadelphia media would report it. Apparently that wasn’t the case this week.

Maybe hysteria over the Eagles in the Super Bowl is to blame.

By all reported accounts, Khalil Lawal of Arlington, Va., drove a car into a pedestrian in South Philadelphia.

It happened at about 7:30 Monday morning near Broad and Bigler streets. Then, Lawal attacked the off-duty officer who confronted him.

I checked for the latest web articles from the city’s five TV news sites (3, 6, 10, 17 and 29), plus the newspaper’s.

According to WPVI, Tuesday afternoon,

“Investigators say Lawal apparently tried to use his black Honda hit a person who had just gotten out of a car.

“Then, on foot, Lawal chased another person who had tried to detain him, and then charged at the off-duty officer after he approached, leading to a violent struggle.

“During the struggle, the officer fired about ten shots, hitting Lawal in the torso, legs, and face.”

 

gun outline

Lawal was killed, and the officer was treated for minor injuries and released from the hospital.

Thursday morning, WCAU identified the officer as Det. James Powell, a 23-year veteran assigned to External Services and was off duty at the time.

Investigators told the station, before the shooting,

“Lawal continued driving east on Bigler before making a U-turn and returning toward the intersection of Broad and Bigler near Marconi Plaza. … A Good Samaritan used his truck to block his path. … Lawal then allegedly chased the Good Samaritan on foot before walking back to his Honda.”

Wednesday night, WTXF reported at least three video cameras recorded the incident which WCAU reported police “have no plan to release.”

WCAU also said, “Police don’t believe the incident was a case of domestic terrorism.”

daily express

However, Monday, England’s Daily Express reported,

“A police spokesman confirmed this afternoon terror was being considered as motivation.

“He said: ‘Anytime someone is trying to run people over we got to look at that angle and see what the investigation leads us.’”

That, and the line from WCAU, were the only mentions I could find of possible terrorism.

isis islamic state flag

Note just yesterday, Edward Archer was convicted of shooting police officer Jesse Hartnett in an ambush, two years ago. Archer had pledged his allegiance to ISIS and said he had acted out of religious inspiration. So terrorism on a local level has been in the news this week, but in a different story.

However, in this week’s case, WTXF reported,

“The detective fired several shots, knocking the man to the ground and then continued firing—striking the man 13 times in all.”

Commissioner Richard Ross
Police Commissioner Richard Ross leads the fourth largest police department in the nation
LKDA
New district attorney Larry Krasner, sworn in exactly one month ago

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That had Police Commissioner Richard Ross (left) concerned.

Tuesday, the Inquirer reported “Ross said he had reviewed surveillance video of the shooting and had ‘some concerns’ about ‘whether all the shots were necessary.’”

New district attorney Larry Krasner (right) promised WTXF “an ‘even-handed’ review of” the shooting.

The Inky reported Powell will be assigned to administrative duties while Internal Affairs investigates the shooting.

The Philadelphia Police website has nothing on the shooting, including a press release. It hasn’t yet made the list of officer-involved shootings.

2018 officer involved shootings

There’s also nothing on its Facebook page. And the only thing I could find from the department on Twitter was this:

From what I could tell, this story that made international headlines and possibly involved terrorism deserved more news coverage than it got locally: one station reporting police didn’t think it was.

At least there are things on the department’s Facebook page everyone in the area can agree on. Come to think of it, maybe it’s the reason we haven’t heard more about the shooting.

Every media organization sent crews to the Super Bowl in Minneapolis. Those journalists, no matter how good they are, couldn’t be in two places at once. And the police department is planning for fans celebrating the Eagles victory over the New England Patriots — or that other possibility.

Deflate-Gate or Battle over the Balls?

Yes, I’m going to venture into sports, but not exactly the play-by-play.New England Patriots

Seattle Seahawks

I really didn’t care much about this year’s Super Bowl and I actually still don’t. I’ve liked the New England Patriots but have been getting tired of seeing them win all the time. And I used to feel sorry for the Seattle Seahawks many years ago when they weren’t good (and still in the AFC). Richard Sherman’s rant a year ago didn’t help his team’s cause.

But my interest level is slightly higher since hearing about the latest Patriots cheating allegation.

Keep in mind, we’re talking about people who don’t have to work another day in their lives. What they’re really playing for is sportsmanship, honesty, and probably most important to them, their reputations and how they’ll be looked at in future generations.

I’ve liked the Patriots (except sometimes when they played the Dolphins) as you can see from the shirt I was wearing in April, 2005, out on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston.

April, 2005, on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston
April, 2005, on a boat in Fort Lauderdale with my nephew Preston

I’ve also been to Gillette Stadium, but not for a game. It was rented out for my cousin Justin’s bar mitzvah party, coincidentally the next month.

May, 2005: outside Gillette Stadium...
May, 2005: outside Gillette Stadium…
... and inside, not dressed for football
… and inside, not dressed for football

I haven’t been a Bill Belichick fan since 2007, when he had a staff member videotape New York Jets‘ defensive coaches’ signals from the sideline. The NFL investigated, found the coach guilty of cheating, and fined him a half-million dollars.

Now, an NFL source told ESPN the league found 11 of the Patriots’ 12 game balls in last Sunday’s AFC championship game were inflated significantly below the NFL’s requirements. That could change the way a player grips the ball or the way it travels through the air, and could provide a competitive advantage. We’re back to the subject of cheating.

I hadn’t known each team provides 24 balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. They have to be inflated and weighed properly, and are inspected by a referee. Then, they’re put into bags on the sidelines until they’re needed. It’s possible weather played a role, as expertly explained by WCSH in Maine and AccuWeather.

A Kansas City radio station reports underinflated Patriots’ footballs were found at halftime of Sunday’s game and then inflated properly for the second half. The Indianapolis Colts’ footballs were all found to be inflated properly.

Yesterday, Belichick said he was “shocked” when he heard allegations his team used balls that were deflated after they were inspected. He also said star quarterback Tom Brady could give better details on his, quote “personal preference on his footballs.”

Later, Brady said he had nothing to do with deflating footballs, and that he hadn’t even been contacted by the NFL as part of their investigation! He did admit he gets the best grip at the lowest end of the league requirement.

These allegations came up the last time these teams played, and nobody is saying the Colts could’ve won this game. They lost by a whopping 45 to 7.

It’s the latest NFL controversy in a tough year for the league (but not tough financially). You’ll remember Ray Rice and the domestic violence policy. Adrian Peterson charged with misdemeanor reckless assault for disciplining his 4-year-old son with a wooden switch. And here is one I hadn’t heard about: Arizona Cardinals running back Jonathan Dwyer, arrested for head-butting his wife and breaking her nose after she bit his lip to stop his sexual advances. This all has NFL commissioner Roger Goodell under fire with a women’s advocacy organization actually flying a “Goodell Must Go” banner over games. And now, there’s this investigation.

But what we’re talking about is decency. We don’t know the outcome of the NFL investigation. Many are wondering if it’ll even be done right. But the stain on the Patriots’ image cannot be wiped off so easily this time.

The Patriots play the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX on February 1st. Unless something big changes things, I can’t support the Pats this time. So go, Seahawks (but still without an enthusiastic exclamation point).