Tuesday, March 30, 2010

15 Definitive Changes to Improve the NFL Game Experience

Last week, as reported by profootballtalk.com, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell discussed the growing reality that the live NFL game experience simply does not compare to watching a game at home on a wide screen HDTV with ready access to NFL Sunday Ticket and the Red Zone Channel.  At the beginning of the 2009 season, I had declared that the in-game experience was better than watching the game at home.  But I don't shell out thousands of dollars every year for season tickets, parking passes and concessions.  I also pass on opportunities to watch games in any weather other than sunny and reasonably warm.

It got me to thinking:  how can the in-stadium experience be improved to ensure that  stadiums remain full - except for you Los Angeles - errr I mean Jacksonville - Jaguars?  With the help of a couple of fresh minds with a different perspective on what it means to go to a football game live, we have determined that there are 15 improvements that can be made - even for obnoxious Jets fans (I'm thinking about you guys, too).

Seven Year Old's Perspective.

1.  "All-you-can-eat popcorn."  Depending on how much money Dad has, that is already true.

2.  "All the football players who played in the game have to sign footballs for the fans after the game and throw them into the stands."  This is a really good idea...

3.  "Me and my friends can play tackle football on the field before AND after the game."  (His emphasis, not mine.)

4.  "Me and my friends can tackle the players after the game."

5.  "The players try to tackle us after the game."  That would actually be quite amusing - well, until the kids actually got tackled.

Analyzing his five solutions, it seems clear that to a seven year old, more interaction with the players, the stadium and the game will really enhance his game experience.  I think some of these solutions should be studied a little harder and prhaps even implemented.

Five Year Old's Perspective

A little bit different of a perspective I am safe to say.

1.  "Be able to play my DS." While the adult equivalent would be an iphone with the NFL Network application, I don't really see this enhancing his stadium experience.

2.  "Be able to bring the Wii and play soccer."  Ditto.

3.  "More Ice Cream."  His experience at a football game was obviously last preseason when it was about 85 degrees at game time.  Games against the Buffalo Bills in mid-December?  He would probably change this to hot chocolate.

4.  "More hot dogs and chips!!"  What he means is having this available after the game.  This is legitmate, since the stadium essentially closes down after the Third Quarter.  No one wants the food left on the grill back at the tail gate - although I am guilty of occasionally indulging in some of these tasty after-game treats, only to pay for it later that night.

5.  "I want to see shooting stars."  This I will call the Plaxico Burress corollary.

JMR's Perspective

It's too easy to complain about obscene ticket prices, ridiculous parking rates and concession prices that make me think we live in a communist country, monopoly-wise.  I for one appreciate the fact that most teams have only 10 home games - 8 regular season, 2 preseason - that bring in perhaps 700,000 fans every year.  Compare that to Fenway Park or Yankee Stadium, where a disappointing attendance year hovers around 2 million fans.  In baseball, our attendance partly pays for approximately 25 players and 10 coaches.  NFL teams NEED to gouge us in order to pay its 53 players and 20 coaches.  Health insurance and other overhead in the football dwarves that of any other professional sport.  High prices are here to stay.  Here, on the other hand, are five other realistic changes NFL teams can make.

1.  Cut down the number of TV timeouts.  How many of you have been bored silly by the 20+ TV timeouts occurring every half?  My solution.  No timeouts after change of possessions.  It's simple.  TV timeouts shall only occur during actual timeouts called by teams or as a result of an injury or a challenge flag.  Have in-game commercials or product placements on telecasts similar to soccer telecasts, increase the called timeouts by 30 seconds or one minute to increase the number of commercials during those breaks.  Enough of the constant milling around.

2.  More Relevant Statistics.  Listen we all have phones to check scores and even stats for our fantasy football players.  I don't want to bring it out though every 15 minutes with Joe from Walpole teetering behind me with his two Bud Lights.  The Stadium scoreboard should not only show out of town scores, but also statistics relevant to most fantasy football players.  The use of the Kangaroo, as discussed in Goodell's press conference, leads me to believe that there will be a ban on cell phones.  I suppose with all the betting that goes on in pro football, why not treat the stadium like a casino and ban cell phones?

3.  No Tailgating.  It pains me to say this as much as it pains you to read it.  But bear with me for a second.  Why not create an area at every football stadium similar to the experience you get on Yawkey Way or Eutaw Street at Camden Yards in Baltimore.  This comes with one caveat - lower beer and food prices - but the football teams may sell that much more beer and food because we're not polishing off three sausages and quarter barrel at the McDonald's parking lot.  This will also improve the experience for families who won't have to explain the vulgarity and unsteady gaits of most football fans to their impressionable children.

4.  Free Stuff.  No t-shirts shot from cannons, no foul balls, no uniform equipment thrown into the stands at the end of the game.  We, as fans, couldn't be more disconnected from the game than in football.  But if I get a t-shirt from some 21 year old intern shooting a water cannon gun at me?  Well then, I can justify the $100 ticket because that t-shirt would have cost me $20 outside the stadium! Seriously, I think that way.

5.  Shorten Games.  This isn't what you think.  Sure, permitting less time on the play clock will help things on a very minimal basis.  What I suggest is that stadiums should stay open late, after the game.  If you watch a 1pm game at a stadium, you will miss the 4pm game getting home.  You may even some or most of the 8pm game.  What if you keep the stadium open and play one of the 4pm games on the big screen?  Permitting beer sales at this point is too sticky, but you can still sell food and other goods.  The additional overhead is minimal since most of the workers are paid on a per game basis.  Combine this with some of the fan friendly type access to the field and I think you have the proverbial gold.

There are a lot of hardcore fans who want to build their fires, drink their beer and piss where they want to piss.  But you know what?  The pink jerseys and the kids are more likely to spend money at the stadium than you are.  The NFL has admitted that they need them as much as they need you.  Goodell realizes this, even if he doesn't admit it.  Listen, my kids love to watch football with me, and that's not a bad thing.  Encouraging us to go to a game or two is not a bad thing.  And we promise not to take any of your beer.

photograph courtesy of oregonlive.com

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