I've been disturbed by a string of recent trends in the NFL over the past few years and I fear that it may impact overall interest in the game, starting with my own. In fact, the parallel that I think of is when Coca Cola, for no apparent reason switched a tried-and-true formula in favor of a flashy, sweeter one. The result is regarded by most experts as the greatest marketing disaster of all time. Why tamper with a good thing?Basically, I think the game -- despite its incredible growth in popularity-- has been diluted by a range of changes over the years. First: new penalties devised to protect and Wide Receivers and QBs. With the recent changes to rules protecting defenseless receivers, the lower legs of the QBs, and the QB's hat, the game is becoming a referee's dream and an exercise in frustration for fans. On Sunday, a saw penalties that made me think that the game of pro football has become a farce. Exhibit A - Philly v. Indy - two defenders cleanly hit Austin Collie, 15 yard penalty for unnecessary roughness. Exhibit B - Same game - A defender taps Peyton Manning's hat on a 4th down, again, a penalty which gives the Colts a 1st down. Some time ago, a rule was devised so that defenders can't make contact with receivers past the 5 yard line, making the game less physical than it used to be, and now defenses are penalized for just about everything else, making it nearly impossible to play D. Great for scoring and the vertical game, but like Kyle Orton's QB rating lacks substance.
Second: infiltration of the game with TV commercials. Jeff Fisher let the cat out of the bag when he shared his story with the media of he being asked by the officials to take a time out at the end of a game for more commercials. This is just silly and farcical. When the tail wags the dog like this, the purity of the game is affected. Regarding the commercials-to-game time ratio, after watching 2 games on TV Sunday I felt nauseated from all of the commercials. It makes watching the game almost secondary. Soccer is almost heaven to watch in comparison; 45 minutes of uninterrupted play.
Third: talk of the 18-game season. This is based purely on greed and will harm the game as we know it. Mainly for the records and stats. Throw them out the window, as every statistic will be prefaced by "Yards per game...". It's difficult enough to compare stats to the 12-game season days. Some people like the idea of "All NFL, all the time" but when stretched out too far, the quality gets thin. Injuries left and right, backups subbing backups, no thanks. The result: a decline in quality of the core product.
I'm a big pro football fan, but I'm starting to get disillusioned and finding less enjoyment in the game. All of this is the NFL's own doing, not unlike New Coke.