By Drew Markol, TSN Contributor - Archive - Email
Nobody asked me, but...
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - It doesn't really matter when because they know it doesn't really matter when.

The NFL will open its season on Wednesday when the Cowboys and Giants face each other. If they wanted to, the NFL could telecast the first game at 4 a.m. Wednesday morning and it would still get a decent share of the television audience. Instead, it will be shown at 8:30 at night (Eastern Time) and it will do boffo numbers.

It's the all-American sport because all Americans watch it. White guys, African-American guys, you name it and we watch. Plus women watch, too, and that fact can't be discounted.

If women, who in plenty of homes control the remote, are also interested in pro football, the numbers just jump.

The NFL can seemingly do no wrong as far as its popularity goes.

Replacement refs? Sure we'll complain, but not enough to stop watching.

The serious concussion issue? Sure, it bothers us, but in the end, it's not our heads, literally, on the line. So, we'll keep watching.

Way too many of the league's rank and file having criminal records? We're not too crazy about that, either, but it won't stop us from tuning in.

We will get NFL football this season on Wednesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. (We're pretty much running out of other days, don't you think?).

The league does try to stay away from Friday nights so not to interfere with high school football, but every other day is fair game. Tuesdays are off the board for now because the league hasn't figured out how to do it, but I bet it's trying. (Perhaps having two teams coming off bye weeks go at it on Tuesday night? Hey, that's not a bad idea).

The point is, whenever they can, the league will show its product and we'll gobble it up. And how could you possibly blame them?

Just look at some of the numbers from last season:

  • Nine of the 10 highest-rated TV programs were NFL games.

  • The No. 1 show on cable television in 2011? No, nothing on HBO, it was Monday Night Football on ESPN.

  • And we all know about the Super Bowl as does the rest of the world. A great stat - of the 20 most-viewed TV programs worldwide, all 20 were Super Bowls.

    That is staggering.

    Football has it licked because it appeals to so many folks.

    Do you like to wager a dollar or two? The NFL is your game.

    Do you like to play fantasy football? Bingo.

    Do you like cheerleaders wearing very little? Bingo.

    Are you just a fan of the game and your team? There's a place for you, too.

    Now, critics, or doomsayers, point to the fact that NFL telecasts did dip in the ratings from 2010 to 2011, but the numbers mentioned above still prove how overwhelmingly popular the game remains. And it would surprise few if the ratings jumped back up again in 2012.

    And, it must be noted, attendance at NFL regular season games last year was down a tick. In fact, the league saw its overall attendance dip to its lowest level since 2002, down around 1,000 fans a game on average across the league. Two reasons why pop to mind and they're related.

    In cities where the product on the field was good, and in diehard places that fill an NFL stadium regardless of what they're seeing, attendance was not a problem.

    However, in places where the team was bad, coupled with a still dismal economy, you get fewer folks willing to cough up the cash for the NFL experience.

    One remedy? Put a better team on the field and the fans will return as always. Winning never hurts at the turnstiles.

    Simply stated, the NFL machine continues to roll on and over everything else.

    Drew Markol has been a sportswriter and columnist for several newspapers in the Philadelphia area for more than 25 years.

    Copyright 2012

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