The NFL is Boring

NFL football is boring.

The NFL is stale, it’s safe, it’s monochromatic, everyone is .500 and everyone is hurt. Take away the fact that you either root for a specific team, your fantasy team, your daily fantasy teams, your point spread bets, your survivor pools, your picks pools, and try and assess the game in an objective detached way. The product is kinda meh. How many truly exciting games have there been this season? Can you name five?

Week 12 may have contained two such contests (New England v. Denver, Pittsburgh v. Seattle), but it’s hard to recall others and it doesn’t change the reality that the NFL’s product has grown tedious.

Football is the game we know the least about. Each team has dozens, if not hundreds, of plays, different formations, different options off those formations and plays depending on the different situations, on each side of the ball.

On TV we get to see about 30 percent of the action on the field. We’re screaming at the quarterback to throw the ball when the pocket is collapsing but we have no idea if anyone is open. Unless you are someone who really studies the all 22’s each week or has a background in football it’s hard to have an opinion more sophisticated than, “We need to run the ball more,” or “We need to air it out!”  That’s why everyone harps on game management mistakes, because it’s one of the things we can actually evaluate. As opposed to how the right guard is grading out on run blocking assignments.

All that to say, I’m sure NFL offenses are quite varied, but by the time the product gets to the field on Sundays it all basically looks the same. You either have a great quarterback and can move the ball or you have an average one and are mediocre or you have a terrible one and you suck. That’s obviously a simplification but it’s not that far off.

Contrast that to college football. Obviously the players are not as good, they aren’t even close to as good. But the product is so much better. First off, there’s tremendous variety. There’s the spread attacks in all their myriad forms.  There’s option teams, there’s pro style, there’s run first teams. There are teams that try and beat you with pure deception, there are teams that try and beat you with pure speed. There’s so much innovation in college football that by the time you see something go mainstream (read-option, pistol) there are five new philosophies percolating in the mid major levels.  It’s like hip hop dances, by the time you’ve heard of them they are already lame.

There is also just so much insanity on the field, such a variance in results. Double digit underdogs regularly win games they have no business winning because it’s hard to predict what 18-22 year olds are gonna do on a given day.  And the crowds are ferocious, the atmosphere on game day in many college towns is unparalleled by anything in the NFL. That doesn’t mean every college game is going to be great. Often it’s an incoherent mess, but that’s part of the fun. You don’t know what you’re gonna get. College football is psychedelic rock, you might get transported to another dimension or you might watch some guy noodle around aimlessly and sing tone deaf lyrics for four hours. You just don’t know.

The NFL is smooth jazz, corporate, safe, boring.

In college, the coaches might actually have personalities and make the game more colorful.  A few of em might even have the balls to go for it on 4th and 2 on the opponents 45 yard line occasionally.  In the NFL you got Rex Ryan and 31 boring middle managers spouting empty cliches after every game.

Sure, the NFL will be good again in the playoffs, when the stakes are ratcheted up and all the mediocre and below teams (well, except for the three or four of those that get into the playoffs) have been dispatched and the good teams battle it out. But college football is nuts from day one, and stays that way till the end.

The NFL is America’s favorite sport by a wide margin, but I wonder how much of that relies on fantasy, betting pools, gambling on games, etc.  Impossible to know, but i know what I see on Sunday is often about as interesting as the Electric Slide.