Monday, November 11, 2019
US flag

It’s Wildcard Weekend in the NFL. Who knew?

Four NFL teams made the playoffs as wildcard teams this year, and the four games they’ll play this coming weekend against the four division winners of eight with the lowest records this season will determine which four advance to the divisional round; the other four division champs get a bye this week.

I say that only because this is likely to be news for more people this year than it was last year. Statistics and metrics that examine this type of thing—TV ratings, surveys in the news, game ticket sales—show a definite downward blip in fan appreciation for football.

There are all sorts of theories as to why this is happening, but people who may be feeling less love of the game certainly have their own mix of reasons.

Some say media reports that players’ brains degenerate at younger ages more frequently than normal have pounded fans into apathy, especially coming after years of tobacco industry-like cover-up by the NFL. Some say mocking Native American names makes fans lower their esteem of teams they love. Some, including President Donald Trump, say the national anthem protests have turned people away, but others see little connection.

After that tweet, there was a marked difference between how people who voted for Hillary Clinton viewed the NFL and how those who voted for Mr Trump viewed it, the New York Times reported. About 60 percent of both Clinton and Trump voters had a “favorable or somewhat favorable” view of the NFL before the tweet. After the tweet, about half of the Trump voters did a 180, while Clinton voters continued to view the NFL favorably or somewhat favorably.

Whatever caused it, though, a reduction in fans’ interest in football has been noticed. As neither the Bears nor the Ravens made the playoffs this season, it’s now time to consider some of these factors and the role they may have played this season.

Fans develop a bond with teams as children, way before high school, but then, as they get older, it becomes clear that watching games with friends doesn’t bring enjoyment as much as a well-chosen career or family time, the New York Times reported as last year’s NFL season started winding down.

“I think I have gotten to a point in my life where I need to let things go that don’t bring me enjoyment,” the paper quoted one such fan as saying. “I think as you get older, you realize you don’t hang on to things that don’t bring you joy. If it’s not making me happy, then why do it? Don’t just do it because you feel like you should be doing it. That’s what I was doing—I was going up every Sunday for the Browns, and I was dreading it.”

But in high school, students are still fans and still get excited about things like the Bears-Packers or Steelers-Ravens rivalries. And participation numbers, while down a little for football in recent years, still make it the most popular high school sport in America.

Writing in The Voyager, the student newspaper at Guilford High School in Rockford, Illinois, Nick Eichstaedt says the Bears-Packers rivalry is still “one of the biggest” in the NFL. Since and including the first game on November 27, 1921, the two teams have played to a 96-94-6 cumulative record. The Packers are up, a little, in the cumulative standings for this rivalry, but lately, it’s been all-Packers whenever these two teams meet.

Nick quotes Nathan Johnson, a math teacher and Packers fan at the school, which is in Illinois but very close to the Wisconsin border, about why he thinks the Packers have won 15 times in the last 18 meetings: “I think at least 80 percent of our recent success has been due to Aaron Rodgers. With his injury, everybody else has had to step up and I think it’s going to make us stronger in the end.”

“It’s definitely been a tough match-up for the Bears as of recent years, but I think we’re trending in the right direction,” one freshman student, clearly a Bears fan, was quoted as saying.

Paul Katula is the executive editor of the Voxitatis Research Foundation, which publishes this blog. For more information, see the About page.

Recent posts

Mercury makes a transit; next in 2032

A transit of Mercury occurred today and was visible from the US, provided you had sunny skies. It was one of longest possible transits.

On the Naperville BWW racist incident

A racist incident at a Naperville, IL, sports bar indicates that the threads of racism are strong, perhaps as strong as ever.

IL bill could excuse absences to vote

A proposed law in IL could give students up to two hours during the school day so they could vote in the upcoming election.

Loan forgiveness gains some bipartisan support

One Republican from GA, who used to work under Betsy DeVos at the US Education Dept, offers a plan to forgive some student loan debt.

A band teacher is IL Teacher of the Year

IL named a band teacher the 2020 Teacher of the Year on Oct. 19. He individualizes music instruction and shares his work with 1000s.

‘Little Shop of Horrors’ bookends Halloween

Several high schools have decided to add a little spook to their musical stages in this season of Halloween. Music makes it happen.

New IL law ensures inclusion of LGBTQ+

A law will take effect next school year in IL that will require students to study LGBTQ history as part of the social studies curriculum.

MoCo doubles down on summer learning loss

Research is at least equivocal about summer learning loss, but maybe there's something to a new plan in Montgomery County, Md.

Downers North lights up the gym for Beth

Ongoing fundraising drives for a Downers Grove N. volleyball player killed by an intoxicated driver in Feb. are going strong in this western suburb.

High-payroll Yankees don’t make World Series

The World Series begins Tuesday, but some of the playoff games can teach us valuable things about youth sports, investment, etc.

Chicago teacher strike enters calendar week 2

Chicago teachers strike for the 3rd day Monday; the union wants smaller class sizes and support for paraprofessionals.