Monday, December 29, 2008

Fixing Football: Chapter 2 (We Need More Fantasy Football)

Before moving forward with my Fixing Football series, which began with passionate arguments for a 64-team college football tournament here and here, let me make one final point regarding the current state of college football's postseason:

Wake Forest and Navy kicked off the bowl season a few weeks back in something called the EagleBank Bowl. One team won and one team lost. Who? How the hell do I know? It lacked intrigue on every possible level, and I'm positive the TV ratings were nonexistent. Not only had both teams played each other earlier in the season, but nothing was at stake. And since neither squad plays an exciting, pass-happy brand of football, there was no reason to tune in.

But...let's say these teams were paired up in a 7-10 first-round game, and let's also say you were in four or five office pools...would you have been on the edge of your seat with every play? Would the stadium have been filled with fans going ape shit? Would the players have sold out on every single play? Would the ratings have been through the roof? The answers, of course, are yes, yes, yes and YES!

And yet, 90 percent (and that might be conservative) of the people I encounter are against this format. They never offer a good reason (it's usually something about money or travel or academics or too many teams), but they're overwhelmingly against it without truly considering the advantages of massive overhaul the current system.

Anyway, I gots me some other ways to make football a better product, and I'm transitioning to the NFL...

Networks need to pander more to the fantasy-starved morons...which is pretty much everyone watching the games. Listen, even with the advent of NFL Sunday Ticket, wireless Internet and scrolling stats on the bottom of the screen there's still a need for up-to-the-minute fantasy updates. I have the solution: Every network needs to return from every break (save for thirty-second injury breaks) 20-30 seconds early with the latest fantasy news, from injuries to scoring updates to teams in the red zone.

Here's what I envision: Just one guy (a quick but clear speaker), with absolutely nothing resembling shtick in a newsroom-type setting; he needs to deliver as much information as possible in a short amount of time. Hell, it'd probably work best with a professional news guy who happened to be a huge football fan. The reason I like someone with a news background is they wouldn't feel obligated to unleash catchphrases on us, and they are obviously superb at adjusting on the fly. (Trust me, I worked with outstanding news talents at WLW for years and you can't believe how great they are at seemlessly injecting a last-second piece of breaking news with five seconds left in the broadcast)

I sometimes spend my Sundays at my buddy's house with three other guys. My buddy, Borgs, has two TVs with Sunday Ticket. He also has an available computer, and I have mine. It's a wonderful setup. Now, you would think we would never miss anything, but that's simply not the case. Between the four of us, we combine to have ten fantasy teams. Ten. Which means that almost every game is important too someone. But with two TVs you can't watch every play of every game. We're constantly flipping back and forth to appease the loudest and most annoying people in the bunch (read: me), and some games are forgotten altogether. And even though we have computers to keep tabs on the less-important games, it's still impossible to be on top of every little detail. (So, imagine what'd be like for the guy with just one TV, sans Sunday Ticket, and one computer...)

(Note: These quick-hitting updates wouldn't be a rehashing of the days statistics, it would be up-to-the minute stuff - i.e., injuries, turnovers, overturned calls, benchings, missed field goals, etc.)
Here's a good example of how this would help: In week one of the season Warrick Dunn was unexpectedly stealing a ton of carries from Earnest Graham, who had a pretty great season the year before. Well, that game wasn't in our main rotation, and every time we turned on the game Dunn was getting the carries but we didn't know why. We assumed Graham was injured, but we didn't know for sure. It wasn't the end of the world, necessarily, but we were more than a little curious; Graham was a starter in 80-90 percent of games that week, while Dunn almost certainly wasn't in a single starting lineup. What was the deal?

It's ridiculous to say that something like this is important, but it kinda is. Either way, ask yourself one question: How much better would your football-viewing experience be if every commercial break ended 20-30 seconds early for the latest fantasy news?

That's what I thought.

And before you tell me the NFL wouldn't just throw that advertising money away, just remember that they could charge plenty more for air time if they knew people would be tuned in early in order to find out player updates from games across the country. Plus, it would further their product's superiority over the rest of this country's major sports.

Would anyone be against this?

-Brad Spieser (