Athletic Pursuits: NFL Fans Staying Home

On a list of priorities for the nation, the future viability of its pro football ranks no higher than the success or failure of any comparably-sized business. Of course, the importance of the sport and the continuing placement of certain of its franchises in particular areas has an emotional hold on people that goes well beyond the strictly financial (jobs/tax revenue that could be lost if a team were to move away or just fold).

Given how high pro football rates in the American psyche as a barometer of national awesomeness (right up there with the military and our ability to keep producing great apps), then, it’s something of a surprise that the NFL has been facing a problem over the past few years: declining ticket sales. Chalk it up to the recession or just the ever-increasing verisimilitude available via digital broadcast, but fewer and fewer people are coughing up money to actually see a game live. But instead of saying it’s for the reasons listed above or maybe that there’s just too many teams, Gilded Age-style ticket prices, and too many other sports to follow, some people are drawing a different conclusion.

Take this quote from Scott Rosner, a sports-business professor at the Wharton Sports Business Initiative:

Across all sports, leagues and teams need to do a much better job of entertaining people who go to the game.

This may be naivete speaking, but isn’t the game supposed to be the entertainment? (That and the $12 Bud Lights, of course.) If people don’t want to see a game, no manner of clowning half-time shows or Jumbotron inanity will bring them to the field. At least, one would hope not.

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