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And Another Thing

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More and more, the experience of going to a game pales in comparison to the experience of staying home and watching it on the 52-inch Blu-Ray.

Mark Cuban is not a dumb man

So here's the deal with Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban: Every so often he opens his cakehole and stuff falls out of it.

Stuff about refs. Stuff about the NBA and its former boss, David Stern. Stuff, most recently, about the NFL, and why if it's not careful it will "implode in 10 years."

Maybe he's right. Or maybe it's just more stuff.

I'm inclined to lean toward the former, albeit with some reservations. Which is to say, I think the NFL could implode one of these days, if not exactly for the reasons Cuban thinks it could.

Cuban's discourse was set off by the NFL's new TV deal, which Cuban deemed a tad greedy. Greed, Cuban says, is the death of business. Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered, he says. Or something to that effect.

Me, I think greed is a factor here, too, but it's only peripherally about choke-a-hippo TV deals. I think it's about the fact the average fan can't afford to take his or her family to an NFL game anymore without A) lucking into a corporate block of tickets, or B) taking out a second mortgage. The families you do see at NFL games, I'll wager, are there as a one-off; they're not going to be filling those seats the next week or the week after that or the week after that, because they save up all year long to be able to go to just one game.

So far, that practice hasn't hurt the NFL, which continues to ride the crest of an extraordinary wave. But more and more, the experience of going to a game pales in comparison to the experience of staying home and watching it on the 52-inch Blu-Ray (hence, the peripheral connection to the TV deal).

Think about it: The view's better, the beer's cheaper and you're not going to be accosted by the drunken hooligans who, for better or worse, grab the headlines these days. Install a surround-sound system, and you even have the ambience.

Where's the upside to actually going to a game?

The NFL's problem is that more and more people are starting to ask that question, and others as well. The expansion to Thursday nights has done little for the brand but produce a lot of lousy football, given the short recovery time between Sunday and Thursday. The offseason arrests keep going up and up while, in Cuban's NBA, they keep going down. And the concussion issue is, well, an issue.

The lawsuits keep piling up, for one thing, and they're not likely to stop anytime soon. And so the NFL will continue to make unpopular changes to head them off. And, meanwhile, more and more parents will look elsewhere when it comes time for their kids to play organized sports.

I mean, why run the risk of your child being unable to remember his name by the time he's 40? There are plenty of other sports.

And so one of these days, though probably not in 10 years, the NFL might struggle to fill its rosters. And when it does, its games will play in virtual stadiums in front of virtual fans only.

Not that it will matter. By that time, the Shield will exist solely to sustain fantasy football, anyway.

I don't know if that's imploding, exactly. But it's darn close.

Ben Smith's blog.

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