This is a transcript of the above video blog...
Hello. My name is Barry Scott Will, also known as PapaGamer. Welcome to my inaugural video blog (I refuse to use the term vlog, even though blog itself it a weird abbreviation at least it rolls off the tongue a little better). Anyway, I haven’t decided what to call this, so no title or title music...yet. I may get there.
I was originally going to spend this first episode talking about “The Last Jedi,” but with the announcement on January 25th, I thought I would turn my attention to the NFL and the soon-to-be-reborn XFL.
But first, a peek into the future. Take a look at this picture. This is a screenshot from MarineTraffic.com. You’re looking at APL Turkey, a Liberian cargo ship. It is--as of January 25th--east of Japan heading for Panama (and, I assume, the Panama canal).
Onboard APL Turkey, are these cartons. These cartons contain Top Secret: New World Order box sets. One of which is mine. I’m guessing my set will reach me around the beginning of March, so my video that week will be an unboxing. You can learn more about the game at topsecretnwo.com
In the nearer future, I’ll have my thoughts on Black Panther in about three weeks, once I’ve had a chance to see the movie. Next week’s subject will be Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and, more specifically the character of Luke Skywalker. Spoiler alert: he really resonated with me.
Now, on to American football. I say “American” football to distinguish it from international football, which we Yanks call “soccer.” Anyway, I understand why Vince McMahon is going to try to resurrect the Extreme Football League, the XFL. Lots of people are criticising the NFL right now, and it looks like they are vulnerable to competition.
Not so fast. First, unless the XFL plans to play in the Fall, it won’t actually be competing with the NFL. It will most likely be played in the Spring and early Summer, so the competition is March Madness, the NBA finals, and “America’s pastime.” Baseball.
After 6 months of nonstop NFL, will fans want more football? Or will they turn their attention to other sports for a while. And let’s not forget the NFL’s offseason activities, like the NFL Draft. It’s a huge TV ratings draw. Not to mention the constant news cycle of free agent signings, trades, waivers, etc.
I mean, this year, unless the Redskins get a deal done, Kirk Cousins is going to be 24/7 sports news until he signs a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m counting on you Coughlin and Caldwell. Don’t waste that defense with a below-average QB.
Can the XFL compete with all of that? I think they can, and I’m going to offer five suggestions, some of which have already been mentioned by McMahon, though details are sketchy. I’m going to give details.
One: Speed up the games. Go to a running clock that does not stop for out-of-bounds or incomplete passes. This will totally change the dynamic of the two-minute offense. Teams trying to drain the clock can still heave passes down field, meaning defenses can’t press up to stop the run.
I mean, right now, teams that want to run clock go run, run, run, punt. (A tactic that backfired on the Jaguars in the AFC Championship, by the way.) Teams that want to preserve time will have to really hurry up and they’ll have to save timeouts. Oh, and give teams twice as many timeouts per half. So six, instead of three.
Two: Simplify the rules. What, exactly, is a catch? What is a touchdown? Make sure your refs know the rulebook. Be clear on what holding is, what pass interference is, etc.
Three: Go big on fantasy football. In conjunction with that, start out with a version of the NFL’s RedZone channel. It’s what everyone is watching anyway.
While I’m talking about what people are watching...much has been made of the NFL’s TV ratings dip this year. But…the NFL’s 11% drop is roughly the same as the overall 13% drop in “traditional” TV viewing this year. People just aren’t watching things in the same way.
Yes, live sports are still a draw and the NFL was a big draw during the year, but people are using other ways to get content, including RedZone channel, which just shows the best parts of each game (i.e. the scoring or big defensive plays). In the age of fantasy sports, that’s all most people want to see.
Which brings us to XFL suggestion four: Make games available for everyone and keep them compact in time. Monday & Thursday games are bad for the players and, really, kind of bad for ratings. If “your” team is playing Monday or Thursday, why would you watch games on Sunday?
And make sure everyone can see whatever game they want. Don’t restrict fans to only being able to watch the “local” game, however the XFL defines “local.” (Which is what happens with the NFL. I, a Jaguars fan living in Virginia, almost never get to see the Jags play.)
Five: Avoid “star” salaries. I think players ought to get paid, and, considering the risk of the job and the short career of most players, getting paid six or seven figures is reasonable.
Unfortunately, the pay scale in the NFL encourages good players to keep one-upping each others’ contracts, which then ups the contracts for average players and eventually a few star players on each team eat up the salary cap. And so most NFL coaching comes down to who can get the most out of the B-level players, not who can hire the most A-level players.
So, when I say the XFL should avoid star salaries, I mean they should avoid overpaying for one single position in what is, ultimately, a team sport. I don’t know how you structure your contracts, especially if they have a player’s union and associated agreement.
But I would think it is in the players’ interest that everyone get a slightly bigger slice of the pie than a few players get a lot and the rest get a little.
Can the XFL succeed? I think so. I would certainly like it to succeed. I don’t think quality of play is that big of a deal. College football in the Fall is a big draw and the quality of athletes overall is less than in the NFL. In fact, the XFL may want to look more at the college game, as well as Canadian football and the Arena league, for inspiration.
While the NFL has produced some exciting games, most NFL games are snoozefests. There’s more exciting football out there, I just don’t know if people will warm up to another league. Especially not against all the other sports options out there.
All right. That’s it for this week. Next week, The Last Jedi. You can sound off in the comments below, or track me down on Twitter (@PapaGamer), Facebook, and Instagram…links in the description.
Also, be sure to check out bettysterlingbooks.com to acquire either or both of the novels I have written. If you love fantasy fiction, you’ll love these books.
Until next time, go game, young man. Oh, you know what, that would be a pretty good title...