COMMENTARY: Television needs the NFL

Published on Saturday, 17 June 2017 22:29 - Written by

REID KERR, Tyler Morning Telegraph Columnist

There’s nothing on television these days.

Yes, dear reader, that’s the kind of hard-hitting, right-to-the-bone analysis you get from me in the NFL offseason. Hang in there, training camp is just around the corner.

Regular TV is mostly in reruns. Sportswise, the NBA is over and was boring anyway; the NHL is done, and the Texas Rangers have finally surged to get all the way up to mediocre.

Every year around this time, I consider turning it all off for good. But there’s one thing that keeps me from giving up on live television forever and just getting my entertainment from the streaming options.

That thing, my friends, is football.

Football specifically, and sports in general, make up the last great hope for broadcast television. Sporting events must be devoured live, they can’t be time-shifted or downloaded later. We’re all incapable of logging off of Facebook these days, and you can’t risk someone spoiling the game for you. Commercials must be endured, and advertisers are willing to pay a higher premium to air on live sports.

We’re rapidly reaching the point where “cord-cutting” is an option for some people. No cable, no satellite, they can just get enough entertainment through Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, hiring local theatre troups to act out “Better Call Saul” for them, whatever works.

I’ve used a certain satellite service for several years, I won’t say their name here to give them free advertising, so let’s just call them “Indirect TV.” For just the cost of a used car payment every month, they deliver to me 47000 channels, the vast majority of which are always showing reality TV shows about people fixing up houses, people fishing for Alaskan crabs, and Nicolas Cage movies. I’d love to just give up on it totally and throw my cable box in the river.

But then, there’s football.

The satellite gives me the option of watching any and every NFL game every week, so that I’m never stuck in a situation where I have to watch a Bengals-Browns game. I tried that once a couple of years ago, I woke up a week later under a bridge in Toledo with no memory of how I got there, or even if the Browns had covered the spread. They didn’t.

Of course, this isn’t cheap. And you can’t just buy the NFL games, you have to purchase an entire array of channels for multiple years. You can’t just get the Dallas Cowboys, you also have to pay for the Deep Sea Fishing Network, the Lacrosse Channel, and Knitting and Yarn TV. They’ve got you right where they want you.

Sports is still the key. When ESPN laid off a couple hundred employees recently, they certainly didn’t announce they were getting out of any of their contracts with sports leagues. They may have fired everyone who talked about them intelligently, yes, but the actual games themselves are still the core of their marketing plan.

If, for example, you’re a basketball fan and you wanted to watch that boring slow waltz of inevitability that was the NBA Finals, you’ve got to have some way of watching cable. You can’t get every excruciating moment on Hulu.

Maybe you don’t mind not having cable and you want to just watch Netflix, with shows like “Bloodlines,” which started out as really compelling television and two years later is just an exercise in watching implausible plotlines collapse and Sissy Specek’s accent disintegrate hilariously. That’s fine, but you can’t watch the NFL there.

So I’ll sit around and consider turning it all off, just like I do every year around this time. I’ll weigh the options. I might go so far as to make lists of what I watch and where I could find it, and try and figure out if I could save money by just sitting around and watching my old VHS tapes of the early 90’s Cowboys-49ers over and over again.

And then I’ll forget it all, and keep my cable or satellite. Because of football.

Just please don’t make me watch Texans games until they get a quarterback.

- Reid Kerr talks a lot, as his wife always reminds him. Reid’s second book, “I Hate It Here: A Love Story,” is out now on Amazon.com. You can always tweet questions, comments, and angry messages to him at @reidaboutit.