No matter what you think of Roger Goodell, there’s no denying the job he’s done.
Seventeen years into his reign as commissioner, he’s built the NFL into a Goliath. The league has never been bigger, better or more popular.
Don’t this so?
Just flip on your television or scroll through your cell phone and check out the news cycle. It’s the NFL’s world. The other sports are just living in it.
This offseason has served as validation of the dynastic handywork Goodell and league executives have done in their quest for world domination.
It’s mid-March, six months from the start of the 2023 season, and the NFL completely dominates the national news cycle.
The NBA has entered its stretch drive. March Madness and Major League Baseball spring training are upon us. And all anyone wants to talk about is the NFL.
The Jets courting Aaron Rodgers.
The Cowboys cutting Ezekiel Elliott.
The Rams trading Jalen Ramsey.
Everywhere you turn, NFL headlines dominate the day.
On Friday, the national sports talk shows cycled through a variety of NFL talking points before they turned their attention to the rest of the world.
Are the Ravens treating Lamar Jackson fairly?
Who won the Panthers-Bears trade?
Are the Jets Super Bowl contenders with Aaron Rodgers?
The news never stops. And we devour every word of it.
Remember those dire predictions when the league endured the Colin Kaepernick controversy in 2016?
They seem woefully misguided today.
The Shield has proven to be indestructible.
People complain about the officiating.
They mock Goodell’s No Fun League ethos and admonish the NFL’s DEI shortcomings.
And none of it matters. The NFL remains more popular than ever.
In fact, I’d argue the most popular sporting events in America right now are, as follows:
1. The NFL postseason
2. The NFL regular season
3. The NFL Draft
4. NFL free agency
5. The preseason
No American sports league has captured our fancy the way the NFL does today.
Boxing and horse racing had their runs at the turn of the century. Then baseball took over and became America’s pastime.
But the NFL’s current run of dominance is unprecedented.
Eighty-two of the top 100 most watched television programs in 2022 were NFL games. NFL games made up 19 the 20 most watched shows and 32 of the top 35.
This is all you need to know about the NFL’s popularity: The 35th most watched TV show last season was a Week 16 game between the 4-10 Broncos and the 4-10 Rams on Christmas Day. The game attracted a larger viewing audience than any NBA game, any MLB game, any Winter Olympics program and the Academy Awards.
And 2022 wasn’t an outlier. In 2021, the NFL had 75 of the 100 most-watched TV programs. The league somehow is gaining popularity despite national trends that show a steady decline in TV usage.
The NFL is a phenomenon. This is a league that has figured out how to turn its schedule release into must-see TV. The NFL Draft and Scouting Combine have been transformed into a multi-night, prime-time affairs.
The NFL seems intent on taking over the entire sports calendar year. They want to dominate our hearts, minds and souls. And they’re on their way to doing it.
Now, if they could just figure out how to make the Pro Bowl relevant and watchable.