Football in the NFL is a lot like life: you have your ups, your downs, your unbridled emotions, your comebacks, your upsetting losses. You show improvement, play through the pain, overcoming impossible obstacles along the way. You win big and everyone in town loves your show. Then you sit around watching your second string give it a go, just waiting for something to happen. Take a few weeks off. You earned it.
Resting at the top of your game? Sounds insane, but it’s exactly what we’ve seen out of the NFL for almost three weeks running. That’s right, folks. Football has been a major bore the past few weeks with starters being pulled early and sub-par teams struggling to even keep up with the opposing team’s bench. Excuse me while I yawn.
The only decent games we’ve seen lately are between two teams battling for a playoff spot, each in control of their own destiny. Now that makes for exciting football, as this is exactly the sort of drama we fans have come to expect from late-season match-ups.
Trust me, I understand the logic behind benching starters a few weeks before the playoffs. It just makes sense from a stamina perspective in an injury-prone environment. The Chargers playoff picture would be crushed without LT or Rivers or Merriman. I would even agree with the concept of benching starters late in the game, say midway through the third or fourth quarter. But pulling starters in the first half three weeks before the playoffs begin is an insult to fans.
The league owes it to its fan base to maintain a certain level of professional competition. It’s precisely why people pay the big bucks to see the game. Remember that the NFL is a commercial enterprise no different than any other product consumers purchase. So when a fan — the consumer in this example — unloads a couple hundred dollars for the best seat in the house during what he believes will be a key contest only to sit through three boring quarters of football, it’s safe to say he’s been ripped off. If he wanted to see a preseason game, he’d go to a preseason game. Basically, we don’t pay to watch our team play it safe.
This whole conversation began when the Colts benched Peyton Manning, thus forfeiting a perfect season. Since then, Commissioner Roger Goodell swears he has asked the league’s competition committee to re-evaluate its stance on pulling starters early in the game.
“We want to make sure the integrity of the NFL is first and foremost in everyone’s mind, and try to find ways to make sure our games are competitive at all points in the season, including the preseason,” Goodell said.
Time will only tell if Goodell and the league make good on this promise. One solution could be to adjust the price structure of tickets in situations like we’ve seen lately. Say the Chargers are playing the lowly Redskins and plan on benching the majority of their starters early in the game. That $100 seat should probably be bumped down accordingly. Charger benchwarmers put on a decent show last week, but again, this is not what fans pay for.
Football drives me insane sometimes. It’s a completely mindless topic, I know, but there is too much entertaining gossip in the league to just let it pass by.
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