Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise
Sports News Without Fear, Favor or Compromise

A Sinking Ship: Today's Guide To Ignoring The NFL

Photo: AP
Photo: AP

Maybe you’ve heard, but the NFL’s television ratings are sinking like a stone.

This seems to have caught a lot of people by surprise, and a lot of different theories are being explored as to why this is happening. The Los Angeles Times suggests the downturn might be a result of attention to election-season drama:

Trump and Clinton have been a ratings juggernaut for cable news and the presidential debates, and there are data that support the rationale that the compelling reality show-like story of the campaign its cutting into the time fans watch the NFL.

Through the first six weeks of the football season, Sunday viewing of cable news channels CNN, MSNBC and Fox News is up 79% compared with 2015 in the 1:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. hours when NFL games air. The increase among men ages 25 to 54, a target audience for NFL games, is 120%.


Sports Illustrated’s The MMQB asked their readers to weigh in, and highlighted a combination of factors, including NFL RedZone, social media, poor officiating, and quality of play. Here’s an interesting theory advanced by one of their readers:

I think the elephant in the room concerning the decline in ratings for NFL games is the one element that has been touted for years as the reason for increased popularity of the NFL: fantasy football. Fans are getting to the point where they care more about “their” fantasy team than they do the actual teams. With the rooting interest shifting from the results of actual football games to the stats compiled by individual players, the interest in devoting three hours to watching one game just isn’t there anymore. Fans can watch the RedZone channel, the highlight shows or just check the stats of “their” players on their smartphones, freeing up their Sundays to pursue other interests.

Here’s my favorite explanation for the ratings decline, found both in The MMQB’s reader survey and a recent poll:

A fresh poll from Seton Hall surveyed 841 adults across the U.S. Each respondent was asked to identify seven separate factors as a reason for the NFL ratings drop, allowing them to answer “yes” or “no” for each of them. The leading factor, according to the poll, was the national anthem protests, which scored “yes” at a rate of 56 percent.

The decline doesn’t seem like it can be tied to one specific factor, but I am particularly amused by the image of thousands of grumpy, blockheaded dipshits moping around their living rooms every Sunday in protest of a few dozen guys quietly taking a knee during 90 seconds of pregame ceremony.

You will notice, too, that MLB ratings at regional sports networks were mostly excellent this year, and NBA ratings saw their biggest increase in years last season. Whatever’s afflicting the NFL, it hasn’t hit other big sports quite so hard. I, for one, prefer to believe it’s Rocco from Utica, solemnly swearing off the NFL until those dadgum players learn to respect the troops.


Here’s some other, better stuff to watch on a fall Sunday:

Other Sports

Noon — NBC — Premier League Soccer: Southampton vs. Chelsea

Chelsea will vault back into the top four if they take full points today. But anything can happen!


12:30 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — Bundesliga Soccer: Koln vs. Hamburg

Koln are tied in points with Borussia Dortmund and have a plus-7 goal differential. Hamburg are hamburger, way down at the bottom of the table.


3 p.m. — ESPN — MLS Conference Semifinal: New York Red Bulls vs. Montreal Impact

Montreal are the top seed in the Eastern Conference. The Red Bulls downed D.C. United 4-2 in the knockout round.


4:30 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Jazz @ Clippers

This should be a really, really fun and interesting game between teams with contrasting styles and strengths.


5 p.m. —ESPN — MLS Conference Semifinal: Colorado Rapids vs. L.A. Galaxy

The Galaxy are seen as the favorites, even though the Rapids snagged the higher seed.


6 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Spurs @ Heat

I think the Heat will wind up being okay in the East—Erik Spoelstra is a good coach and Hassan Whiteside is a hell of an asset. Probably none of this will keep them from getting chewed up by the Spurs, who are terrifying.


6 p.m. — NBA League Pass — NBA Basketball: Bucks @ Pistons

The Bucks won a surprisingly fun game against the Nets last night on a John Henson buzzer-beater tip-in. They’re such a weird team. No outcome in this game would shock me.


7 p.m. — FOX Sports 1 — MLS Conference Semifinal: New York FC vs. Toronto FC

These teams drew twice in the regular season. Toronto cruised past Philadelphia 3-1 on Wednesday.


8 p.m. — FOX — World Series Game 4: Indians @ Cubs

The Indians can close out the Cubs tonight. It is impossible to root for either of these teams, right now.


8 p.m. — NBA TV — NBA Basketball: Wizards @ Grizzlies

The Grizzlies are on the second leg of a back-to-back, having just absorbed a surprising loss to the Knicks last night in New York. The Wizards are one of only two teams in the NBA who have played just one game entering today. This could be an interesting matchup between two teams with new head coaches.


TV Reruns

1 p.m. — USA — Law & Order: Special Victims Unit

All day, every Sunday.

1 p.m. — Logo — Roseanne

Hey! Look at that! TV Land won the 1 p.m. Golden Girls standoff with Logo. Impressive.


1 p.m. — TV Land — The Golden Girls

The great conflict of our time has ended. Rejoice.

3 p.m. — Logo — The Golden Girls

That doesn’t mean Logo abandoned the shit altogether. They just pushed their Golden Girls mini-marathon back a couple hours. Compromise!


3:15 p.m. — FreeForm — The Addams Family

Nice. Freeform has been pretty great for Sunday counterprogramming this season. They’re following this up with Addams Family Values, which is mostly a turd.


4 p.m. — FXX — The Simpsons

Episodes today include “Cape Feare” and a bunch of later-season shit that will make you sad.


7 p.m. — ABC — America’s Funniest Home Videos

Pretty smart time slot for this, on a Sunday night: catches the last half-hour or so of the late afternoon games, and then completely overlaps with Football Night in America on NBC.



11 a.m. — Spike — It

A couple of cool, scary scenes keep this from being a big bloated disaster. Tim Curry is always good to watch, and he nails Pennywise the clown.


1 p.m. — Comedy Central — Shaun of the Dead

It is otherwise a lost day for Comedy Central, following this with a couple of slapstick parody sequels. Woof. I think some of these networks don’t know what to do with the holidays, and get caught throwing up garbage just to fit their programming to the season. AMC, for instance, is showing a marathon of Halloween sequels, with shit like Season of the Witch and Return of Michael Myers taking up otherwise valuable time slots. I feel dead certain another The Walking Dead marathon would beat the hell out of this junk.


1 p.m. — CMT — Mrs. Doubtfire

Has Mrs. Doubtfire replaced The Shawshank Redemption as the new Sunday shoe-in? Racking up the numbers, man.


1:30 p.m. — The CW — Insomnia

Honestly, it gets a little bit harder to watch Christopher Nolan movies as his influence drags whole genres into fits of pretension.


1:30 p.m. — BBC America — Psycho

BBC America has a fun lineup of Alfred Hitchcock movies covering today. Vertigo leads off before Psycho, if you want to start even before football.


2:30 p.m. — TBS — Back to the Future

Oh, TBS. They’ve got Back to the Future II queued up before the original, and then no Back to the Future III.


3:30 p.m. — Sundance — Days of Thunder

A ridiculous movie, but fun, and Michael Rooker and Robert Duvall are perfectly cast.


4 p.m. — ion Television — Gran Torino

They’ve got this scheduled back-to-back today. Once is more than enough, though.

4 p.m. — BBC America — The Birds

Psycho is the only Hitchcock flick that really works as a Halloween movie, but The Birds is fun as hell, anyway. Also, BBC America is running back Psycho immediately after this ends, at 7 p.m.


4 p.m. — CMT — Liar, Liar

Eh, you could do worse.

5 p.m. — MTV Classic — Ghostbusters

Big score for MTV Classic!

6 p.m. — Logo — The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Always shows up somewhere this time of year. I saw this for the first time two years ago. Logo is running it back-to-back, if you’d prefer watching it during primetime.


7:30 p.m. — MTV Classic — Ghostbusters II

A perfectly respectable sequel, in one man’s opinion.

8 p.m. — TNT — Godzilla

This is the pretty good 2014 movie, and not the 1997 disaster.

8 p.m. — TBS — Star Wars: A New Hope

Still, it’s a pretty good day for TBS when they program against the NFL with two massively appealing classics that hold up on network television. If you’re up for it, they’ve got Revenge of the Sith smashed in between Back to the Future and A New Hope.


8 p.m. — Turner Classic Movies — Young Frankenstein

Perfect. Way to go, TCM.

Whoa, the weather outside is perfect. Get out there and do something. Maybe later, when it’s dark out, stream I Am The Pretty Thing That Lives In The House on Netflix.

Staff Writer, Deadspin