Growing up as a young football fan in Brooklyn, I didn’t realize what I was missing. The revelation came upon leaving for Washington to attend Howard University.
There was more to NFL Sundays than Giants and Jets games.
Unfortunately, some children in Los Angeles might grow up believing that the league revolves around the Rams and Chargers. Their parents will long for the days when L.A. didn’t have franchises of its own, meaning the two or three most-appealing NFL contests were beamed into their homes every Sunday.
That’s not what I enjoyed when I arrived on campus, as Washington games were a constant. But this new, one-team market left room for the marquee matchups I previously only read about. And when the Colts moved to Indianapolis shortly thereafter, proximity to Baltimore became a bonus.
Between the TV stations there and in D.C., I had the opportunity to watch as many as five different games on a given Sunday!
My best hope in New York – never guaranteed – was an additional game besides the Giants and Jets. The result was a steady stream of bad football. From 1970 to 1980, the prime of my youth, neither team reached the playoffs and they combined to post just two winning seasons.
I thought life was great after escaping that confinement and enjoying unimagined viewing options in the nation’s capital. But even that football freedom pales in comparison to what I love today.
NFL RedZone, where have you been all my life?
OK, that’s not a fair question. The league’s whip-around TV channel network didn’t premiere until 2009. And I’m late to the party, not diving in until last season.
Regardless, now I can barely tolerate watching a solitary game broadcast on Sundays.
Week 3 was a prime example of the unmatched excitement that RedZone delivers. Five close games were decided over the course of about 20 minutes and viewers saw the crucial moments as they occurred: Tom Brady’s pinpoint touchdown pass against Houston; the controversial ending to Falcons-Lions; the Eagles’ 61-yard game-winning field (against the Giants) as time expired; and Chicago’s TD to upset Pittsburgh in overtime.
Washington played on Sunday night that week, making it easier for local fans to dig into the RedZone. The same was true this week, with the squad in Kansas City for Monday Night Football.
Still, diehard fans of the burgundy-and-gold must be tempted to switch back-and-forth, at least during commercials, injury timeouts and other periods of inaction that bog down the average NFL broadcast.
The RedZone has none of that, especially sales pitches. According to Exstreamist.com, NFL fans avoid nearly 40 hours of commercials per season by watching the seven-hour block of games hosted each week by Scott Hanson. He takes viewers from stadium to stadium, focusing on teams within scoring distance (hence, the channel’s name) and games within one possession of a lead change or tie.
Sometimes the announcing crews will toss it to the studio for updates on other games. Occasionally they go to break quickly, catching RedZone producers off-guard for a second before switching away.
“Uh, uh, uh,” Hanson said once last season as I was getting used to the format. “They tried to slip in a commercial but we don’t do that here.”
The absence of commercials makes for seamless viewing. Then again, we know too much of a good thing can have negative effects.
The ability to watch multiple games, on high-def TVs from the comfort of your home, can decrease the appeal of attending live contests. It also makes you wonder about sticking with a single broadcast – which averages just 11 minutes of action compared to 65 minutes of advertisements.
All the above surely irks sponsors and network buyers. Ratings have a much larger economic impact than attendance, as the NFL makes roughly $7 billion per year off television rights. The entire business model looks suspect if a growing number of folks regularly tune out traditional TV games.
So, the RedZone isn’t perfect. The overabundance of 1 p.m. games – about eight on average – can crowd out a couple. At the same time, the 4 p.m. window can be relatively barren, with nothing but a few uninteresting/non-competitive offerings to choose from. But Week 4 provided a bonanza: all four contests were decided late, by six or fewer points, including Arizona’s walk-off TD in overtime against San Francisco.
The channel signs off each week with a montage of every touchdown that afternoon. If you watched the entire seven-hour broadcast (without an ill-timed bathroom break), you already saw every touchdown, just not one after another, after another, after another …
Good thing this didn’t exist when I was younger.
I’d be spoiled rotten.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.