It seems unlikely, nigh impossible, but the massively popular NFL is in decline. Not in viewership or media coverage, mind you, but in revenue-generating, atmosphere driving stadium attendance. Since 2007, when attendance at NFL games hit at an all-time high, there has been a consistent and troubling drop in attendance that is still trending the wrong direction.
It begs the question of why? Why are fans conspicuously absent from stadiums come game day? Isn’t cheering on your favorite team in a sea of fellow supporters the ultimate experience? Doesn’t jeering the opposition with insults you wouldn’t normally express feel good, especially when your surrounding comrades are doing the same and worse? Win or lose, literally being there for your team is as good as life gets, right?
Perhaps not. Spending your entire morning fighting traffic to get to the stadium, then searching desperately for parking that won’t cost you your first-born is only the beginning of the nightmare. After actually making it inside the stadium, assuming you’ve successfully fended off all the street scalpers, it should get better but doesn’t. Once you actually make it to your seat, you realize how cold you already are and the game hasn’t even started. Soon you realize how hungry you are, but spending $15 on miniature nachos just doesn’t seem appealing.
Ignoring these discomforts, you can’t help but hear the drunk guys behind you rant on and on as they continue their descent, and yours, into the rabbit hole of obnoxiousness. How do they have money to afford getting drunk here, you wonder? Annoyed, cold and hungry, you focus your energy on the game itself which you can see whenever the kid in front of you isn’t waving that massive team flag. After what seems like an eternity, it happens; your team scores a touchdown and you find yourself hugging one of the drunk guys and waving that kid’s flag as you celebrate with like the family you always were. Caught up in the emotion, you realize that this why you came.
And then the touchdown is overturned and, since you aren’t at home curled up in front of your wall-sized HD television, you can’t rewind the play to see the replay. You can’t hear the announcers explaining why the play doesn’t stand and you have no idea what is going on except that your new family is getting angry. Confused and annoyed, you are now living out a Thanksgiving-esque nightmare where everyone in the family is tired of one another, but no one can go anywhere.
And then it hits you all you can do is smile. You make the decision to enjoy this suffering since it is the last time you’ll ever have to experience it. If this game is your last, you can chalk it up to a must-have experience that you will soon be completing. But that doesn’t stop you from starting to plan next weeks game. You’ll invite friends over to your house next Sunday to watch the game and have comrades you actually like. You think of all the cheap snacks you’ll stack up on and how famished you won’t be. You imagine easily checking your fantasy score on your Mac, which will have its own end table, as you become the embodiment of the Charlie Sheen dream – WINNING!
As the stadium speakers blast the same 10 seconds of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” for the third time, you begin to grow impatient. With the light bulb in your mind still shining brightly, you have a Sun-sized bright idea; why not leave now? Leaving now allows you to beat the inevitable traffic while giving you the chance to pick up some food and drinks on the cheap and, if you’re lucky, make it home in time to watch the fourth quarter. With your mind instantly made up, you turn and give one of the drunk guys a high-five, which he accepts gladly, as you make your exit to…