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NINE WEEKS IN, MANY WONDER "WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE NFL?"
Published November 2, 1998
Headlines in Sunday's Sports sections of the ATLANTA CONSTITUTION and the HARTFORD COURANT asked, "What's Wrong With The NFL?" In Atlanta, Len Pasquarelli wrote that fans "are expressing their displeasure with the game by tuning out NFL telecasts," as ratings are "down considerably overall." Pasquarelli: "The game is confronted by a reality that eventually could erode its unprecedented popularity: While the players are better than ever, the overall product has regressed. The standard of play in the NFL is lower." Today's NFL sees more player turnover as teams have "less patience" in player development. Pasquarelli lists "dearth of quality at quarterback" and owners who "are increasingly less patient with head coaches" as two other reasons for the quality of play (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/1). In Hartford, Dom Amore: "Has the caliber of play declined? ... If the future is so bright, where are the new stars?" (HARTFORD COURANT, 11/1). In Phoenix, Dan Bickley: "The NFL is hearing the whispers: Bad games. Bad teams. Bad football. Eight weeks into the season, and the King of American sports rests uneasy on the throne" (ARIZONA REPUBLIC, 11/1). RATINGS TREND? In Chicago, Ed Sherman notes the declining ratings and cites "poor matchups," as well as a "big-city slump" among "major-market teams." The Redskins, Bears, Eagles and Lions have "been struggling." Fox Sports Exec Producer Ed Goren: "There's no question (big-market teams struggling) has an impact." Sherman also cites "bad football" as a reason for the ratings dip, noting that there "aren't enough quality teams and quality players" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/2). CBS Sports President Sean McManus: "There will be weeks and months, or even years, when NFL ratings will be better or worse than we hoped. But the NFL is a healthy product, and we're getting the results we hoped for" (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/1). NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue is quoted in the CHICAGO TRIBUNE as saying, "The polls show we're more popular than ever. ... We're still the best sports product on TV" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/1). NOT JUST FOOTBALL? Media buyer Paul Schulman notes that all four networks' primetime ratings are down this year, and there are "no apparent hits so far among their 37 new primetime shows." Schulman: "Sports ratings may be low, but look at everything else" (USA TODAY, 11/2). The N.Y. TIMES' Bill Carter looks at the state of NBC, noting that with the loss of the NFL and "Seinfeld," the net's "biggest losses have been among younger men" (N.Y. TIMES, 11/2).