NATHAN DEEN: Super Bowl the only bright spot in a dreadful NFL season


Heading into Super Bowl Sunday, I started to feel a little like Bill Murray’s character reporting the same event over and over in “Groundhog Day.”

“Well, it’s Groundhog Day … again.”

“Well, the Patriots won the Super Bowl … again.”

Except Tom Brady woke up Sunday morning and didn’t see his shadow. The nightmare is over. The Patriots didn’t win the Super Bowl, and the sun is starting to set on the greatest dynasty in league history.

And that’s good for the NFL.

Sunday’s victory for the Philadelphia Eagles, the first Super Bowl title in the franchise’s history, was a good ending on an otherwise dismal season.

Tom, I know you’re going to be tempted to not retire and prove you can still do it at age 41. But we get it. You’re the best to ever do it. No one’s disputing that. If they are, they’re hating.

We get it, Tom. Point made.

Now kindly go away. Take your hundreds of millions of dollars, your five Super Bowl rings, your four Super Bowl MVPs and three NFL MVPs and don’t let the door hit you on your way out.

Because the NFL needs you to retire. The league already has glaring problems with declining ratings, and the last thing it needs is Team Terrific taking the suspense out of everything.

Yes, the Super Bowl was high quality entertainment.

This season was not.

The conference championship games saw their lowest ratings in years, and a team with a back-up quarterback and a ubiquitous hatred for the Patriots might have been all that saved the Super Bowl from the same fate. To be honest, this was the dullest NFL season (on the field, at least) I can remember in my lifetime. The most I watched of any game this season besides the Super Bowl was the second half of the AFC championship game between New England and Jacksonville. That’s because I never had a reason to. The NFL doesn’t demand an audience and hence isn’t worth my time.

The NFL is still king and has a substantial lead over the growing NBA in terms of popularity. The 2016 Super Bowl had five times the viewership of the 20 million or so who watched the 2017 NBA Finals. But at the rate the NFL is declining, the NBA has a chance to make up some serious ground over the next five years.

It’s not all your fault, Tom. In fact, it’s only partly your fault. What’s really killing the NFL is how it continues to insist on playing politics. I’m actually shocked there’s something more important to the NFL than money because it is losing a ton of it over players kneeling for the national anthem.

I’m only approaching this with a business mind. I’m fine with Colin Kaepernick and think he has some valid points to make about an issue many of us don’t see in our day-to-day lives or even in published statistics. But from a business standpoint, what the NFL is doing makes no sense.

If the NFL is going to allow players to kneel for the national anthem, then it can’t shun a Super Bowl advertisement produced by a veterans group that asks for players to stand. When it comes to politics, it’s either all or nothing. My vote would be all, in this case, because people would misinterpret the NFL telling players not to take a knee as an infringement on First Amendment rights. That’s false, but many people don’t seem to know that. The First Amendment protects your speech from government retaliation. It doesn’t protect you from your employer telling you to keep your political opinions to yourself, which is what I think all businesses should do. Or they should allow for an open market of political opinions. One or the other.

But when you choose a side, as the NFL clearly did when it turned down the veterans’ Super Bowl ad, then by default you’re alienating an entire political spectrum of potential viewers. The move appeared to be the last straw for many conservative viewers, and the NFL may not be able to win them back.

The NFL isn’t alone in this, though. ESPN, MSNBC, CNN and even Fox News have firmly positioned themselves on one side or the other and continue to limit their ratings and tarnish their credibility. It’s a business model proven to fail.

I think I’m like most people in saying I just want to be entertained when it comes to sports. Right now, the NFL is only worth watching one game a year.

Nathan Deen is a sports reporter for the Savannah Morning News. Contact him at 912-652-0353 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @NathanDeenSMN.

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