Can anything really take down the NFL?
Is there any scandal that could really tarnish the image of the National Football League, or the “shield” as Roger Goodell likes to call it?
Seriously, 2014 was an awful year for Goodell and his brand. In fact, in the 15-plus years that I’ve followed professional sports, I cannot remember a year so riddled with controversies and scandals that the NFL has felt, and failed at getting around, than this past season.
Yet we still keep watching.
Just over 114 million people watched Super Bowl XLIX between the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, making it the most watched television broadcast in U.S. history.
For clarity purposes, guess how many people watched game seven of the 2014 World Series.
I know everyone watches the Super Bowl; it’s become a holiday, but look at that difference. The games have become a product of the sport we love following and nothing is going to change that.
In 2014 we saw 44 players get arrested, most of which have been the result of drugs or domestic violence. Speaking of domestic violence, we had a face of an NFL franchise, Ray Rice, destroy his image and drag Goodell and the “shield” through the gutter during the legal process of his hearings.
There have been 507 NFL arrests since the start of the 2010 season. But we have still kept watching.
And more recently, we have seen a model franchise be falsely accused of deflating footballs prior to a game with little to no evidence as to how the balls got deflated in the first place. We’ve seen the media destroy the images of advocates of the sport in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. And we have now seen another lengthy suspension for one of the great young talents in the league in Josh Gordon.
But we still keep watching.
What is the worst thing that happens in baseball? We find out a player is taking performance-enhancing drugs? It seems like every other day an NFL player is getting arrested or fined for something illegal.
The bottom line is that nothing can really tarnish this league’s image. No scandal, fine, suspension or media debacle will prevent us from following football. Say what you want about Roger Goodell and other suits of the league that we seem to criticize for reprimanding all of these controversies. But just remember, your television sets were still on this past season and they’ll continue to be on again every Sunday next season.
The NFL may seem to be in a dark place right now, but it is the most watched sport in America, whether we like it or not.
David Heim can be reached at email@example.com or on twitter @DavidHeim12.