On Sunday, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban predicted the end of the National Football League 10 years from now. Like many of those predicting the downfall of the country's most popular sports, he is probably wrong, but what's interesting isn't his prognostication, but rather his reasoning behind it. While most contemporary critics of the NFL cite safety and concussion dangers as the biggest threat to the league, Cuban believes overexposure will end up sinking it.
Here's Cuban's argument: "Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. When you try to take it too far, people turn the other way." In less porcine-laden language, Cuban argues that with the NFL's recent TV deals — that could put the league on TV as much four nights a week — it runs the risk of being everywhere. Too much of a good thing, or so the saying goes, and viewers will begin to feel over-saturated with professional football and grow disinterested.
"They're trying to take over every night of TV ... If it gets Saturday, now you're impacting colleges. Now it's on four days a week ... It's all football. At some point, the people get sick of it," Cuban explained.
Except all of the numbers indicate that people can't get enough of the NFL. According to Sports Illustrated, televised games did, as usual, gangbusters for the league, and viewer numbers were up across the board. Sunday games averaged almost 19 million viewers on CBS and more than 20 million on Fox, Monday Night Football on ESPN had its third-best season ever, and even Thursday night games on the NFL Network (which many people still don't get on their cable system) averaged 8 million viewers, up 10 percent over the year prior. People seem to want more of the NFL, and the league is giving it to them. So why does Cuban think that'll lead to its demise?
Cuban might want to look at another issue threatening the NFL if he wants to doom-say: concussions. Though safety concerns might not damage the league's popularity on TV or make a dent financially, critics suggest the NFL could have something of an image problem on its hands. If more documentaries like Frontline's League of Denial come out, the NFL's concussion problem might be too much to ignore. Dangers of football are already driving down participation at the most basic levels, with Pop Warner's near-10 percent drop since 2010. Questions of pro football's long-term viability might lead to the "implosion" Cuban warns of, even if more people than ever are watching now. (Though even in that case, the bust is probably more than 10 years out.) Cuban would be better off asking What happens if viewers grow a conscience? rather than What happens if viewers get bored?
Then again, it all just may be wishful thinking. Cuban, as everyone knows, owns an NBA team and probably would like nothing more than to see his league's biggest competitor for sports entertainment dollars get taken down a peg. No one could ever get sick of basketball games!
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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