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Football is getting crushed in the news cycle right now. The LeBron sweepstakes, the non-LeBron sweepstakes, baseball, soccer, tennis. Tennis has been in the news more than football. TENNIS!
Something must be done. Roger Goodell and his college football brethren must not cede early summer headlines to other sports. And here are five steps they can take to make that happen.
1. Embrace negative headlines: Football players are going to get in trouble. There are more than 1,500 of them in the NFL alone. They are strong, aggressive people and many of them are targeted by "regular" folks trying to make a name for themselves. Those are facts. So football shouldn't hide from bad news; it should promote it.
I'm picturing each night a special show announcing that day's arrest(s). For example, the June 14th broadcast would have opened with Roger Goodell striding to the podium and announcing: "With the first arrest of June 14th, the Dallas Police Department arrests ... Vince Young, quarterback, Titans, Class C assault misdemeanor."
I would watch that. Everyone would watch that. You could do each night's broadcast in the exact style of a draft. Analysts talking about rumors: "I hear the Mobile County Sheriff's Office is investigating JaMarcus Russell. The question is: Do they have enough evidence to make an arrest tonight?" A list of the top players available: "Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Pacman Jones, anyone on the Oregon Ducks, anyone on the Florida Gators, Leonard Little." Scouting reports: "Ben Roethlisberger has a top-notch legal defense team, but there are questions about his decision-making." It's a ratings goldmine.
The only thing preventing it from happening is the fact that the NFL and NCAA, understandably, only like positive news.
2. Ignore positive news: It's a common complaint: "Why doesn't the media focus more on POSITIVE news?" Because the vast majority of people don't care about positive news. Sad? Maybe. True? Very. If I had an extra few billion dollars, I'd love to start a sports media company that focused only on positive news -- "Drew Brees did more charity work today!", "Lane Kiffin loves his kids!", "The NBA cares. Really!" And then, a few weeks later when it went out of business, we would never have to have this conversation again.
Negative news gets people talking. Scandal gets people talking. No one stands around the office water cooler dishing dirt on which athletes have been linked to Habitat for Humanity. (Except maybe at the water cooler at the Habitat for Humanity offices. And, if so ... GET BACK TO WORK!)
Football must counter all of the positive news it gets with negative news. It should be the primary goal of the P.R. department.
If some newspaper does a story about Drew Brees' charity work, the NFL should immediately put up a photo gallery on NFL.com of Brees' worst comb-over shots. Or a video package titled: "Drew Brees' Top 10 Most Awful Turnovers."
Same for the NCAA. Some football program wants to brag about its graduation rate or grade point average? Fine. The NCAA can just publish the syllabus from a course the players took. What would get more attention -- the fact that X State players got a 2.85 GPA last semester? Or the syllabus for their anatomy class about the respiratory system, which requires them to show up to class and, you know ... breathe.
3. Dating shows: They are a popular staple of reality shows. Football-related dating shows would interest many male football fans while bringing in an all-new female audience.
Here's the show: a dozen NFL players seek to win the heart of Jessica Simpson. It would be just like "The Bachelorette," only with belching contests.
In the finale, after Simpson has selected an NFL player and he has professed his love to her ... there is a twist! A Kardashian sister is brought on-set and the player is given a choice: stay with Simpson for love ... or choose a Kardashian and win a title. Ratings gold.
4. Talent shows: Another reality show staple. Sure, football skills may not be as exciting to the average American as singing and dancing, but there are still some opportunities to get some eyeballs here.
"So You Think You Can Pass Block?"
"West Texas' Got Talent!"
"Project Running Back"
If America was willing to listen to Taylor Hicks sing, it will definitely be willing to watch people do some football drills. In fact, I would rather try to block Lawrence Taylor in his prime than listen to Taylor Hicks sing.
5. Tebow: This is not a hard one. You know Tim Tebow? Yeah, show him doing stuff. Or show old clips of him doing stuff. Or don't show any clips of him doing stuff and just talk about him. Really it doesn't matter. But Tebow = news. Even when there's really no news. Like now. But just by putting his name in this column three times -- and now four: Tebow -- this column will now get more traffic than every tennis article on the Internet today combined. TEBOW!
DJ Gallo is the founder of SportsPickle.com. His first book, "SportsPickle Presents: The View from the Upper Deck," is available from only the finest bargain book retailers. His next book project will be released soon. You can follow him on Twitter at @DJGalloESPN.
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