How the NFL is proving it's not family-friendly
Every professional sport has its own atmosphere. Through chants, songs, costumes, and even organized “color-outs,” the passion for a sport and its teams is born. In 1979, the Pittsburgh Pirates adopted the Sister Sledge favorite, “We Are Family” as a theme during their pennant race and eventual 5th championship. Well, being a father in this new sports era, I feel that there isn’t much of a family experience in the NFL; I’m not alone.
For years, I wanted to be a season ticket holder of my favorite football team. I’m sure that I’m not alone in that category either. Yet, as I’ve gotten older and possibly wiser, I feel like those season tickets for any NFL team aren’t worth it. Tailgating, binge drinking, drunken buffoons, profanity and the morning headache that follows… I am just getting too old for that sort of environment. It’s a place that I’m certainly not willing to take my son.
Conversely, I’ve witnessed various different events of kid’s days, mother’s day appreciations, and even bring your pet days in sports. None of these events involve the National Football League. Instead, noticeable instances in the NFL, or maybe I should say incidents, include domestic violence charges, child abuse, and murder trials flooding through media networks.
I’m not quite sure why the football environment is so different from every other sports atmosphere, but it is. Consequently, there are people not renewing their season tickets. Joe Fowler, a Redskins fan that resides in Virginia, mentioned “[This is] a question that haunts me to this day: ‘So, Mr. Fowler, how can the Washington Redskins retain you as a season-ticket holder?’”
In his article, which can be found on SI.com, Fowler tells the story of his confrontation with an inebriated Cowboys fan attending the Redskins regular season game. It was at that point that he decided not to renew his season tickets. Thankfully, his family wasn’t attending the game that week. Fowler continues providing interesting information about how the NFL and its teams only accommodate family friendly areas when the team is not performing well.
”I wondered how many other NFL-loving fathers have to deal with this problem, so I recently called or web-chatted with the ticket offices of all 32 teams to find out. As with many issues in the NFL, this one revolves squarely around money. A vast majority (71%) of NFL teams that have above-average attendance (like the Redskins) do not have family seating sections. A vast majority (73%) of NFL teams with below-average attendance have such sections—presumably to help boost ticket sales.”
Living in Pittsburgh, I’ve taken my son to numerous baseball games at PNC Park and more than one hockey game at Consol Energy Center. I’ve seen Sidney Crosby and his teammates passing out pizzas on nights when college students can get into the games for $25. I can’t wait to take my kid to a Pirates game on Sundays so that I can watch him run around the bases after the game.
There have been strides towards making the NFL game experience more enjoyable for those who do not partake in harassing opposing team fans or consuming alcohol. In Paul Brown Stadium, the home of the Cincinnati Bengals, there is a “JERK Line” that is available for fans. Now, as the name doesn’t bode well when first read, it is a text feature that a fan can use when witnessing poor behavior in or around their section:
“Fans wishing to report poor fan behavior during Bengals games at Paul Brown Stadium may do so by sending a text message to “JERK” at 69050. Fans using too much foul language will first get a warning from stadium security. Those who continue could be ejected and have their season tickets and personal seat licenses revoked. More serious offenses could lead to arrest. When callers report problems such as threats, fights or drunkenness, security officials will use the stadium's video cameras to focus on the offenders and then respond.”
Going further south, the Miami Dolphins have created a section strictly for those who don’t consume alcohol. In the southwest region, The University of Phoenix Stadium has also adopted the same alcohol-free family section. This is the closest that I’ve found to “family friendly” zones in the traditional NFL Stadium.
These are definitely strides that have been made for a father or a mother to join the competitive atmosphere that the NFL proudly produces. But are those efforts enough? According to a poll in SI.com, they are enough. Based upon a recent Sports Illustrated fan poll of approximately 500 fans, 92% who watch the NFL have reported as having spent the same amount of time or more watching NFL games than they did in 2012.
The NFL has to do a lot more than to just produce some timely commercials when events come up. Player conduct policies need to be improved (or enforced), a disciplinary committee should be established/used as opposed to the commissioner deciding consequences, and finally stadium conduct policies should become a standard across the league. Until some of those improvements are made, I know that I’m not going to be taking my son anytime soon.
Are these solutions perfect? No. Will they help to make a better product? Perhaps. The NFL evidently considers family-focused fans as second-class citizens and only pays attention to them when the gate receipts decline. Because of that neglect, the NFL has lost me as a fan and won’t be getting portions of my take-home pay until both fans and families are properly appreciated.
- Tags: NFL