David Kirkpatrick

September 12, 2010

Sunday NFL football …

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:34 am

…. is back!

Thursday’s game was great (especially since the Saints won) and the Monday doubleheader will be even better, but there’s nothing like National Football League games on Sunday.

August 4, 2010

NFL television ratings, here comes the science

Research from the University of Illinois.

The release, er, story:

Winning record, team longevity, prime-time games influence NFL TV ratings

8/4/10 | Phil Ciciora, News Editor

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Legendary Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi once said, “Winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.” For NFL teams, especially small-market franchises seeking to increase their fan base, winning does help, but so does team longevity in the market as well as the number of games played in prime time, according to research by a University of Illinois sports economist.

Scott Tainsky, a professor of recreation, sport and tourism at Illinois, says that many of the same factors that influence whether fans attend a game in-person also influence a team’s television ratings.

“Sports economists have traditionally relied on attendance figures as a proxy for demand in order to figure out what’s motivating fans to go to games,” Tainsky said. “Even though the NFL is priced just a little bit below where it could maximize revenue at the gate, it still requires a large income or at least a large outlay of money for the average fan to see a game in-person.”

According to Tainsky, whose research was published in the Journal of Sports Economics, since the vast majority of fans watch the games on TV instead of in-person, and with the NFL generating over half of its revenue through TV contracts, TV ratings might actually function as a better proxy for consumer demand in both the home and road teams’ markets.

“We have a long history of studying consumer demand for major league baseball, but there’s very little research done on the NFL, even though it’s the largest revenue, most popular sport in the U.S.,” he said.

Of the three factors that positively influence demand, fielding a winning team is the most difficult variable to account for on a year-to-year basis, especially for small-market teams.

“From the first day of training camp, winning is the goal for every team in the league,” Tainsky said. “But that’s going to be somewhat cyclical, since the league has a pretty hard salary cap. If the spending on player talent is virtually equivalent for all 32 teams, there’s going to be parity, meaning that some teams will have good years while other teams will have bad years.”

Since it’s easier for the big-market teams such as Dallas and Chicago to weather the year-to-year swings in their win-loss records, small-market teams need to be even more proactive in courting fans when they’re muddling through a losing campaign.

One way to do that, Tainsky says, is to promote the experience of going to the game.

“When you’re a small-market team and you’re having a down year, you have to promote other things besides the quality of the team,” Tainsky said. “You have to market the tradition of sports being passed down from generation to generation, this notion of, ‘I went to the game with my dad, and he went with his dad,’ or the ‘On any given Sunday…’ mythology that the NFL likes to cultivate. If you can get this to be a habit of consumption on Sundays, that’s ideal, because it’s easier to take it on the chin when they’re not doing so well.”

Small-market teams mired in a rebuilding year are also at risk of having their broadcasts blacked out as a result of poor attendance. But Tainsky discovered that ratings for telecasts in those markets – Atlanta, Buffalo, Jacksonville, Oakland, St. Louis and Tennessee – were on par with the remaining 26 franchises. He blames market size rather than market demand for the teams’ failure to sell out games.

“There are three different ways that Nielsen collects ratings, and one of them is the percentage of TVs in the area that are on, and those aren’t appreciably lower in cities that experience blackouts,” Tainsky said. “In fact, the per capita demand is often higher in small markets; they just have trouble filling 60- and 70,000- seat stadiums. A place like New York City has a low market share, but the sheer number of people it has in its surrounding metropolitan area allows it to sell out games.”

In that respect, it may not be the fault of the smaller market cities that they can’t get a larger percentage of a viewing audience, Tainsky says.

“The team might be doing everything it can do to attract fans, but because of the smaller population size, it has to be that much more popular to avert blackouts.”

Although there was a slight ratings bump for games played in prime time, Tainsky said that sharing a home market with another team, as the San Francisco 49ers and the Oakland Raiders do in the Bay Area, represented a significant drag on consumer demand. The socioeconomic status of fans was also negatively associated with ratings. Tainsky noted that other research has shown that lower-income fans engage in homebound and sedentary activities, further indicating that TV ratings might be a better measure of consumer demand.

Using TV ratings to analyze demand also allows sports economists to look at the size of viewership in cities that don’t have a home game that weekend, or in cities that don’t have teams. There’s also the “diaspora effect,” where fans have been displaced either by the team moving to a different market (the Baltimore Colts moving to Indianapolis, for example) or the fans themselves moving from their home markets (for example, displaced Pittsburghers living in suburban Chicago).

“Population flow from city-to-city does seem to have an effect on ratings for games,” Tainsky said. “If more people from western Pennsylvania have moved to the Chicago suburbs, the game featuring the Steelers will be popular but only if the game is being played at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.”

Tainsky said displaced fans won’t watch in great numbers if the Steelers are playing on the road at, say, Jacksonville, which may indicate that viewers aren’t necessarily tuning in for the game itself, but rather for the feelings of nostalgia that watching a football game on a Sunday evokes.

“It makes them think back to where they’re from, and the good times they had watching those games in the past,” he said. “So there’s more to it than just the game itself.”

March 23, 2010

The NFL changed its playoff overtime rule

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:13 pm

I’m honestly shocked, particularly that the vote was so one-sided — 28-4.

From the link:

The NFL owners voted to change an element in the overtime rule, giving the team that loses the coin toss at the start of overtime to get a possession if the coin-toss winning team scores a field goal with the first possession.

The proposal passed 28-4. As it is written, the rules change applies just for the postseason, but the owners also decided to discuss adopting the changes for the regular season at their next meeting, in May in Dallas.

The Buffalo BillsMinnesota VikingsBaltimore Ravens and Cincinnati Bengals voted against the proposal.

The competition committee recommended the change in a vote of 6-2, and commissioner Roger Goodell supported the plan. He was able to secure enough votes to get the proposal passed on Tuesday, a day before the expected Wednesday vote.

The reason for the change was the increased accuracy of kickers since 1993. In 1994, the NFL moved kickoffs from the 35 to the 30, which created better field position for the teams that won the coin toss and received the kickoffs.

Statistics examined by the committee showed that since 1994, teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 percent of the time. The team that loses the toss wins the game 38.5 percent in that 15-year span.

February 7, 2010

Oh when the Saints …

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:19 pm

Go marching in.

January 24, 2010

Congrats to the Colts and the Saints

The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints advance to Super Bowl XLIV two weeks from now on February 7, 2010, in Miami.

Going into the Indy/New York game I figured 21 points would be enough for the Colts. Turns out I was right, but it certainly didn’t look that way at halftime where the Jets led 17-13.  In fact until the two-minute drill of the first half, the Jets dominated with a little bit of luck and a lot of good play. Especially from rookie QB Mark Sanchez. In the second half the Jets fell to earth, and after three solid quarters Sanchez finally looked like a rookie quarterback in the fourth. The Colts efficiently controlled the entire second half for a 30-17 win.

Just two words are needed for the NFC Championship game: roller coaster. The New Orleans Saints beat the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime to send the franchise to it’s first Super Bowl. The teams traded punches through an alternately offensive and defensive battle. The Vikings were beset with fumbles, losing three and mostly dominated the second half — particularly the fourth quarter — aside from the crippling mistakes. In field goal range to win the game in regulation, Brett Favre threw an interception with less than 10 seconds remaining in what may well be his final NFL pass.

The NFC Championship game was about as exciting as playoff football can get. The Super Bowl should be an interesting match-up. Hopefully the Saints’ offense from the first half of this season will make the trip to Miami.

January 17, 2010

Geaux Saints!

My NFL rooting interests run Cowboys, Saints, Raiders. The Raiders are on an extended tear of mediocrity and seem doomed so until Al Davis is no longer in charge of football operations. Dallas is out of the playoffs, so that leaves everything on the backs of New Orleans. Happily that team looks to be more than capable of bearing my extra weight.

This is typically the best weekend of football, but overall it didn’t really match up to last week’s games.  The New Orleans Saints steamrolled the Arizona Cardinals 45-14 and the Indianapolis Colts took care of business against the Baltimore Ravens 20-3 yesterday.

Today the Minnesota Vikings dominated the Dallas Cowboys 34-3 and the New York Jets shocked the San Diego Chargers 17-24.

So heading into divisional weekend my battle cry will be, “geaux Saints!”

January 10, 2010

Congrats to the Cardinals and the Ravens

As fun as yesterday’s wildcard weekend games were to watch, they both look pretty perfunctory next to today’s contests. Even though the result was the same — one and done — the Packers did something today the Patriots couldn’t pull off. Both teams were just punched in the face very early in each game, but the Packers came back with a vengeance through masterful coaching and quarterback play to force overtime.

At the end of this day of football the Arizona Cardinals beat the Green Bay Packers 51-45 in overtime on an Aaron Rodgers fumble and touchdown return by the Cards. Easily the game of the weekend with insane offensive play from both teams.

In the early game the New England Patriots were absolutely dismantled by the Baltimore Ravens, 33-14. And really the score looks a bit generous for the Pats, a team that looks to be on the downside of a good run. Baltimore was impressive and heads to Indy next week with a lot of confidence against a team they’ve had success against in the past.

All in all, a great opening weekend for the NFL playoffs this year.

Doesn’t it seem like the Pats have been a bit star-crossed …

… ever since Spygate broke a couple of years ago? Defensive leader, linebacker Tedy Bruschi suffers a stroke about three years before the story comes to light as an opening karmic salvo against the cheating team by the gods of football. Then last year the franchise, quarterback Tom Brady, loses just about the entire 2008 season to a major knee injury dooming the team to missing the playoffs. Last week star wide receiver Wes Welker blows a knee right before this year’s playoffs. And now today’s display.

What if Spygate went much, much deeper than anyone realizes. Here’s one scenario:

(Note for conceptually and hyperbole challenged readers: the following is satire [see definition number two from the link] and not actual conjecture, analysis or inside information,)

Recall back in the summer of 2005. Patriots owner Bob Kraft meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin, and hands the world leader his ring from the recent Super Bowl victory over the Philadelphia Eagles for examination. After looking the ring over and trying it on, Putin calmly and smilingly slides the ring into his pocket saying nothing. Essentially daring Kraft to protest this blatant and public theft, and act of total disrespect.

What if, instead of some sort of cultural misunderstanding or just simple robbery by Putin, this act was Putin’s gangster way of exacting a little more flesh from a business associate. Very possibly beyond simple in-stadium cameras trained on opposing sidelines, the New England Patriots engaged the services of Russia’s spy apparatus – namely spy satellites engaged to not only catch signals called, but possibly even sideline conversations through lip-reading technology coupled with real time satellite images capable of pinpoint resolution.

Of course, once you go down that particular rabbit hole, where does it end? Black ops agents infiltrating other NFL teams? Subtle disabling hits (think poisoning — we all know post-USSR Russia has experience and expertise in this field) against opposing players and coaches?

And consider the bitter irony of a team named the “Patriots” getting into bed with the United State’s bitter cold war foe. No wonder the football gods frowned, conferred and rendered a dark judgement asunder.

May the fall of the cheating, and possibly traitorous, New England Patriots be cold, bitter and very, very long.

(Yeah, I know I used “bitter” a lot there in the last two grafs. Maybe it’s the bitter taste in my mouth from these dark revelations.)

Congrats to the Cowboys and the Jets

Dallas destroyed the Eagles for the second consecutive week with a final score of 34-14, and finally won a playoff game in the new century. In the other rematch from last week, the Jets rolled the Bengals 24-14. One similarity between the first two games of this year’s playoffs was the play at QB — Romo and Sanchez looked good and McNabb and Palmer looked, well, not so good. Palmer was absolutely dreadful. At least McNabb can place some blame on a solid Dallas D.

All in all an excellent start to the second season. Today’s games should be fun.

November 27, 2009

NFL Network inadvertendly airs blue language

Filed under: et.al., Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:47 am

So (expletive) what.

And why is ESPN breathlessly reporting on this non-story?

From the link:

The NFL Network accidentally aired a vulgarity yelled by Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as he chastised his players on the sideline of their Thanksgiving night game against the New York Giants.

Coming out of a commercial break following a series of false starts near the goal line that resulted in Denver settling for a field goal, the NFL Network showed a clip of McDaniels, who yelled at his players: “All we’re trying to do is win a (expletive) game!”

September 10, 2009

The NFL’s blackout rule …

Filed under: Media, Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:11 pm

is stupid, outdated and very counterproductive.

For this reason alone, if nothing else.

Bill Simmons today from the second link:

Prediction VI: Blackouts of home games will become the signature media story of the 2009 season. You’ll hear way too much about it. Here’s my take: This isn’t about the economy. It’s about the fact that it’s more fun to stay home and watch football than it is to sit in crappy seats to watch any team ranging from “lousy” to “mediocre.” It just is. For many fan bases, here are the two choices every Sunday:

Door No. 1 (more expensive): Traffic, parking, long walk to stadium, lousy seats, lifeless state-of-the-art arena, TV timeouts, dead crowds, drunk/bitter fans, more TV timeouts, hiked-up concession prices, PDAs with jammed signals as you’re searching for scores, even more TV timeouts, long walk to car, even more traffic.

Door No. 2 (less expensive): Sofa, NFL package, HD, fantasy scores online, remote control toggling, gambling, access to scores, seven straight hours of football, cell phone calls, beer and food in fridge, no traffic.

I can see going through Door No. 1 once a year just to remind yourself that going to an NFL game sucks. But eight times a year? Unless you had good seats, or unless this was your only excuse to get out of your house and get plastered, why would you? It’s a blue-collar sport with white-collar ticket prices. This blackout trend would have happened whether the economy was suffering or not.

River basins, the NFL and the spread offense

Here’s an interesting article from the Wall Street Journal making the argument the NFL is seeing prolific offenses because the game is a flow system where the offense acts as a river does on its basin to constantly improve efficiency.

It’s a fun read, but for the increase in offensive output I’m going to go with a rule book that wildly favors the offensive side of the ball and scoring, coupled with some offensive twists — like the wildcat and the spread offense — that are trickling up from high school and college football.

But hey, the football season is about to officially kick off and what better way to spend a little time than to contemplate how the mighty forces of a river equate to the offensive production of your favorite team.

From the link:

Some football thinkers believe these numbers speak to a temporary period of offensive dominance in the NFL—just one more high point in an endlessly fluctuating historical curve. But if you venture a bit beyond the particulars of football, to the principles of science, there’s another argument to be made: that the NFL’s high-speed, high-scoring offenses are a reflection of one of the laws of nature—the tendency of all things to evolve toward efficiency.

Adrian Bejan a professor of mechanical engineering at Duke University, likens the NFL’s evolution to a river’s effect on its basin. (Stay with us, here.) Over time, a river relentlessly wears away its banks and, as a result, water flows faster and faster toward its mouth. When obstacles fall in its way, say, a tree, or a boulder—or in the case of an NFL offense, beefy linebackers like the Baltimore Ravens’ Ray Lewis or the Chicago Bears’ Brian Urlacher—it will figure out how to wear those away, too.

“The game is a flow system, a river basin of bodies that are milling around trying to find the most effective and easiest way to move,” says Prof. Bejan. “Over time you will end up with the right way to play the game, with the patterns that are the most efficient.”

In 1996, Prof. Bejan, who began following the NFL after coming to the U.S. from Romania to attend college, came up with a theory about natural phenomena known as the Constructal Law. The theory, he says, can be used to explain the evolution of efficiency in everything from river basins to mechanical design. By extension, he says, it could also be applied to the explosion of offense in the NFL.

August 13, 2009

Ahh, pro football

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:52 pm

I love the NFL, but I’m usually not terribly excited by the preseason. For some reason this year is different. I watched the bulk of the Hall of Fame game, a notorious snoozer, and I’m watching preseason ball tonight. I think I’m ready for the NFL this year.

Mike Vick signed with Philly today, Donte Stallworth is out for at least this year with a conduct susupension and every team has some sort of interesting/exciting/perplexing training camp news cooking right now.

I can’t wait for the September 10 kickoff between the Steelers and the Titans.

June 27, 2009

The no fun league strikes again

Filed under: Business, Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 4:04 pm

I love pro football. Almost all my sports blogging is on pro football. But — the moniker “no fun league” for NFL is all too fitting. The league is too ready to crack down on players for public relations reasons and far too draconian in its business dealings.

Now the no fun league wants to codify a lower court precedent with a Supreme Court ruling? I doubt the court takes the case and if it does I hope the NFL gets shot down. Sadly the Roberts court – which I had some hope for — might actually take a bullshit case like this.

From the second link:

In the legal equivalent of running up the score, the NFL is going to the U.S. Supreme Court in search of a bigger victory in an antitrust tussle over team merchandise than it already won from a lower court.The Supreme Court could decide as early as Monday whether it will hear the case, which involves American Needle Inc.’s challenge to the league’s exclusive contract for selling headwear such as caps and hats with team logos on them.

American Needle of Buffalo Grove, Ill., also is urging a high court review. Football team owners hope the Supreme Court will issue a broader decision that would insulate the NFL against what they contend are costly, frivolous antitrust lawsuits.

At the heart of the matter is whether the NFL’s teams constitute 32 distinct businesses or a single entity that can act collectively without violating antitrust law.

Update 6/29/09 — The big court is going to hear the case.

From the link:

In taking a case involving the National Football League’s exclusive licensing deal for sports merchandise, the Supreme Court could go beyond caps and give leagues more leeway in areas such as team relocation, legal scholars said Monday.”A broad ruling in favor of the NFL could rewrite almost all of sports antitrust law,” said Gabe Feldman, associate law professor and director of the Sports Law Program at Tulane University in New Orleans.

April 1, 2009

Jay Cutler is a baby

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 3:45 pm

I doubt the Broncos have any trouble trading him, but any team taking on Jay Cutler better heavily lay in on the infant supplies to keep him happy.

December 28, 2008

Cowboys out of playoffs

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 6:27 pm

In losing to Philly 44-6, Dallas missed the playoffs and looked unbelievably flat for the second straight week.

I’ve always supported him, but I’m starting to think Romo isn’t the guy. He’s pretty much whiffed on every single big game in his career.

(And a quick note to Roy E. Williams — STFU. Don’t run your mouth and lay an egg in the biggest game of your career.)

October 13, 2008

Killer day for Cowboys

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , , , — David Kirkpatrick @ 10:32 pm

Yesterday was devastating day personnel-wise for the Dallas Cowboys.

The big news is Tony Romo’s pinkie, but lost in the mix is a 2-4 week loss of rookie sensation running back/kick returner, Felix Jones, and maybe even more painful in ways is the loss for the season of underrated punter, Mat McBriar

Ouch all around. We’ll see how the team regroups after a rough week on the PR front, disheveled play on the field and now bitten hard by the injury bug.

September 8, 2008

NFL used optimization software for 2008 schedule

Looks like everyone’s excited about the NFL season finally kicking off. I know I am, and the Cowboys look real good. Woot!

Even the gang at CIO.com are into pigskin fever as evidenced by this story today about how the league used specialized optimization software to create this year’s schedule.

From the link:

The National Football League is a professional sports organization known for its meticulous, hands-on approach to everything—how the league contracts with TV networks, how teams draft their players and how those players should act on and off the field, how licensing deals are signed, and how rules are enforced on the playing field.

The NFL doesn’t leave a lot to chance.

The same was true with how NFL executives created the schedule for its teams every year: It was all done by hand, starting the day after the Super Bowl, with a peg board and little tags. “The process was kind of secretive,” says Michael North, the NFL’s director of broadcast planning and scheduling, who’s been with the league for 15 years. “We would go into the room, lock the door and emerge 10 weeks later: ‘Here’s your schedule. Play it.’”

That all changed several years ago, when the NFL realized it could use technology to automate the process—making it more efficient and its schedules better—and a Canadian manufacturing engineer named Rick Stone came knocking on the NFL’s door.

In other NFL news, I wish Tom Brady a speedy recovery. You hate to see the league lose a marquee player at any time, especially week one. It was pretty obvious yesterday, but it’s official today that Brady is out for the season. The AFC just got a lot more interesting.

The Silver is the New Black Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers