Ratings Decline

Why wasn't the Super Bowl exciting?

Sbnation.com

The ratings for Super Bowl LIII have come in and they aren't what CBS and the NFL were hoping for. Even though nearly 100 million viewers tuned in for the big game, there was a roughly 5% drop from last year. The full ratings breakdown isn't available yet but even a small dip in the first set of numbers is something the NFL should take seriously.

As for me, I watched the game. Sort of. I had every intention of sitting down and enjoying every snap and every commercial break, including halftime. But when it came down to it, life got in the way. I wasn't invited to, or even aware of any Super Bowl parties amongst my friends. Even if there were, I'm not sure I would have felt compelled to rush through everything I needed to do this weekend just so I could go celebrate the biggest game of the season.

When I look at my social media and the local coverage leading up to the game, I get the sense I'm not the only one who was going to watch the game at home with family while I continued to go about my day. It's a far cry from when I was younger when it felt like the hype surrounding the game was bigger than the game itself. I'm sure bars were packed and there were still plenty of people hosting parties, but I got the sense it isn't like it used to be.

Right now, the NFL has some huge problems that affect how people view the game of football. So much so that there's probably some fatigue with it all. Concussions, protests, bad officiating, and even the Patriots; all these contribute to a lack of excitement that previously didn't exist on Super Bowl Sunday.

How many people decided not to tune in because once again it was Tom Brady and Bill Belichick? I would say that might have been the biggest factor. No matter who represented the NFC, I knew they would face a coach and quarterback combo that would out think them. Belichick knows how to plan for his opponents and in the Super Bowl it takes a great individual effort or a surprise play call that shifts the momentum away from his game plan. As cool as it is to be in the era of Tom Brady, we all know that the Patriots don't care about exciting football; only winning. I have too much to do to dedicate my time to a slow-moving chess match. I was right, there weren't any plays that will go down as all time highlights in the annals of the NFL.

How many people decided not to watch the Super Bowl because they were still upset that the New Orleans Saints got screwed out of an appearance by horrible officiating that changed the most likely outcome of the NFC Championship? The Rams chance to play for a title will always seem tainted by what happened at the end of that game and a conscious or subconscious lack of interest in the Rams probably permeated the mood a lot of fans had about the Super Bowl.

I know it did for me. I was less interested because I felt like someone not playing the game made such an egregious mistake that the outcome was not what it should have been. In my mind I have no doubt that the Saints were the team that belonged in the Super Bowl. As good as the Rams were all season, there is an asterisk next to them and I cared more about taking care of my home life than watching a team that shouldn't have been there in the first place.

Let's talk about commercials. Have they gotten so expensive that it is no longer worth it? Sure, there were still some great commercials that fit the idea of what a Super Bowl ad should be. Is it me, or have they become more political than years past? Are there fewer themed campaigns by companies that involve multiple different commercials that made you want to go watch all the variations later?

I saw that Bud Light kept it alive but overall, the humor and creativity seem to be in decline. That's something I noticed in previous years. I can't remember the last time I watched a Super Bowl and felt I had to stay glued to my seat because any one of the commercials was going to make me crack up laughing or be some cinematic experience condensed into 30 seconds.

Finally, what was up with that halftime show? I get it that the NFL wants to cater to a wide audience, but the performance of Maroon 5 was very bland and because of the need to fit in multiple pre-announced guest artists, the songs were a little rushed. Travis Scott's performance felt out of place and the pageantry of Big Boi should have been its own full show. I appreciate other artists contributing but it should be a surprise duet on a song of the headlining artist or something made to fit more smoothly into the performance. That entire halftime show could have been better and when the non-football fans are disappointed in one of the big reasons they watch, the second half numbers probably dropped off. That might even cause a ripple into next year's game.

When it's the biggest game of the season and the only one on, people are going to watch. But with everything happening in the NFL and in real life, sometimes people don't feel like Super Bowl Sunday is a de facto holiday anymore. If the Patriots fail to make it back next year and we see two new teams untainted by serious controversy, interest might return. If the halftime performance is one major artist with no special guests announced prior to the game, non-football fans might get more excited. But the way I see it, Roger Goodell and the rest of the braintrust in the NFL front offices have a lot to address when it comes to making fans want to fully dedicate themselves to the Super Bowl like they used to.

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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