Joining the dark side: Adding the NFL Network
I gave in this week. I capitulated. I called Cox Cable and added the NFL Network.
For years, I’ve avoided putting Cox’s sports tier on my cable. And it wasn’t the money. Heck, it was only $4.50 a month for the NFL Network, ESPNU, ESPNClassic, ESPNNews, Versus, NBATV, MLBTV and a whole bunch of other stuff I’ll never watch. Truth is, that’s a heck of a bargain.
Fifty dollars a year? The Colts-Jaguars game Thursday night was worth a big chunk of 50 dollars a year.
It wasn’t the money. It was the concept. It was more and more events that we’re accustomed to watching, moving to pay-TV.
Maybe I’m a child of the ’70s, when one of the great fears was that our epic sporting events were going the way of pay-per-view. Boxing was the culprit, having taken away all its great events and putting them in theaters. Ali-Frazier, Frazier-Foreman, Foreman-Ali. All were closed-circuit television. The fear was well-founded. I watched the 1977 OU-Texas game on closed circuit television, at Lloyd Noble Center.
Pay-per-view really hasn’t developed much. The only pay-per-view nowadays that I know of are for the fighting cards — mixed martial arts, boxing, etc. — and horrible OU football games that only complete wackos would buy. I mean, come on. OU-Idaho State for $40? Compared to a year’s worth of the NFL Network and all those other cable channels for $50? The world has gone mad.
But still, it struck me wrong that a league like the NFL could create a national demand for its product, could turn pro football into the national pastime, then create a network to show some of those games and make fans pay more to receive that network.
We’ve left the days when basic cable — and in the sports context, that means ESPN, ESPN2, TBS, TNT and FOX Sports — can be considered pay TV. Most of America, for better or worse, has cable television. But paying for more tiers of cable television so I could watch 8-10 football games? That struck me as a bad move, not because of the cost, but because of the effect.
I can’t imagine the Super Bowl ever being on cable television. But I never could imagine the BCS or the NCAA Tournament moving to cable, either, and the BCS goes to ESPN next season, while the NCAA is thinking about jumping to ESPN.
So I don’t know. I could see the NFL’s wild-card games moving to the NFL Network some day. If fans keep following along with whatever the NFL wants — add this network to your cable so you can get these games — then I don’t see how the end can be good. And when that happens, I didn’t want to be part of the problem. Now, of course, I am.
But this was a strange situation. My wife likes football and doesn’t mind watching with me. My sister-in-law lives nearby and loves the Dallas Cowboys; they play the unbeaten Saints on Saturday night in an NFL Network game. We’re going Christmas caroling Saturday night about 5:30. I love Christmas caroling. Anyway, I guess the old Christmas spirit got to me. I told my sister-in-law, we’ll go caroling, then come home and watch the Cowboys.
So call me weak. Call me sad. Call me a sellout. Just don’t call me Saturday night. I’ll be watching Dallas-New Orleans.
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