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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

All Things Being Equal (Or Nearly So)

The late and former National Football League Commissioner Pete Rozelle used to dream of a day when the majority of NFL teams had a shot at the playoffs going into the bleak and dreary days of December. Well, Pete, your dream has come to fruition.

For the last several years, playoff slots match ups have been determined in the last weeks of the season. There was a time when this was not so. Juggernauts of the past such as the Buffalo Bills of the early 90s or the San Francisco 49ers of the 80s and 90s often had playoff spots wrapped up by Halloween. This year, the first team to clinch a spot in the postseason was Green Bay, who did so with their uninspiring 30-20 victory over the Chicago Bears on December 1.

And the big cheeses at NFL headquarters in New York are loving every minute of it.

Parity has made the game of football enjoyable for the masses for four months, instead of three months plus. There was a time when the last week or two of the NFL season was as exciting as a gruel, and just as appealing. Maybe one would luck out and find a game or two that had playoff implications, but more often than not, the playoff race would involve very few teams. How entertaining for the rest of the country.

The developments of the last few years speak to the forethought and genius of Rozelle. He knew that dynasties and long-lived powerhouses were not good for professional football. Involve everyone he thought, and that way everyone will feel his/her team has a chance, even if it’s an outside one.

Look at the standings as of December 4. 13 out of 16 teams in American Football Conference (AFC) were at .500 or better, the number of victories being between six and eight. With only a month to go in the season, 75% of the teams have a shot at the playoffs. (And yes, your New England Patriots are among the blessed.)

In the National Football Conference (NFC), the equality in team talent is a little more spread out, but even so, nothing is secure. Four teams have a remote shot at playoff berth if their players catch fire. It could happen.

So, as the weather outside gets frightful, the playoff races heat up. What makes this kind of sport environment so enjoyable is the unpredictability factor. One doesn’t know what is going to happen from week to week. Conversations at pubs and watercoolers across the country become more animated and fun to participate in.

So be a part of the excitement. Rozelle would want you to join in.