The headline on yesterday's Associated Press coverage of an AP-Knowledge Networks poll is "
18 NFL games fails to excite fans
." But the malaise discovered by the poll goes much deeper than that.
It's true, or true-ish, that the survey found that the NFL's aggressive campaign for an 18-game schedule does not reflect fan enthusiasm. Only 45 percent of respondents who identified themselves as pro football fans said that they supported the idea .
Still, it would have also been accurate for the AP to open the story by reporting that only 21 percent of the fans in the poll opposed the longer season, and that the pro-expansion response outnumbered the anti-expansion response more than 2 to 1. You can say that either side has a non-mandate, because 34 percent of the fans polled had no opinion.
There's a real finding: people don't really care if the NFL cranks out more sports-entertainment product or not. It doesn't seem to be that the public is terribly worried about the damage that playing two more games will have on the players. More people told the pollsters that over the last five years, the game has gotten "more dangerous" than "less dangerous"—37 percent versus 17 percent—but 59 percent said that the NFL was doing "the right amount" to prevent concussions and head injuries." (Aaron Rodgers will be happy to hear that, though you may have to tell him twice.)
You can take the indifference of the NFL fan base to mean that the league shouldn't mess with the status quo. Or you can take it to mean that people won't bother to resist the planned expansion. The public isn't starving for more football: according to the poll, 46 percent of NFL fans said they watch three or more games per week, and 19 percent watch five or more—at three hours a game, that's 15 hours.
If anything, the public seems a little worn out—not just by football, but by the even more important American institution that supports it. At the beginning, the poll asked, "Do you think television shows, in general, are getting better or getting worse?" Fifty-seven percent of the people surveyed said "getting worse."
Repeat: 57 percent of Americans polled think television is on the wrong track.
Getting into specifics, 77 percent of the public said there's "too much" reality-show programming on TV.
Tell it to Snooki. That's the real green light for the longer NFL schedule. This is the land of the KFC 64-ounce Mega Jug of soda, an actual half-gallon plastic pail of corn syrup and water. People may be not be hungry or thirsty—they might even feel a little nauseated—but they're not in the habit of saying no to extra helpings.