Gambling Is More Fun Than Football

It's official: The NFL is just a TV show.

Yes, it is.

Forget about it being the can't-get-enough sports king or even calling it the National Pastime. It's not.

If people really couldn't get enough of pro football, we wouldn't have almost had the near-embarrassment we saw this past weekend.

NFL Wildcard Weekend should have been must-see action. Fans should have flocked to stadiums around NFL America trying to get a good seat to see their team advance in the first round of the playoffs, en route to a potential run to the Super Bowl.

After all, it's about the postseason. It's those games we hold closest and dearest in our sports memories.

Apparently, fans care a lot more about their fantasy team than their home team.

Three of the four games scheduled faced local TV blackouts for not selling out the games. All the seats were sold in Philly. But there were plenty sections, er, seats available in Cincinnati, Indianapolis and, hold your breath, Green Bay.

Yep, even Green Bay, where football is almost a religion. But at the start of last week, there were 40,000 unsold seats for the Packers game against the San Francisco 49ers.

The NFL had to extended the deadline a few times to get the games sold out. Normally, the game must be sold out 72 hours prior to kickoff.

The only reason all four games were eventually sold out is because major sponsors stepped up, buying thousands of tickets. Some of those companies gave military families tickets. That was a nice gesture.

But let's face it. Fans don't dig the game as much as people want to believe they do. Coming into this season, the NFL saw five straight years of declining attendance.

People don't like football enough to pay to see it played.

There used to be a time when people would die for a chance to go to a playoff game. Now, ticket scalpers are almost out of business.

Many tried to make excuses and use the weather as a factor of why people didn't buy tickets in Green Bay and Cincy, as both cities faced arctic temperatures.

But what did that have to do with the Colts' fans not buying seats? They play in a dome where the temperature is always a perfect 72 degrees.

The weather deal is a copout.

Fans have been sitting through brutal weather for decades to see their favorite teams.

And the HD argument is another lame excuse. Many NFL apologists have said with the quality of picture on HD TVs most would rather stay home than go to the game.

By the way, every MLB game is on TV and it drew 74 million fans to the ballpark – more than the NFL, NBA and NHL combined last season.

Sorry, there's nothing like going to a game, being there with the roar of the crowd, the intense atmosphere, and the pure jubilation as 60,000 stand and cheer as one when the hometown team wins. And don't forget the smell of the hot dogs.

You can't get that or even goose bumps on 60-inch TV with surround sound.

Instead, many fans love what football allows them to do – gamble.

Gambling is the rage in this country. It used to be a Vegas or Atlantic City thing. It's spread all over the country. Detroit has three casinos downtown.

You can now bet on sports in Delaware, and New Jersey hopes to be next. That's what drives the NFL's huge TV ratings. Fans are invested. There's a potential windfall.

That's the real reason most fans would rather stay home: They either have bets on the game or are involved in some fantasy league where there's a money payout at the end of the season. It's easier to keep up with all the games at home rather than giving your full attention to just one game. Plus, it’s hard to get cell service in a big stadium. How are you supposed to track your team or your bets?

At home, there’s NFL Red Zone. For someone who enjoys the rush of gambling, there’s nothing better.

The NFL brags about the money it makes and its TV ratings. Yet, it won't get rid of the TV blackout rule that dates back to the 50s.

The reason why the league won't is simple: It would be hard-pressed to get fans to buy tickets if it were lifted. Many games would be broadcast with half-empty stadiums.

The league doesn't want to be embarrassed, like it almost was this past weekend.

Rob Parker is a columnist for The Shadow League. He is also an analyst for Fox Sports 1 in Los Angeles. He co-hosts The Odd Couple on Fox Sports Radio and is also an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California.