When thinking about the evolution of football, the National Football League has grown in popularity due its to fans, and it has gained those fan bases through thorough television coverage. With the addition of NFL Network, fans can score access to all things NFL, 24/7. However, even with a dedicated network, fans are only offered a glimpse into the league, no matter how much information they’re offered from pundits and current pros. If HBO were to secure a contract, and allowed to broadcast some preseason games, even more people would become fans of the NFL. Here are seven reasons why.
7. More Colorful Commentary
Fans love the HBO series Hard Knocks, starring one lucky–or very unlucky–NFL franchise, depending on perspective. The insight into team activities through OTAs, and training camp is fascinating. Now imagine the same documentary style coverage used for NFL Preseason game broadcasts. The play-by-play, and color commentary would take on an added layer of familiarizing fans with players, and their chances of making a squad. This commentary could also be more akin to Jon Gruden’s analytical take on Monday Night Football, but without the network television pretense. If well executed, this type of broadcast would turn NFL football games into more of a cinematic experience. It would be like a three hour story playing out on a per game basis. And imagine some of the best color commentators, and play-by-play peeps (Gus Johnson) saying what they want.
6. Team Insight
Preseason games would take on a completely different dynamic if broadcast by HBO. It could be more of an event, and fans of the teams playing could get so much more of a glimpse into how the team is shaping up, what the team is focused on during the preseason contest, and the goals and expectations for progression. The broadcast could last for four hours, and include pregame chatter, as well as coach and player interaction, all during a live feed. Many of the squads playing in the preseason share practices before their games, so there would be little strategy kept under wraps, allowing fans to really get into the minds of the coaching staff before the game. Limited access to the locker room would be a pretty cool experience. This wouldn’t fly during the regular season, but before the roster is trimmed?
5. Field Mics and Cameras
As more people hope to know more about the game of football, why not meet their desire by letting them hear what the action is like on the field? ESPN does this with the Pro Bowl broadcast, and if people were worried about cheating, even a slight delay would solve most potential problems. Ultimately, we’re thinking few staffs would be douchey enough to cheat in preseason. Then again, when there is money being bet on games… Bottom line, it would be fascinating to hear what the QB is hearing in his helmet, and then to hear him deliver plays to the offense. Similarly, hearing the mic’d linebacker offer his calls, and any subsequent audibles would be awesome. It would allow fans to get into more of the chess match taking place on the field.
4. Mic’d-up Players
Taking it a step further, getting microphones onto many of the key players would be fun for fans. This is done to a small extent in network broadcasts. We’re asking for a lot more. Programming directors could get plenty of good stuff into the dead air of games (notably during “commercial” timeouts). It would also be incredible to get mics on all of the rookies who are fighting tooth and nail to score a spot on the roster. Hearing their conversations would help to boost the story element of the game, and really make these guys human for many fans. All too often, players are seen as nothing more than money making commodities–talent available to the highest bidder. This could be live, and used as sound bites and video clips throughout the game.
3. Uncensored Content
As briefly mentioned, the content in these games wouldn’t need to be completely censored. Fly the disclaimers at the beginning of the broadcast, and let things play out on the field. Sure, it would be wise to offer a slight delay in the live broadcast feed, but other than catching players saying some really messed up stuff about each other’s mommas during a skirmish, nothing would need to be censored. Players knowing this might also be on their best behavior. There is something about transparency that gets people to rise to an occasion. And where we’d really love the uncensored content: the broadcast booth. Having personalities like Skip Bayless and Stephen A. Smith–not necessarily those two guys, but personalities like them–would make for some engaging booth discussion. They could say what they want, express certain biases, as well as objective, expert opinions.
2. Veterans’ Perspectives
One of the greatest things about the coverage of NFL football–as well as NCAA football–in the contemporary television era, is the expertise producers hire in the form of veteran players. If HBO were to broadcast games–even if it were just one or two games per preseason–they could tap some of the greatest living former pros to offer their insight throughout the game. Perspectives from QBs such as Brett Favre, Kurt Warner, Joe Montana, Peyton Manning would be rich in knowledge, as well as football wisdom. HBO could grab position players from all over the field, so long as the dudes knew how to be entertaining, and put it out there when the cameras were rolling. This would help introduce new fans to some living legends, as well as brilliant football minds who are unsung, because they played offensive line. Orlando Pace offering in-game perspective? Yes, please!
1. Player Stories
Here is the whole point of an HBO broadcast–digging into the stories belonging to the main characters: the players. Whether featuring a great comeback story, or an incredible undrafted free agent story, an HBO broadcast could build out short segments on these guys, especially if they’re high character guys who would make the league better, and serve as an asset to any team. Please, NFL–Roger Goodell–do whatever is necessary to get, and keep this type of player on the field! This is one of the reasons Hard Knocks is so successful. Fans really begin to care about guys who could make the team, especially if they’ve endured their own hard knocks. Here’s an opinion that Hard Knocks would be cooler if short segments were taken from several teams, and shown as part of a live game broadcast.