Opinion: Even the NFL draft draws big TV ratings, so why is the league doomed?

Johnny Manziel
The Cleveland Browns chose Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel in the first round of the NFL draft Thursday.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

Are you ready for some football? Well, apparently, a lot of Americans are, so much so that they tuned in Thursday night in record-breaking numbers just to watch the NFL draft its latest crop of behemoth warriors.

If sports in general is king on TV these days, the NFL is King Midas: Everything it touches turns to money.

Just how golden? Well, pitted against actual, ahem, games (the NBA and NHL playoffs) in the ratings, the televised NFL draft sacked its rivals like a blitzing linebacker.

As NFL Network PR guy Brian McCarthy tweeted: “record-setting ratings coming in for 1st round of #nfldraft. combined 8.64 prelim rating, up 50% from ’13.”


And from that other sports juggernaut, ESPN, came this tweet, courtesy of Bill Hofheimer, its PR guy: “ESPN’s 6.8 overnight rtg for #NFLDraft is +48% from Rd 1 in 2013 (4.6). Rating peaked from 945-10p ET at an 8.0.”

Meanwhile, hopefully the rest of the sports world wasn’t scoreboard watching, because NBA and NHL officials wouldn’t like what they saw. Over at Sports Business Daily, staff writer John Ourand tweeted the grim scores: ESPN NFL Draft: 6.8 ESPN2; Blazers-Spurs 2.7; ESPN2 Heat-Nets: 2.6 NFL; NBCSN Bos-Montreal 1.2; NBCSN Ana-LA: 0.7.”

(Uh, the last number was for the Kings and Ducks, the two local hockey teams in the playoffs. In case you didn’t notice, which seemingly most didn’t.)

Not surprisingly, I suppose, given the above, the NFL helped Twitter have a big night: More than 6.4 million tweets were sent out during the draft’s four-hour first round.


So, could this be the reason Los Angeles has been so blase about most of the city being unable to watch the Dodgers on TV: If it isn’t football, no one wants to watch anyway? Or consider this: The NFL is reaping this kind of interest, and it doesn’t even have a team in Los Angeles (no, USC still doesn’t count).

Even if you don’t know who Johnny Football is (meaning, especially, that you don’t live in Cleveland), you have to be impressed with the league’s marketing prowess. It isn’t very popular in the rest of the world, but it’s Friday Night Lights Out in America. 

However, before everyone else jumps on the NFL bandwagon, let me just caution you about excessive celebration (penalty to be enforced on the kickoff).

Because personally, I think the NFL is doomed. That’s right, as in, the good times are not gonna keep rollin’. Why?

I don’t believe a sport that maims most of its participants can prosper long-term. And given changing demographics in this country -- not to mention all the mommies and daddies out there rethinking their precious sons’ futures in light of concussion problems in contact sports -- I think soccer will one day supplant King Football.

That said, though, I’ll give the NFL props. After all, the next Major League Soccer draft isn’t gonna get an 8 share on TV.

Plus, the NFL draft is the gift that keeps on giving: It doesn’t end until Saturday.

Why Saturday? Because even God rested on Sunday -- probably to watch pro football.


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