Beyond the Bison: The changing culture in the NFL

Michael Caruso, Senior Writer

If you asked football fans during the 2016 season what they thought of the NFL culture, most (if not all) would bring up the controversies over player activism, such as kneeling during the national anthem, league suspensions with performance-enhancing drugs, and brain trauma. In a way, the future was not looking bright, and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was in the spotlight during it all. This season has ushered in a shift in the NFL, bringing a five percent increase in overall ratings since last season and attracting a total viewership of 15.8 million people. So what has changed?

Not only has the league seen young talent shine with players like the Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes, who, in his second year, is the front-runner for MVP, but we have also seen a new set of rules implemented this year to enhance player safety and reduce head-to-head hits.

Although these new rules raised some doubts about the changing of the game and what the league would look like as an offensive-geared league, this has proven to give the fans what they want when watching football: touchdowns, touchdowns, and more touchdowns. In fact, the NFL set a record this year for total touchdowns in a season with 1,371 during the regular season.

These rule changes are seemingly making the fans happier and players safer. But with these changes has come another interesting aspect, and a rather simple one, too — the matchups from this year and their associated competitiveness.

“I said at the beginning of the season that I liked the schedule, I liked the match-ups. Great match-ups and great games are obviously made for TV,” former VP of Programming at CBS Sports Jay Rosenstein said.

One game that stood out from the rest and was arguably the best regular-season game in NFL history was between the Los Angeles Rams and Kansas City Chiefs, in which the two teams combined for over 1000 offensive yards and over 100 points. In fact, it was the only game in NFL history where both teams scored at least 50 points each. With such a high-scoring, action-packed game, the NFL saw their best Monday-night audience ratings since 2014.

The future does look bright for the NFL. Despite some issues concerning contract negotiations with Pro-Bowl-talented players and some instances of controversial off-the-field activity, the NFL has shown that it is on the rise with player safety and fan-friendly games.

With the Super Bowl just weeks away, it is the best time of the year for football fans—a time of reflection and excitement. Yet, in a sport that has provided anything but consistency, only time will tell where the game goes.


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