Wednesday, June 7, 2017

ESPN Layoffs, an unseen force behind the cord cutting

ESPN lay offs of many of the networks on-air talent of recent is an effect of cord cutting. ESPN made its revenue from tying itself to cable packages and making people who do not watch the channel to pay for it.

In 2013 Sports Writer Patrick Hruby forecasted that the ESPN Sports Cable Bubble would burst as some alternative to cable would emerge and create a new way to consume live sports programming, such as AEREO, Well AEREO was shut down by a SCOTUS decision and now that cable bubble is bursting without some alternative to cable as a means to watch live sporting events.

What is going on here?

People are ditching cable and moving to online entertainment and streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. The largest segment of this population that is driving the cord cutting trend is young adults age 18-25, average age of people who watch broadcast sports is 55. If young adults are ditching cable for streaming services and there is no way for them to watch live events. It means that live sporting events are not an important part of their entertainment consumption.

This means that there must be some other force behind all of this. Does this mean that young people could care less about live sports. Is it all those video games taking over their brain?

No it could be that they are BURNED OUT on them, the culprit is the professionalization of Youth Sports.

Back in the 1990s the Boomer Generation took all the things they loved as children and kept them for themselves. Comic Books, Baseball Cards and Sports. Comic Books and baseball cards became about the adult collector and They took away the pick up games of their youth and replaced them with organized leagues that cared more for the needs of the adults than the children.

What does this have to do with sports, well the professionalization of youth sports has led to youth sports burnout. That is 70-75% of all children who start a sport will quit before 13, majority of that is around age 9.

That age is at the dawn of when brand loyalty and buying trends start getting cemented in. Those first generation of youth athletes who burned out in the 90's are now entering young adult hood. Now we are seeing the effects with cord cutting and other decreases in interest. The cord cutting  has caused ripples in other areas.

Brand Loyality, here is another effect of cord cutting, Live Sports are basically a delivery system for Budweiser, Pepsi and Doritos commercials. When the youth are watching Netflix Shows or playing Call of Duty these product ads are not getting beamed into their brains. Budweiser and Pepsi are now struggling to capture the coveted youth market and are making embarrassing moves such as the tone deaf Kendall Jenner activist commercial.

While there is product placement and promotional tie-in with video games, they are few and far between. You will not see Link pull out a bottle of Pepsi as that will break the fantasy world of the game without some serious narrative explanation. Cup of Noodles does make an appearance in the latest Final Fantasy.

Video Gaming is not some corrosive force on sports fandom, fact is MADDEN, FIFA and NBA Live are licenses for Electronic Arts to literally PRINT MONEY.

Professionalization is also causing another problem, reducing accessibility, with pick up games gone only about half of children play a team sport. As many families do not have the resources to pay the high fees and purchase expensive equipment that many sports such as Hockey require. Some leagues require monthly tournaments that are many miles away which adds more costs in fuel and travel expenses. The largest indicator that a someone will become an adult fan is if they played the sport as a child and due to professionalization less and less children are playing.

So far we are seeing adverse effects of this, While children in these sports leagues hit record numbers they were followed by high school tryouts hitting record lows. Less and less of those children became teens who wanted to play for their school, those who were good enough to stick with it now play for professionalized travel teams that offer face time with scouts though Elite Showcase Tournaments.

In college for the past decade less and less incoming freshmen are interested in attending their college's football and basketball games.There could also be other social and cultural reasons for this as well. (Another Article for another time)

ESPN may be the first real causality of  Professionalized Youth Sports eating the entire industry alive, its biggest victim maybe itself. It is to be seen if those 75 percenters return to sign their own children up, if they refuse we will see a burst in this bubble as well. This same generation is also being squeezed by student loan debt and stagnant wages, which will also lead to drastic birth rate drops.

To summarize this, only half of these current children play a team sport, of those who do 75% will quit and possibly never return with their if they even have any. The result there will be just too few children available to keep this industry sustainable.

If the Children go so will everything else.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cultural Deadpool #1

With the news that after 146 years Feld Entertainment will be closing the Ringling Bros & Barnum and Bailey Circus, many were mourning the loss of this American Cultural Institution. I hate to break it to you, but this is just one of many that we will see die in the 21st Century. Some blame those EVIL liberals or Animal rights groups.

While changing sentiment towards animal welfare helped It was just the fact this 146 year old outfit using a 250 year old entertainment format became outdated, obsolete and irrelevant. It was a relic and a expensive one to run. Feld Entertainment decided it was better to shut the entire thing down.

When was the last time you went to a Ringling show or any circus?

Here is the list of my first 21st Century Cultural Deadpool.

These are institutions that are starting to face issues that run parallel with what brought own the Circus.
HS Football - While circuses had concerns over animal abuses, Football has brain trauma, and concerns over long term effects such as CTE. As of now their are only a few voices asking the question "A violent collision sport has no reason to be in our schools." Just like the concerns over the welfare of performing animals, that small voice can snowball into something bigger.

Circuses had to fight off lawsuits over animal welfare and the endangered species act, High Schools will have to deal with concussion related lawsuits, include stiffer local, state and federal regulations.
with Football being the most expensive sport this will drive up costs even more. Those districts will do the same thing Feld did, look at the books and decide its better to shut the whole thing down.

This will affect the NCAA and then the NFL, amateurism in college will have to die, just to attract the top talent or the NFL  will be forced to create their own development league. Kind of how those FUTBOL teams in Europe do.
Baseball - America's past time has the same problem as reported by the WaPo and the WSJ in 2015, this sport was failing to hook children, . America's past time now is past its prime as it is now another 19th century relic that bores today's children. Little League in urban areas is all but extinct, with African Americans vanishing from the sport at all levels, when was the last time neighborhood kids had a pickup sandlot game? On TV the average age of those who watch MLB games is 55 while young adults everywhere cut the cable cord and say goodbye to ESPN.

LIke the circus the youth just could give a rat's behind.

Boy Scouts - Merit badges, camping, learning life lessons and traditional american values, such as sexism and homophobia. More and more parents are saying No thank you as yearly enrollments continue to shrink. The Girls are also suffering the same problems, so you better stock up on those thin mints.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Youth Sports, bad for the Pro Business?

Sure Mark Emmert might be competing with Roger Goodell and Sepp Blatter in who in sports leadership is more full of shit. But He like others in sports are worried about youth sports specialization and professionalization. Tom Farrey and Aspen Institute also had a round table with First Lady Michelle Obama over lack of access to youth team sports due to rising costs as more and more of these leagues are being dominated by private travel organizations.

Why are they worried about this? Is it lack of fitness or these kids will be missing out on valuable life lessons that only sports can teach. No

Its because they will not become fans of the pro or college game.

Big time sports have never been about health and fitness, Sure the NFL pushes their Play 60 to fight child obesity but at the same time Pepsi, (that is blamed for child obesity and diabetes) is the official soft drink of the super bowl, and love to strike sponsorship deals with McDonalds. Because the Big Mac is a essential part of a well balanced healthy diet and many NFL players nutrition regimen.

While these private youth sports organizations are raking in the money and making billions and in  the 1990s saw children playing in these leagues hit record numbers. There was a problem that also started in the 1990s, burn out and overuse injuries. Fact is 70% to 75% of children who play organized team sports will burn out and quit by 12 and there is a growing epidemic of children with overuse injuries.

That first generation of 90s burn outs are now entering young adulthood, they are known as the Millennials and what trends are we seeing from them? Tom Farrey's employer is ESPN, the cable network is the only way to watch live sports, yet those Millennials are cutting the cable cord, when it comes to  entertainment cable TV is the last on their list in the world of the internet, with its online gaming, apps and streaming services such as Netflix.

Another trend, each college freshman class is less interested in attending their school's football and basketball games., colleges are worried these students will not become wealthy alumni donors.

Fact is youth sports burnout is now starting to burn a hole in the pro and college sports fandom, as the average age of those who do watch televised sports is now 55. Baseball is faring much worse as less and less children are being socialized into that game due to societal changes in this country. Little League participation is in a steady decline in since the 1990s and has seen even worse participation drops with African Americans. WSJ and Washington Post published articles in 2015 about baseball losing the youth. Did Rob Manfried worry that these children were missing out on character building and life lessons that only that sport can teach? No, he was worried they will not become adult fans.

When they complain about the kids and those evil video games, what they worry is the fact that 13 year old that rushes home from school for a Call of Duty 2X points weekend is...

Not going to be on the varsity squad in High School, that leads to not being an adult booster.

Not going to be a 35 year old who after a long day at work, passes out in front of ESPN on the TV.

Not going to be a faculty member who lets the varsity football team get away with anything, when another player gets sent to the ER or worse the morgue, they will pull the plug on the entire thing.

Not going to be an elected official that lets a billionaire have $250M of tax money to build another stadium as the one from 10 years ago is "too old".

Not going to be a judge that will be sympathetic to NCAAs Amateurism Position.

Yet the NFL does not act like interactive entertainment is evil when its time to collect their Madden money from EA.

Sure there is talk about sports and youth health and fitness, but these organizations in reality are TERRIBLE. In any competitive team sport it is all about winning, how do you win? Play your best players. These elite travel leagues with their showcase tournaments are all about winning.
So the worst and average players get ignored, they ride the bench at games and practices they get heaps on negative attention from coaches. Kids do not have fun. quit and never play one again, with the burnout majority of them do around age 9 when the elite travel teams start scouting for players.
If you are not good enough at 9 you are now over the hill.

Despite the attempts of Michelle Obama, Aspen Institute and Mark Emmert youth sports industry might already be  a dead man walking, because these private youth sports organizations are so obsessed with creating elite talent that they are turning off 1000 potential fans for every superstar they create. You are creating the next Justin Verlander, but just pushed away 1000 people who would be paying $250 for his jersey. Because they are blind, too busy telling parents that their children will be somehow deprived and disadvantaged if they do not have the character, values and life lessons that their sport teaches and play on their nostalgic memories of pick up games in parks and sandlots or their own HS Varsity Glory to convince them to pay thousands in fees, equipment, personal trainers and summer camps.

If a kid quits, who cares there are another 1000 where he or she came from, a revolving door of families signing up and quitting with cash stuffing their coffers. Sure they are raking in the cash, but it is very shortsighted, for this cash machine has a millennial problem.

Millennials are also of a generation that is drowning in student loan debt and stagnant wages. This could lead a generation that could have one of the worst birth rates in history as Marriage rates for them at their current age are far lower than the boomers or Gen X was at the same age range. Many of them are still stuck at home unable to afford things like a house or let alone rent.

Less kids being born to a generation that only half played a team sport and of those three quarters burned out and will not be back with their own kids, make things worse are moving into cities where many youth organizations have a hard time taking root.

It is possible that we can see the entire industry implode in 25 years, if the youth game goes, the pro game could get caught in the wake.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kim Davis' real struggle

Kim Davis the Kentucky Clerk is now jailed for contempt of court charges for refusing to issue same sex marriage licenses.

She and her supporters all claim this is about upholding "God's Laws" or "Religious Freedom" or "Traditional Morality". What this really is about is the Death Throes, fundamentalist evangelical christanity is dying. Of the younger generation...the millennials vast majority do not identify with any religion.

For years their form of religion has been pushed more and more into the margins by secular society. This is the reason for people like Kim Davis and ISIS in the middle east. Piece by piece needs once fulfilled by their institution is being replaced by secular ones.

Evolution replaces them as the source for our origins.

Medical Science cures and treats diseases not their prayer and faith.

Morals, we have seen what the Biblical Morals consist of, the gay marriage fight has shown us what it is BIGOTRY. Can you blame young adults for not identifying with these people. More and more of their biblical laws and traditions are thrown to the trash heap by the secular moral and cultural zeitgeist. Their biblical morals are just plain ugly and no one wants to be around ugly.

Lets look at some of  God's Holy Laws from his infailable book.

The Fundamentalist love to quote Leviticus about the anti-gay stuff how we have to follow that or face his wrath. That same book also states that eating shellfish and wearing clothes of different fabrics are also and abomination. Yet do we still follow those laws today, NO

When taken to task on this the response is that Jesus died on the cross to create a new covenant that did away with those laws, but the gay stuff still stands. Even-though He ever said anything about homosexuality  but he was very against divorce which Kim Davis did 4 times.

This is why they lost the gay marriage fight, their morals and entire argument was based on a theology that has become convoluted, contradictory and unintelligible.

Relgion claimed that their myths were the authoritative description for our origins. Evolution and science has shown they have no evidence backing up their myths and fables.

Religion claimed that prayer and faith will treat diseases as their are punishments from an angry god. Medical Science has shown they are caused by viruses, bacteria or other physical conditions.

Their final argument was MORALS, you cannot be GOOD without GOD

Now that ARGUMENT has been lost as we have seen that their moral laws are ones that actually promote sexual and violent crimes against women and children. Condone acts such as slavery and genocide which our modern society now considers Crimes against Humanity.

Fact is Kim Davis and her ilk are fighting for relevancy in a world where their biblical way of living has become incompatible. We now live in and economy that is becoming more science and technology driven, believing that evolution is a lie and science is the devils magic is going to exclude you from the best paying jobs and mainstream society.

So now they try to weaken science by promoting creationism in schools, why because their God only exists in the margins of science and they need to keep those margins wide. Now secular legal authorities are now pushing against them so they now cry about "religious freedom" and how their laws from texts written by primitive tribes must be held above our own constitution, (forgetting about that whole Render Unto Ceasar, thing Jesus said, who created the new covenant they are now under. ) we also see this with Sharia law with the islamic fundamentalists.  Because of their holy books they believe are the chosen ones and we all must be brought under their laws, they will fight and martyr themselves to do that.

Instead they are all going to be driven into the same margins that their God lives in and it has a name, Oblivion.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Concussion Trailer, Football's Blue State Problem

Dave Zirin's article in the nation states that this film should give the NFL Commissioner night sweats. Zirin states that this December release and even the casting is strategic. The December release date puts this issue back into the public thoughts when the NFL season is winding down, playoffs are starting and things are winding up for Super Bowl 50.

This film is not the one thing that should give Roger Goodell night sweats. Concussion will not  blow a sucking chest wound into the NFL like Blackfish did with Sea World.  After than documentary was shown on CNN, Sea World has seen 85% drop in profits. Now the NFL is a much bigger cultural and economic force. Like the film says, they own a day of the week. Sea World's revenue is from ticket sales from its parks it only has 3 of them. The NFL has 32 Teams, and revenue is not just ticket sales for games. There is broadcast rights with network cable tv, merchandise and licensing with a pro sports league that gets considerable tax breaks and handouts from the government itself.

NFL is such a force to be reckoned with, fearing the league's wrath Sony made changes to the film to lessen the blow. CTE is a problem that is not going to go away and their denial and foot dragging is making the problem worse for them. There are more and more stories each fall about High Schools cutting programs due to the lack of players.

Concussion will not be making Roger start chugging Pepto Bismol to stave off the ulcers.

Concussion will not be a mortal wound to the NFL instead it will be death by a thousand cuts. First there is the continued news coverage about CTE and concussions. Tragically there will be more new coverage of deaths from this disease, NFL suicides, High School and College players either sent to the hospital or the morgue.

The NFL can no longer bury, ignore or deny the issue, neither will it just go away like Goodell wishes it could. This film will not be the last Hollywood product dealing with this issue. CTE will eventually show up in a network TV medical or crime drama. Greys Anatomy or Law and Order: SVU will cover CTE as the writers rip their stories from the headlines.

We will one day see Detective Olivia Benson investigate a Football Player rape case, the accused player will die in custody and the coroner will find CTE in this brain. The show will speculate a link between the on field violence and violent behavior players commit off the field. Then we will get the inevitable Lifetime TV Movie about CTE, a based on a true story tale of a grieving mother who lost her teenage son to an on field head injury or a later CTE caused suicide and will want answers. Even worse for the NFL we could possibly get a film about a CTE victim, a fictional one about a veteran player who is slowly sliding into dementia or a true story such as Junior Seau.

Even that is not going to be what gives DER KOMMISSAR acid reflux. Brain Damage with football also comes at a worse time for the sport as our cultural and economic climate is changing and it is becoming uninhabitable for this hyper masculine violent collision sport. Football was put into our schools in the 1930s to physically condition teens and teach them the values for hard physical work that our nation's industries required. "Tough Men for Tough Jobs" as it was said. It is now 2015 and those tough jobs are going away, outsourced overseas and just being rendered obsolete by the information age. The best paying jobs now require brains not brawn. Coding Computer languages, science and math skills. Something that you cannot be proficient at if you are getting your frontal lobe hammered.

The NERD is beginning its conquest of our society and culture, these skills are in such high demand that supermodel and Taylor Swift BFF Karlie Kloss is promoting computer science education with her Kode with Karlie program.

The hyper masculine culture of Football is clashing with these changes in our cultural and moral zeitgeist that is looking at the sport's macho behavior as regressive and destructive. The Public is becoming more and more appalled as the NFL, NCAA and High Schools care more about the protecting players who commit heinous crimes and will impede justice just to protect this sport at the expense of the victims. Then with concussions itself the NFL and NCAA appear give to their player's health the same concern as they do with the victims of domestic violence and sexual assault.

That cultural climate change is being caused by what should have Roger Goodell waking up in the dead of night in a puddle of his own sweat. Those changes are driven by the Affluent Blue States.
It is those parents who have incomes of $100,000 a year and over. They are college educated professionals who are informed on a myriad of issues than the rest of the public. These people tend to be concentrated in the New England states of Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey Rhode Island, Connecticut and the West Coast.

These were the people who were the driving force behind seatbelt laws, anti-smoking campaigns and drove corporal punishment out of our schools. What do be see now, the biggest drops in participation in this sport on the youth and High School Level are in New England and the West Coast. The more affluent liberal higher educated communities are moving away from this sport. They see it as violent, regressive and hazardous to your health. Concussion and any future movie or tv show that will feature CTE as a plot point is also a product of the Blue States, media centers in NYC and LA who are the ones driving this issue into the public consciousness.

It is they who are the real force shaping and directing our nation's cultural and moral zeitgeist. It is not organized religion and it is definitely not a major professional sports league.Why do you think we are seeing more and more violent and crazy behavior from fundamentalist religious groups, it is a desperate response of them being pushed more and more into cultural irrelevancy. Their decline is the subject of another article for another time.

These are the people who are Roger Goodell's worst nightmare.

It was no surprise that  Roger Goodell himself recently went to Fairfield CT, the 6th wealthiest country in the USA to promote flag football. While he sells HEADS UP to lower income single mothers. It's simple Roger does not want these Connecticut Blue Bloods to become NFL players he wants them to become FANS, because rich kids do not need to be "toughened up" or build character the only way full tackle football can like those poor kids in America's small towns and inner cities.

Because affluent families do not need football but the NFL sure needs them. Recently Cordell Broadus made the news for quitting the UCLA Bruins football team to pursue film. Why? because he is the son of the Snoop Dogg. When you father is a grammy winning artist who redefined Hip Hop, just like those kids in Fairfield He does not NEED football.

 In 2013 the elite Lawrenceville Boarding School in NJ ended their 100 year old House tackle football program and went flag as student participation was dropping and this was an attempt to save the tradition. Rush Limbaugh and other conservative media commentators all whined about the liberal "War on Football" and the "pussification" of boys.

Reality was the Affluent Blue State Problem was affecting them, this is a boarding school where the wealthy elite send their children. If some Senator, Fortune 500 CEO or a corporate lawyer's son gets their brain damaged from this sport, the school has won themselves a free one way ticket on the train to litigation hell. Also the students themselves were just staying away as their parents were not socializing them into the game because of safety reasons or the sport was just too "low brow" for some of them.

Top 25% of America is not signing their children up with Pop Warner, they do Tennis, Fencing, Lacrosse, or that Top Hat Wearing Horse Disco you see on the olympics. In the documentary The United States of Football, author Malcolm Gladwell predicted that the sport will become "Ghettoized" as only the poorest and most desperate will take it up the sport as a way out of poverty.

Gladwell's claim has gone from a prediction to an observation, if this becomes more like a real life Hunger Games where the poor kids desperately volunteer ravage their minds and bodies for the entertainment for the wealthy. The NFL will slide into a deeper cultural and moral gutter as more reasonable educated people move away from playing the sport.

The NFL and NCAA will have to draw from a talent pool of people with even lower moral and intellectual nature and we are already seeing this slide as Bill Maher recently mentioned that a High School in South Bend Indiana lowered its academic eligibility requirements from 2.0 to 1.5. Think Michael Irvin, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson's behavior was bad it will get WORSE as the bar for who plays this sport lowers.

If a talent drain starts to affect the quality of the on field product as more and more players engage in morally degenerate behavior off the field. Then more Affluent Blue State Parents will go from "my son is not playing football" to "I do not want him even watching it."

Remember Corporal Punishment, HS Football could one day share the same fate, as that disciplinary practice was driven out of our schools except in 13 states, the conservative largely religious "red" states of the south such as Texas, Georgia and Louisiana and others. Those are the same states despite the CTE issue HS football is still seeing strong numbers. In 1962 the first scientific studies came out that stated the practice caused psychological and emotional harm. Did schools end the practice as the result of a new moral revelation? No, it was lawsuits or the fear of lawsuits from those Affluent Blue State parents who will use that 1962 study to take schools to court. So more and more states in the years after '62 just shut the whole thing down. We are now seeing that with schools over football, the NFL and NCAA got sued over concussions. Now lawsuits aimed and state High School athletic organizations and there is one even against Pop Warner.

Do not think that just because it is a deep rooted tradition that HS Football could not be taken down, remember Corporal Punishment was just as much of a deep rooted part of the school experience. Even in those 13 states where it is still legal the practice is fading away, because the south seems to be where America's cultural institutions go to die, just look at slavery. If Goodell loses those affluent north-easterners He will eventually lose America.

Q: Where did he abolition movement start?

A: New England.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Taylor Swift, Calvin Harris Drama


This story broke on TMZ last week and the tabloids are all thinking they are so IN LOVE. I suspect they are not dating, it is all business and that business relationship might actually be strained. Now let me explain.

It all has to do with TIDAL.

TIDAL is the new streaming service started by Jay Z who at Taylor's birthday party got her to put her music on the new service which Calvin Harris is also a co-owner of TIDAL. With her tour coming up in a month, Taylor needs something, Grant Mickleson her guitarist is not on this tour and she possibly wants to remix her old songs to it the synthpop flow of 1989. Case in point the 2014 iHeart Festival her rendidtion of Love Story was departure of it's country roots.

Enter Calvin Harris, He is the hottest DJ in the EDM scene and has worked with several of Taylor's friends such as Ellie Goulding and HAIM, she went to see his show in Las Vegas twice once with these friends to see his work.

So last week she is spotted with Calvin in Nashville where that is her HOME BASE for rehearsing her tour. The Tabloids are all like LOOK PDA, they are in LOVE, when all we have a grainy vids that prove nothing.

We have one person claiming she saw Calvin kiss her at the Chesney concert, but we get no pics of it. In a crown of thousands with smartphones. Yet one person was able to snap Madonna and Taylor rehearsing before the iHeart Awards show. OKAY....

Reality is she wants him to remix her old songs for the tour and maybe even help with her next album. No one does anything for free, Calvin wants something, that something is her FULL CATALOG on TIDAL. She won't, Taylor is known for been keen business savvy, she gets from her investment banker parents. Music Streaming while very lucrative has yet to be profitable, Spotify which Taylor left had one billion on earnings but is still not turning a profit.Taylor is still hedging her bets and is holding out to use the rest of her catalog as leverage. She is not going to give that up for some remixes. She can still call up her BFF Selena and have her set her up with ZEDD.

In this business arrangement Calvin does not have that much to offer than someone else cannot do.

Taylor is not budging, so this relationship is becoming strained. Proof
When TIDAL had the big debut event, Taylor is NOWHERE to be found, the biggest name they have who has songs on their service is out jogging with earbuds on. Doing the type of jog one does when they need to de-stress and clear their mind. It is like she did not want to be around any of them.

 Also Taylor and Calvin are not following each other in social media. Neither did they acknowledge each others wins at the iHeart Awards. Taylor met Gina Rodriguez of Jane the Virgin and started following her on Twitter but she is not following the man she is supposed to be so SMITTEN with.
One thing Calvin is getting out of this is at least increased visibility, just the rumors alone are putting his name in mainstream attention.

Here is how this story will end:

Calvin will get a smartphone pic of him in a compromising position with a female.
Either of them will publicly denounce any dating.
Taylor's tour will start the story will fade out and then a tabloid story will come out on how they are just too busy to make it work.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Enter the RUSH ZONE!

After reading this excellent article about the NFL and marketing to children through our school system, I decided to Enter the RUSH ZONE!!! and review this NFL cartoon.

NFL like DC and MARVEL comic books have a problem, its fan base is greying.  Numbers of people under 50 are dropping out and kids are being pulled away by different forms of entertainment compounded by the real dangers of head injuries and brain trauma. Unlike DC and MARVEL the NFL knows that children are the future and are doing what they can to get them interested in the brand young so they can become adults who spend their disposable income on official NFL licensed merchandise.

It is all about BRANDING the youth to become loyal adults. Tobacco companies did it Fast food still does it. Even Victoria's Secret does it, they cannot sell sexy underwear to teens but they can sell more appropriate and (much more affordable) branded apparel under the PINK line. Now because of safety issues and even their own retired legends are saying they would not let their own sons play this sport in its current form. NFL has a problem, how can they market this sport to a new generation that may never play it themselves.

So the NFL goes the Transformers and GI JOE route, make an action packed superhero cartoon featuring the NFL. This sounds just as absurd if Victoria's Secret tried to promote their brand to teens with a Street Fighter martial arts tournament fighter video game starring their Angels.


ROUND 1...FIGHT!!!!!

Cara might actually win that bout and Taylor Swift would be a secret unlockable character.  Although from what I hear about the modeling and the fashion industry, Super Model Mortal Kombat might not be too far from the truth.

My generation has direct experience with sort of thing, I grew up in the 1980's where every other cartoon was nothing more than a commercial to sell toys, and this show sells one thing the NFL, while having guest stars from NFL players themselves who pop up to teach some "life lesson". This displays the first problem with this show, having a professional sports league that has players who have public scandals guest star in a show to teach life lessons to children.

This problem rears itself with two episodes 'Web of Deceit" and "Troy's Comeback" which feature the NFL's own paragons of virtue, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. If want to check these episodes out for yourself, you are out of luck because they are unable to be found on NFL.COM and the Rush Zone website.The Ray Rice episode "Web Of Deceit" is even unavailable for purchase on streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon.

Adrian  Peterson and Ray Rice episodes have disappeared,  unlike what  Roger Goodell would have wished to seen happen to the Ray Rice security camera footage. Maybe TMZ will come through have the episodes for viewing on their website.

What is this show actually about except for football?

The concept is better be sitting down for this because it sounds like it was cranked out by the creative team after several NFL administered Toradol injections. It is a mix of power rangers meets Ben 10 by the way of the NFL. The story centers around the Guardians, group of middle schoolers who are recruited by RZ. An Artificial Intelligence who is based in the basement of Hall of Fame in Canton OH.  Each Guardian is given a wrist watch called an NFL-R(tm) that can power rangers style morph them into football power armor to do battle with evil forces that threaten the league. Which are hostile aliens, not player scandals and retired veterans suing the NFL over concussion induced brain damage.

Now this series gives me flashbacks of the WWF Hulk Hogan's Rock n Wrestling, with a bit of Hammerman and Captain N the Gamemaster. Except at least unlike Nintendo, the writers here at least know a thing or two about Football and the NFL. It is the overall premise that becomes pretty insane.

Why are the Guardians fighting space aliens, and not just fighting crime like Wayne Gretsky, Bo Jackson and Michael Jordan did in All Stars. The premise sounds like one of the rambling stories that come from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future with some Scientology Lord Xenu thrown in.

To quote that same robot, It's a long story you might want to get yourself some snacks....

Thousands of Years ago....before the dawn of man as we now know him....There was a distant planet that was the source of all the power of the universe. These beings known as the rusherz created football to represent teamwork and sportsmanship. SUDDEN DEATH wanted the power for himself, to prevent that, the Rusherz drilled a hole into the core, in doing so blew up their own planet thus blasting the core and the 32 Rusherz into space, the core broke into 32 shards and landed on earth. The rusherz then helped create the NFL teams and its stadiums to protect each piece of the core, all dipped in gravy that came from the giblets of a monkey.

The NFL was brought into existence to protect and maintain this super awesome galactic space power.

 You can also watch episode 1 the official origin story here, WARNING: This might be the STUPIDEST thing ever on youtube. Just like real tackle football, this can  also cause chronic brain damage.

Yes  is video is a real NFL intellectual property,   The TORADOL is strong with this one.

Now each of the 32 teams have a thing called a MEGACORE a football that absorbs the energy of the teams and fans and also contains the attributes and integrity (Ha-Ha) of each team. If one is stolen the team and surrounding community will diminish. The Cities start hitting hard times teams and the fans starting falling ill. So Detroit's megacore was stolen years ago then.

SUDDEN DEATH wants all 32 megacores to harness ultimate power, so he can rule the universe or the need over compensate for having a small peen.. whatever. 
Sure the premise is pretty whack, I grew up watching shows like Thundercats and Silverhawks, a cartoon about a group of cyborg space-hawk cops who fought interstellar criminals in the galaxy of limbo. A twisted premise where no one had a problem with getting mutilated to travel across the galaxy. Thundercats was subversive to the point of bestiality and we had that whole Lion-O with this sword having some Freudian erection symbolism.

Still those premises made more sense, because they were all rooted in an entire fictional universe, here we have a plot that involves a real life professional sports league, this causes a sort of cognitive dissonance. While the Guardians are in the zone going to the game where the bad guys are going to attack. They get a debriefing involving actually game footage and real historical facts about the team, which clashes with the crazy sc-fi origins story. it's like a person who believes in evolution and literal biblical account of creationism. The show has this sci-fi mythology tied into the NFL, a sport created by aliens eons ago on a far away planet then in one episode featuring the Jacksonville Jaguars, an expansion team whose inaugural season was 1995.

Maybe I'm just thinking too much into it, like all children's programing the plot and premise only makes sense when you shut your brain off and just let it wash over you.  This is not a show created by artists, it was conceived by corporate marketing types who needed a vehicle to promote their product to kids who are playing the actual sport less and less due to safety concerns.

This is a show that was like other cartoons in the 1980's was marketed into existence and everything about this concept feels like it was put i\together by a focus group. Focus group tests say that children between ages 2-11, respond well to ALIENS, SUPER HEROES, FANTASY ACTION, LASER GUNS. So lets put that into a show about the NFL. It must be effective because this show is on for three seasons with a forth in the works.

Most shows of this type, the heroes are fighting some secret war, only the heroes and villains know about. Not here, the general public knows of the Guardians and the Rusherz. In "Knights of the Sky" all of the Rusherz are present at the NFL DRAFT and the Guardians were to be presented with a special award on national television. That is until a large alien space ship attacks the DRAFT, yet the government does not respond. F16s are not scrambled to intercept etc.

Why do the guardians have to be kids? I know it is because the show needs to be a fantasy for children. Kid heroes that the 5-12 audience can relate to thus further making them future NFL brand loyalists. Premise wise it is largely unethical, recruit children to to battle and risk their own lives. In reality is  stressful and emotionally taxing something many adults cannot cope with let alone children. Soldiers get PTSD doing similar things going off to war, yet it is perfectly okay to send a group of middle schoolers who are not totally physically and mentally developed to fight a hostile enemy force. We call them child soldiers and the UN considers that a human rights violation.

Season 3 episode "White Out" bring out a another problem with being a guardian. Ricky's father loses his job. Ricky suggests that he gets a job, and his father says his "job" is being a Guardian. He needs money so he decides shovel snow for money. If he needs to shovel snow that means risking your life for the NFL against a hostile force does not pay.

White Out actually does explain why NFL recruits teens to defend the all important megacores. If they recruited adults, the NFL would have to PAY THEM. Also in doing so NFL is basically violating a laundry list of child labor and workplace safety laws, business as usual for the NFL. Kids fighting for the NFL is not much of a stretch when you consider that the league still encourages tackle football for U14, despite the advice from actual medical doctors such as Dr. Robert Cantu, who specializes in head and spinal injuries.

NFL uses our tax dollars to pay for its stadiums yet is a tax free non profit. Denied and withheld information on the dangers of concussions from its players, has a hypocritical policy when it comes to drugs, (Marijuana is bad, toradol injected into your ass is good.) and is still doing what it can to dodge responsibility from any of this.

So hiring middle schoolers to risk life and limb to defend the shield would not be that much of a stretch from their usual behavior. There are even episodes where the guardians themselves are easing their parents own qualms about them risking their own lives for the NFL and THE WORLD!

 Here is an idea for a future episode, the Guardians go on strike because they want to be compensated for risking death and injury for the NFL. RZ and Roger Goodell then lecture the kids on a "life lesson" of the sanctity of "Amateurism" featuring special guest NCAA President Mark Emmert.

This show is nothing more than PRO-NFL propaganda.

Plot is the same, the big bad guy Sudden Death, plans a scheme to steal a megacore, he attacks a game, the Guardians respond, save the day and a player or two makes a guess appearance. The player only rattle off a few lines, which is a good thing, (except for the few guest starts who are also ESPN announcers) for the most part are not professional voice talent and it shows.

I decided to check out several episodes, but two of them I will concentrate on "Lions, Texans, and Turkeys" and "Ish's Audible" well because they involve the Lions, and well I am from Detroit so...GO LIONS!

"Lions, Texans, and Turkeys", this episode centered around he Thanksgiving holiday and the Lions tradition of playing that game and a lesson about having to miss family when duty calls. This was the first episode that really focused on the Detroit Lions. The plot has to do with Wild Card attacking the turkey day game to get the megacores, the attack on the Lions was a diversion for the real target was the Houston Texans megacore. I can totally see why, Wildcard wants power and this season was the one where the Lions had a 8 game losing streak. I can understand why he chose Houston over Detroit.

I'll give the writers some credit the do show in episodes some sort of strategic thinking,  at times do make them appear to be a real threat, not some villain who just as another hairbrained scheme each episode. Each plan is about the villains wanting the cores to complete some overall scheme they have that leads to usually a season ending conflict.

I do have to say that the animation and art teams are competent, In "Ish's Audible" there was a fight scene at the freeway and the artists actually managed to recreate a section of Detroit freeway with that looks like it could be the nearby Fisher Freeway, there even was a real exit sign for 51B I-75 North to Flint and 375 Downtown, which is the exit right near Ford Field.

They even got the little details right on the freeway and real sidewalk bridges with protective fences over them as well. The Artists actually took time and did some research to get the the locations right, I was impressed that they actually included little details like this, but if it was REALLY accurate the fight would have ended with the Armored Car transporting the megacore losing a tire on a pothole.

Season 3 Episode 10 "Sudden Death Showdown" takes place during Super Bowl 49,  their version the teams that made it were the Houston Texans and San Fransisco 49'ers. Which shows a problem then they make episodes far before these actual events take place due to time needed for production. Although they did not pick the Detroit Lions for one of the teams.  NFL being created by aliens is one thing, the Lions making it to the Super Bowl you have to be realistic, no one will believe that.

Season 2 episode Gridiron Ringers is notable because it features Super Bowl rings. Like the Megacore, championship rings also have POWER. POWER that is used by legends Richard Dent and Mike Dikta to save the day. You know the same Mike Ditka who said that he would not want his own sons playing football. He is guest starring in the cartoon to sell this same brain smashing sport to kids.  Which bears thinking, why not just hire Legends to fight Sudden Death and protect the shield? Because they would have to pay them and probably not be able to exploit them into oblivion. The real living and breathing viewers have no interest in watching some old player from before their time punt kick alien ass.

 Here we have personal relationships and conflicts with the heroes as well as the villains. One such villain WILD CARD has had considerable development over the course of the season, while He works with Sudden Death it is apparent that He has is own agenda as well and only sees Sudden Death and even the guardians as instruments to be used to further his goals, whatever they may be. In a way makes him more unpredictable and in the end more dangerous than the main villain

Since this show is about a team sport, the major trait this show promotes is the value of teamwork. We see this with the contrast between the Guardians and the Villains. The Guardians work together support each other towards a common goal. The Villains do not, Sudden Death has his own team but it is a team made of members who are in it for their own personal agendas,

The Three Anticorians who appeared in S3 are allied with Sudden Death to get back at the Rusherz, Wild card and Dropkick want to get back at RZ and the Guardians. Sudden Death needs them for his own ends of galactic domination.
I get an impression that the creative team knows what they are making is a brand awareness strategy but at least they can at least put out a quality product even if it is to promote a product. In conclusion this show is an NFL brand marketing strategy, but the creative teams commitment to some level of quality in writing and artwork prevents it from becoming a total piece unwatchable commercial dreck. That is why the plan is working, the NFL knows if they want to increase brand awareness with children they have to go all out or do not go at all.
Final Verdict

This show has one purpose, that is to promote the NFL to the under 12 crowd and create a new generation of fans who will shell out money for merchandise. It has a premise that appears that it created by a focus group and a marketing team.

Despite all of that there is at least a creative team that is working with what they have and trying to put out some level of quality at least with the writing. We do see story arcs that progress over a season rather and character development rather than all episodes having all conflicts be neatly wrapped up at the end of each episode.

This show has already had three seasons, there is no official word that S4 is in the works. But with the NFL behind this the show could end up on the air because of the sheer amount of money they can put behind this. Shows targeted at children tend to have a short shelf life, with exceptions of Spongebob Squarepants. You can argue that Spongebob's CORE audience is actually stoners of the ages 18-25.

Their core audience tends to age out of viewing, especially if the show is centered around a toy line whose interest can evaporate quickly.  HE-MAN and the Masters of the Universe, was considered one of Filmation's biggest successes, yet only lasted two seasons with 130 episodes total. GI Joe original run under Sunbow/Marvel lasted two seasons until it was picked up by DiC and then only lasted another two because the popularity of the action figure line started to wane.

This show is centered around the NFL which is not going to lose interest and all team merch will end up in clearance bins at Toys R Us to become teenage M-80 fodder. If concussions are going to erode it's interest it will take decades.

If this show lasts it will be out of the sheer power of the NFL pumping money into this and the fact they might have learned lessons of this sort of thing before.  In 1991 the NFL commissioned Marvel to do a comic book called NFL SuperPro.

It was the same thing, NFL related super hero action, and it only lasted 12 issues and it is considered to be one of the WORST comic books in the recent history of Marvel. I would not be surprised if next on the NFL agenda is to make a movie adaptation of this comic with Tim Tebow playing SuperPro Phil Grayfield.

NFL Super Pro might appear in the NFL Rush Zone comic book they have out. yeah the NFL also has a comic based on this cartoon. The NFL is considering resurrecting one of the WORST comic book characters ever to promote their brand.

So now I am filled with dread of a Time Tebow movie adaptation.

Things I want to see Happen

SNL needs to get back with Robert Smigel and LAMPOON the ever living crap out of this. If not Conan O Brien needs to do reoccurring animated skits on his show. Have the Guardians and rushers be assigned to Goodell to clean up the leagues messes, Player scandals, concussion lawsuits.

What are you waiting for?

Maybe in 20 years we will see a NFL RUSH ZONE dark short movie  like the recent one for the power rangers that has gotten buzz. Twenty years later the Guardians are washed up adults who are suing the league for compensation for injuries.