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Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

Whew! Now That’s More Like It

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Oh, there were dark clouds above Packer Nation last week, with a 2-3 team trying to forget an ugly loss in Indianapolis and facing a huge test against 5-0 Houston. But, oh, how quickly the sunshine can return. All it took was a 42-24 romp in which Aaron Rodgers, his receivers and the defense answered the worries with focus and ferocity.

 

Frank: So things are looking bright for you?

Artie: Not really... Well, in terms of the Packers, I guess, but that's about it.

Frank: We'll accentuate the positive—namely, a terrific performance by the whole team.

Artie: I'd like to know where they were hiding all that intensity. They'd better bottle it up and keep it handy.

Frank: This really was a crossroads game, reminding me of two situations in recent years. In 2009 they had that meltdown at Tampa Bay and were 4-4 heading into a big game against Dallas. And in 2010 they lost two straight overtime games, to Washington and Miami, and were 3-3 with Brett Favre's Vikings up next.

Artie: Both times they responded with big wins, but those were at home. To dominate on the road against a team that many people pick for the Super Bowl is pretty impressive.

Frank: The pressure was intense for another reason: the internal bickering that was going on. It's one thing for Bob McGinn to call out the defense for being soft, but there also was Rodgers dissing the work ethic of the practice-team players, some offensive linemen griping about Mike McCarthy's play-calling, Jermichael Finley claiming a lack of “chemistry” with Rodgers...

Artie: Coming from Mr. Dropped Pass, that's rich, ain’a?

Frank: Anyway, this kind of stuff is typical of the Jets and Giants, but hardly the Packers.

Artie: But if it helped ratchet up the intensity, let's have more yakkin'.

Frank: Right at the start, though, when Rodgers missed Jordy Nelson on that first long throw...

Artie: I thought, “Here we go again,” with Aaron off by a few inches on enough crucial plays to ruin things. But after that he was pretty much a surgeon.

Frank: Part of it is that he set the bar SO-O-O high last season. But even then he didn't throw for six TDs!

Artie: And some of the catches by James Jones and Nelson were fabulous.

Frank: On defense, three interceptions and all sorts of pressure on Matt Schaub must have had you smiling.

Artie: But I was smiling through some winces because of the injuries that keep piling up. This time the big one was to linebacker D.J. Smith, who was already filling in for Desmond Bishop.

Frank: Another LB, Nick Perry, and cornerback Sam Shields also got dinged up. And nose tackle B.J. Raji and receiver Greg Jennings didn't even play.

Artie: I've got an idea for a new revenue stream for the Pack. Find a sponsor for the injury cart because, man, that thing's getting a ton of airtime!

Frank: Back to the positive. They have St. Louis on the road this weekend, then Jacksonville and Arizona at home before their bye. They figure to get to 6-3.

Artie: Those are games they should win, but then that was the case with Indianapolis. I'm more confident than I was, but with all the injuries...

Frank: Well, enjoy the sunshine for now.

 

And Now, No Words From Our Sponsors...

Frank: Hey, are you into the RedZone yet?

Artie: Anytime the Pack gets there I'm with ’em, you betcha.

Frank: I don't mean on the field. I mean on the TV screen.

Artie: Now I'm in the "huh?" zone.

Frank: You know that last month Time Warner Cable and the NFL Network finally struck a deal, right?

Artie: Yup. Now we can see the NFL's endless programming, just like the NBA's and MLB's endless stuff.

Frank: There's a bonus on Sundays, called NFL RedZone. During the seven-ish hours of daytime games, it shows every scoring play, every turnover, every major event in every game. And with NO COMMERCIALS!

Artie: What? Where is this pigskin wonderland?

Frank: One channel above the NFL Network's spot.

Artie: Not for me. I've clicked through that spot because it shows one of those "contact your cable provider" messages, which means, "You gotta pay extra for this."

Frank: Oops. I guess RedZone is part of Time Warner's "Sports Pass" package, which I take for $4.95 a month. I got it for the super-duper Fox soccer channels.

Artie: That explains why I was never interested. But this RedZone is nothin' but actual plays?

Frank: It's a little frantic with all the hopping between game feeds, but as long as somebody's playing, they're showing.

Artie: So I could watch the Pack and whenever there's a commercial break—like every two minutes, the way the NFL operates—I can go to the RedZone and see other football?

Frank: You betcha, and if you get hooked, never fear: RedZone will sooner or later show anything major involving the Packers.

Artie: Jeez, it's paradise for couch potatoes, to say nothing of fantasy leaguers. Who needs to sit through ads ever again?

Frank: Exactly what I thought the first time I saw RedZone—and why I was surprised it exists! Or rather, why Fox and CBS and all the advertisers whose bazillions fund the NFL's broadcasting contracts would tolerate such a thing.

Artie: I guess they must get a cut from the fees the viewers pay.

Frank: But can that come close to what the networks pay the NFL, and what the advertisers pay the networks?

Artie: And those totals just keep going up for all sports. Didn't MLB just announce new huger-than-huge broadcasting deals?

Frank: Absolutely. The deals, running from 2014-’21, will have Fox and TBS paying a total of $800 million a year and ESPN paying $700 million. Those figures are approximately DOUBLE what the current ones are.

Artie: I'm sure they'll find ways to pass the costs on to Joe Fan. Cable fees ain't ever going down, that's for sure.

Frank: Advertisers must keep paying because they see a benefit. But RedZone got me thinking: If I'm an advertiser and I know there's a sure-fire way to avoid ALL my commercials, wouldn't I wonder if I'm getting the most from my expenditures?

Artie: Besides, there already was an easy way to avoid commercials. It's called the remote.

Frank: Exactly. When the Fox game goes to commercial I go to the CBS game, or vice versa. Or if there's no competing game, it's on to ESPN, or the MLB or NBA networks...

Artie: Or maybe to Spike TV for a fine rerun of "Cops"...

Frank: Or Turner Classic Movies. And in the wonderful world of DVR, there's whatever I may have recorded in the last few days. Or I can set the DVR to record a game, do something else for an hour or so, then play the recording and zip through the commercials. That way the viewing time for a 3 1/2-hour game gets closer to the actual amount of game action.

Artie: Like about 20 minutes.

Frank: Besides all these options for football, the other major sports offer their own "league pass" packages. For a relatively low fee over the course of a season, you can get ALL the games on a given night, with the freedom to jump around during the half-inning breaks.

Artie: I guess the networks and advertisers have no choice but to keep spending those huge amounts—at least until they create the technology to beam the stinkin' ads directly into our brains.

Frank: But it makes you wonder whether the ratings for sports events are as economically meaningful as they seem to be. How many eyes are wandering elsewhere as soon as the actual competition stops?

Artie: Mine sure are. And on Sundays they may be turning red real soon.