Tuesday Pop Review- The NFL Red Zone Channel

Welcome all to your Tuesday Pop Review!  So you have probably noticed over our first several months that I am a pretty big sports fan.  The enthusiasm that you saw as we broke down sporting events like NCAA’s March Madness and the NBA Finals pales in comparison for my Fall football craze.  From September through December, my dream weekends include literally nothing other than watching football.  For the NFL, I am in three fantasy leagues, I do those fun “Survivor” pools and yes, I have an occasional wager on an occasional game.  I also have been a fairly devoted Miami Dolphins fan for the past 20 years.  (No need to send sympathy cards, but thank you). 

Over the last 10 years or so, football has become increasingly difficult to watch on television.  Sure, I love the HD era, but my real problems are the excessive commercial breaks.  In an era where television rights contracts cost networks multiple billions of dollars, networks have pounded us with excessive commercial breaks at an insulting rate.  Breaks used to be relatively manageable.  Typically, the game would go to commercial after most possessions (either scores or punts), at the end of quarters, the two-minute warning at the end of the half, and some timeouts except those that occurred at critical stages where the analysts would actually analyze something important.  Networks would also be reasonable with us and not do things like go to commercial after a punt with 40 seconds left in a quarter, knowing that we would be going to break after the next 1 or 2 plays.     

The only typical exception of this pattern was Monday Night Football, where ABC used to sneak in about 1 additional break per half after kickoffs.  As in, Team A scores, kicks the extra point, commercial, back from break, kickoff to Team B, commercial again.  We accepted this for a variety of reasons, including that we were probably 3 beers in. 

Now, with billions in advertising revenue needed to make up for the absurd contract prices, the old exception has become the norm.  Every single pause in the action is greeted with 2 minutes of commercials, including about 50% of all kickoffs, any coach’s challenge, any injury, and about 95% of all punts.  FOX is more than happy to take you to commercial after a kickoff with 30 seconds left in a quarter.  ESPN treats us to the “GMC Monday Night Launch,” which gives is really just code for “We’re gonna get 2 commercial breaks in before we even shove Hank Williams, Jr. down your throats,” and NBC loves giving us a 1992 Tom Petty jingle on the way to break at the first sight of a coach’s challenge flag. 

The result?  Watching a single game on television is one of the most disconnected feelings a sports fan can have.  If you get 5 consecutive plays in without a break, it’s a bonus.  You also couldn’t pay me to go to an NFL game live.  The idea of being squished into a seat in 95 degree heat while nothing is happening 70% of the time except drunk obnoxious fans trying to coach from the 400 sections?  No thanks.   

The only savior left is the NFL Red Zone Channel.  About 4 years old, Red Zone is on from 1 pm on Sunday until the final 4:15 game ends, with zero commercial breaks and a host (the witty and knowledgeable Scott Hanson) taking viewers to each game live at all key moments.  For fantasy football players and folks who are more football enthusiasts than diehards of a single team, Red Zone is the only way to go and the only reason why the NFL is still watchable.  With most cable packages, the Red Zone is a $5/month add-on and comes with a bunch of other decent sports stations (i.e. Big Ten Network, Fox Sports [insert region here]).  If you’re as jaded as I am about watching the NFL and don’t have the Red Zone, I highly recommend it! 

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