Now Everyone Can Enjoy Bryant Gumbel

1198771621It’s not every day that the forces of good triumph over evil, but yesterday’s announcement by the NFL Network that everyone in our fair country will be able to watch the Patriots and Giants on Saturday was a win for the little guy. Of course the little guy will now have to listen to Bryant Gumbel’s strange impersonation of a play-by-play man, but it’s a small penalty to witness history.

Or so the story goes.

The NFL’s fight with the cable industry, which is well-chronicled here, is one of those modern conglomerate fights that frankly bores the hell out of us. Basically, each side wants more money and they use the viewing public as pawns in their game.

Regardless of the particulars, you have to credit the NFL with playing the game better than the other sports leagues. The league had two trump cards in this whole business. The Packers-Cowboys game earlier this year, and the Pats game this Saturday.

The Packers-Cowboys game raised awareness of the NFL vs. Cable fight, and some measure of outrage from fans, but when the game passed and the viewing public realized that it could NOT watch a game and life would still go on, the anger dimmed. That, coupled with an unappetizing slate of games to anyone but degenerate gamblers and fantasy football geeks put the matter on the back burner.

But the Patriots pursuit of perfection raised the stakes again, and this time the NFL decided to play benevolent father and grant a last-minute reprieve. Really, what choice did they have? This way the league gets to claim the moral high ground and showcase its product.

There is no question that the pro sports leagues overestimated their appeal. Sure, fans would tune in, if it was free, but who besides hard-core fans would pay for the NFL, NBA, or even the NHL’s non-game programming, most of which is nothing more than advertorial for the leagues?

Of course you still have to pay up for the NFL Network’s six-hour (!) pregame show.