What's Wrong with the NFL

Although American football is really a ball sport instead of a video game, it provides an excellent example of how not to make a game. In particular, I feel the NFL's version of the game is poor. "Football" in this case is different from the rest of the world's understanding of the term, which is "soccer" in America.

I think sports games in general are difficult to convert to video games. I have actually never bought a new sports game for any video game system. I have many sports games in my NES collection, but I've never bought a new game from a store. Sports are physical games that require complex actions that are difficult to translate to video games that use just a basic controller. Also, games that feature real players and teams become dated badly. Until a reliable form of virtual realitiy comes out, I don't feel sports games are suited well to a computer.

In Minneapolis, I have to put up with the mediocre Vikings. They've never been a good team. I've heard stories that they were in Super Bowls back in the 1970s, but it's hard to believe.

I also had to tolerate Super Bowl 52, which was here in February 2018. The hype about my city hosting the game started years in advance. Back in 2012, when their new stadium was approved, it was expected that the NFL would reward the area with a Super Bowl. The benefits to the area were highly questionable. Only people that owned bars, restaurants, hotels, and tourist sites seemed to profit. Meanwhile, traffic was terrible, and many public resources like law enforcement were shifted to supporting the game. The game was a big inconvenience to the average person here. It was a tremendous amount of preparation for one game that had less than 10 minutes of actual action.

Lack of Action

Football overall is a slow game. For most of the time, nothing of importance is happening. In a game that lasts 3 hours on TV, only about 8 minutes of actual gameplay happens.

Football is like an old man trying to urinate. It's just stop and go with no continuous flow. The typical play lasts only a few seconds, and then everyone needs to figure out exactly what happened. The stoppages in play can last from 30 seconds to many minutes. Imagine if you played a video game where you were free to move your character around for maybe 3 seconds, and then the computer had to spend the next half minute to determine what you did.

There is almost a sort of forensic analysis that occurs after each play. Everyone scrutinizes every fine detail. There are too many replays and reviews.


Although it's a cliche phrase, no one really knows what will stand. If you see an amazing play, it will usually be reversed. Even though team X appeared to make a big advance, a penalty flag can move the ball in the completely opposite direction. There's almost a sense of relief when there is no flag after a big play. Instead of the suspense coming from the actual gameplay, it instead comes from what the refs will call or not.

The refs seem to throw flags subjectively. Some let a lot of illegal things go, but others are stricter. The subjectivity opens the game to rigging. A ref could favor a team.

I find the flags extremely annoying and interruptive to gameplay.

Insane Rules

The NFL's rule book is too big. When rules come down to maybe three sublevels, how can anyone memorize them all? Who can blame a player for breaking a rule when he's really focused on trying to move the ball in one direction.

A game should be highly intuitive. With just a simple explanation, someone should know the objective and what basic actions are allowed. People should be able to easily pick up a game and just play.

Soft Gameplay

In recent years, the NFL has added more rules that are supposed to make the game safer. However, football is inherently a rough game, and any attempt to make it safe just makes it lame. Most "illegal" contact is just incidental. Action happens so fast that players cannot prevent themselves from touching another player in an "illegal" way. A player might be penalized for merely brushing the helmet of another player. The new rules make amazing plays illegal now.

Final Thoughts

American football is a strange game. It's popular only in America and in Canada to a lesser extent. It's hard for a newcomer to follow. Without understanding the fine specifics of the rules, the game just looks like chaos on a grass or plastic field.

Football depends on TV for revenue. With the continuing decline of traditional TV (broadcast, cable, and satellite), the NFL may not have an audience for much longer. The Internet will deliver everyone's entertainment almost exclusively. In addition, sports teams will lose out on the free advertising that local media does for teams. Local news is in decline, and it will be unable to convince a large part of the population to follow the local teams.

As for the player protests over the past few years, I really don't care what the players do, and they don't impact my view of the game. Personally, I would not be protesting anything at my job, offending fans, and doing anything to jeopardize my job if I was being paid millions to play a child's game.