Football is Family

football is familyThe NFL 2015-16 season has concluded.  And their poster child, Peyton Manning, has come under scrutiny for covering up a sexual assault case dating back to 1996.  You know what?  Maybe it’s a good time to reflect on the their latest marketing campaign — Football is Family.  Has a nice ring to it, ehh?

A dozen 30 second videos which encompass a wide range of heart-warming themes: breast cancer awareness, caring and concern, mentoring, parenting, philanthropy, coping with mortality, community, managing expectations, freedom/military service, heritage and history.

So why the sudden barrage of benevolence?

Call me a cynic but I suspect that NFL marketing executives held a meeting and brainstormed about a way to soften the blow from Concussion.  That movie shined a nasty spotlight on CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy).  Needless to say, there’s definitely a link between repeatedly getting knocked out cold and the progressive deterioration of one’s mental faculties.

I think the NFL decided it would be in their collective best interest to deflect, or at the very least, attempt to neutralize this deluge of bad publicity.  After all, most lifelong fans are also concerned parents.  If mom and dad came to the realization that their children could face permanent brain damage, it could have a profound impact on the breeding ground for the future stars of the NFL.  The entire channel could be compromised.  Youth football, middle school, high school, college, all the way into the pros.  In a word, it’s about MONEY.

There’s only one concrete way to mitigate this kind of damage.  And that’s to convince everyone that we’re all part of a loving family.  The NFL’s truly concerned for your life, limb and well-being.  Hence, football is family.

Just for the record, I’m not sure Football is Family is the best slogan.  Seriously, most families aren’t very receptive to domestic violence, rape accusations, weapons charges, DUIs, steroid abuse, recreational drugs, cheating, tax evasion, gambling and prostitution.  Not to mention the familiar behavior that encapsulates and glamorizes the NFL… arrogance, show-boating, greed, trash talk, veiled threats and the win-at-any-cost agenda.

I raise these issues because most “families” wish to protect their loved ones from harm.

It’s no coincidence that the NFL has the most extensive security apparatus in all of professional sports.  They hire former FBI agents and DHS consultants, ex-police chiefs and private detectives.   All with the intention of protecting their athletes and employees.  Commissioner Roger Goodell even has a name for it — it’s called protecting the shield.  Because the success of any one franchise is directly contingent upon the economic viability of the other 31 teams.

So we must “protect the shield” because “football is family.”  I guess this makes sense… or does it?  What if I told you the NFL utterly fails this litmus test… in possibly the most absurdly generic way one could fathom.

Let’s draw an analogy.  Typical families teach their children about basic public safety information.  “Look both ways before you cross the street” is a pretty universal message.  It’s about as fundamental as it gets.  Not only do we reinforce this message, we physically hold our children’s hands at the curb.  Why?  Well, we don’t want to see them rammed by a Dodge pick-up truck.

Now what if I told you that the NFL doesn’t care if their fans get killed?  Huh?  Come again?  You’d probably be perplexed and bewildered.  What if the NFL intentionally conceals the most obvious matter regarding stadium safety?  You’d likely reply, “Don’t be ridiculous!”

I’ll keep this as plain as possible and try not to sound condescending.  You see, there are 50,000 – 100,000 active cell phones in every NFL stadium.  These wireless devices are capable of receiving real-time, false information in more ways than you can fathom (wireless carrier hacks, opt-in notification abuse, phishing scams, reverse 911 platforms, targeted spam, Wireless Emergency Alert sabotage, bulk texting, mass emails, robo-calls, facebook and twitter updates, etc.).

Now I’m not referring to scoring updates and fantasy football stats.  I’m talking about a deliberate saturation of bomb threats and phony evacuation orders — communicative material with the express intention of causing a real-world panic.  This is NOT complex.  It’s merely the modern, technological equivalent of shouting FIRE in a crowded theater.  And just for the record, there are additional, more seemingly deceptive ways to encourage fans to rush the concourse.  For example, free food offers, discounted merchandise, impromptu t-shirt giveaways, legendary hall of fame stars signing autographs, celebrity sightings, etc.  It’s critical to think a little outside the box… or in this case, stands.

Now is NFL security aware of this security disconnect?  Do they know that virtually everyone is carrying a cell phone in a wirelessly hyper-connective environment?  Do the incident commanders think they’re living in 1986… or 2016?  Sometimes you have to wonder.

Back to the “crossing the street” analogy.  If the NFL was really part of your family, wouldn’t a proud father like Roger Goodell wish to extend his hand to everyone at a busy intersection during rush hour?  Ideally, he’d wanna hold your hand in a way that makes even Paul McCartney envious.

At an absolute bare minimum, Goodell could let fans know that emergency stadium evacuation orders would NEVER come from their personal cell phones.  Standard protocol dictates that evac information come through the public address system in tandem with the jumbotron/video monitors.  No incident commander in their right mind would stage an evacuation by playing texting games with a capacity crowd approaching 100,000.  Even if they wanted to, they couldn’t.  They simply lack the capability.

Now someday, maybe things will be different.  Perhaps we’ll have transponders implanted in our cerebrums that tell us when to move and how to behave.  But until then… wouldn’t it be in everyone’s best interest if Goodell just leveled with his kids?  After all, we’re family!  We’re supposed to tell each other the truth.

Unfortunately, there’s a litany of reasons why Goodell is not acting as a responsible parent (voluntary admissions about obsolete stadium security, hypothetical disclosure, plausible deniability, foreseeable litigation, etc.).  I’ll sum up his silence in a single world — MONEY.

There is a warped irony in play here.  If you were to actually receive a real-time evacuation order, it might not be delivered in the form of some mysterious text alert.  It would likely be coming from your friends and immediate family… as they would have probably been deceived by the actual hoax itself.  They would be directly reaching out to protect their loved ones.

Such is the cruel paradox of the ARTIFICIALLY GENERATED STAMPEDE, an event that would probably be designed to scale into a DOMINIPEDE (multiple, simultaneous stampedes likely impacting the 1 o’clock slate of games).  Not to sound melodramatic, but in hindsight, an event of this magnitude would almost certainly be viewed as the follow up to 9/11.

Feel free to share this information in any social media forum regarding the National Football League, stadium safety, crowd management and/or bomb threat protocol.