Earl Gray

Earl Gray
"You can argue with me but, in the end, you'll have to face that fact that you're arguing with a squirrel." - Earl Gray

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heir Conditioning

Philadelphia Eagles Running Back LeSean McCoy
     Approximately 60% of NFL fans don't watch [regular season] NFL games.¹

    "How," you may ask, "can someone be a fan of a spectator sport without spectating?"

     Answer:  By spending almost every spare moment of every single day reading, blogging, discussing and analyzing scores, statistics and articles.  Last year, Fantasy football had 25,800,000 participants in the U.S.A., millions more abroad.  These people, in particular, do not watch single games because their interest lies in players, not teams or games.  Thus, they either channel surf the games in which their stars are playing or they ignore television in favor of the Internet, where all scores are instantly added to their totals. 

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #109
     The discussions these people are so passionate about are usually analytical, judging the past, current or, especially, future success or failure of players and/or teams.

    In essence, the league has found a way to involve the public by giving individual fans a vested interest in outcomes.  Saying that this has been a boon to the NFL is like calling WWII "a disturbance".

    Many who still watch the games as boosters, hoping their team wins, or for the excitement of the event.  However, what was once called a "fan" might now be considered a "purist".

    There is one other endeavor where the fans do not form audiences.  Poets might sit patiently through readings but only if there is an ulterior motive.  Slams attract the performers and their immediate entourages only.  Books sell to family, friends and those guilted into buying them at readings.

Martin Newell, beret and all
    In Martin Newell's Sunday Express article, "Harsh words for dire poets", "outgoing Newsnight presenter Jeremy Paxman last week accused the nation’s poets of writing for each other rather than engaging with the public."  And how effective are they at reaching even that limited audience?

    Facebook has a more or less unmoderated group called "Poetry Critique" where all 192 members have posted their work for appraisal.  Take a guess:  not counting the two administrators and bearing in mind the name of the forum, how many of those 192 participants have posted a critique of someone else's poem?

    Zero.  Not one.  All 192 arrived and started crapflooding the place with their "poetry", each expecting an avalanche of unadulterated praise.  When no comments appeared many became indignant.  How could the others not recognize the poet's genius?  Despite posted guidelines to this effect, the idea of quid pro quo never occurs to any of them.  192 writing, no one reading.

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #109
    Compare the conversation in both demographics.  The NFL fan discussion is analytical, often technical.  Outside of this blog and the critical web forums (i.e. Eratosphere, Gazebo and Poetry Free-For-All), such is rarely the case in poetry.  Instead, we encounter blurbing, fawning and Content Regency. Occasionally--and never among those in denial--the topic strays into finger-pointing over poetry's demise.  In the article mentioned above, Martin Newell makes some good points about poetry not being memorable in form or fact.  He also mentions how modern poetry has failed to address, let alone involve, the public.  Along the way, though, he crosses a line:

    "The problem is that poetry has been subjected to an inelegant, greedy appropriation by the academic world, as the literature departments of our universities hunch like daft neurotic dogs over the much-chewed bones of poetry.

    "As a once-popular art form it has never really recovered."

Earl the Squirrel's Rule #110
     First, I question his timeline and the root cause.  Poetry's death spiral began in the 1920s with the introduction of music on the radio.  The Rise of The Inquisitors came later.

     Second, and more important, is the point that those who took pleasure in reading wildly popular poets like Robert Service would not care what academics were saying.  These are two different worlds.  Beyond their reluctance to teach the basics (which didn't fully manifest itself before the 1950s), almost none of poetry's decline can be laid at the feet of literature departments.²  This is not to say that education isn't crucial to the fate of poetry and those inheriting its science and traditions;  it is only to say that this edification needs to start much earlier than college.  As with football, the sooner the love affair begins, the better.

     The stories behind commercial poetry's inability to retain and contemporary academic poetry's inability to attract audiences are fascinating, but separate.

Coming soon:  "Heir Conditioning - Part II"

Boring Footballnotes:

¹ - "About half of Americans say they are fans of pro football, according to an Associated Press-GfK poll, and nearly a third of those fans say they would not consider attending a Super Bowl -- even though few have any idea how much it costs."

     Actually, this Jan. 17-21, 2014 result is down 7%, 56% to 49%, from AP-GfK's 1973 poll.  At 317,297,938 as of January 1st, 2014, that rounds up to 155,475,990 football fans in the U.S. alone.

     "[CBS] said its regular-season schedule averaged 18.7 million viewers, a 6% increase over last year’s 17.7 million viewers. The 18.7 million viewers were second highest number of average viewers in 26 years for the regular-season AFC television package."

     "FOX said its regular-season schedule delivered its most NFL viewers since the network began broadcasting NFL games in 1994. The network’s games averaged 21.2 million viewers, an 8% increase over last year’s viewership (19.7 million) and 5% over 2010 for the most-watched NFL on FOX season ever. FOX said its four most-watched NFL seasons have come over the past four years (2013: 21.2 million; 2010: 20.11 million; 2011: 20.96 million, and 2012:19.7 million).

     Attendees at all 16 of the stadiums hosting games in a given week would add less than 2,000,000 more to the total number of people watching NFL games.

     "Nielsen estimates that Monday Night Football averaged 13.68 million viewers for its 17-game slate this season--up 7% from last year (12.83 million) and the best since the 2010 season, which drew 14.66 million."

     "Including the audience from over-the-air broadcasts in local markets, NFL Network’s 13-game schedule of Thursday Night Football broadcasts finished with a record-high per game average audience of 8 million viewers in 2013, up 10% from 2012, marking the fifth consecutive year that Thursday Night Football has set an all-time high viewership mark for NFL Network."

     Using these statistics, we can conclude (18.7 + 21.7 + 12.83 + 8 + 2 =) 62.23 million people, about 40%, of NFL fans watch regular season football games--and that doesn't account for duplication or the millions who turn the TV on but have their eyes pasted to their computer monitors instead (probably watching their Fantasy Football results pour in).

     Only the Superbowl, an international celebration with 111.5 million viewers, has any chance of attracting more than half of football's fandom.

     "With 111.5 million viewers, last night’s [Superbowl] game tops out as the most-watched TV show in U.S history."

² - Composition was a tiny part of literature courses.  The spread of Creative Writing courses came decades later.

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Earl Gray, Esquirrel

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