Ready, Set, More Football

Well, about time: The National Football League launches today the NFL Network, a twenty-four hour (yes, 24), non-stop TV channel carrying only football. Can you wait until 5 P.M.? And, did we mention, it'll be on 24 hours a day? Seven days a week, 365 days a year (except next year will be 366 days). This new channel is a gift for those who cannot survive on football fixes only on Saturdays and Sundays. And Mondays and Thursdays and Fridays. How have we survived without breakfast football? And, guess what? The new all- football, all-the-time channel is part of the basic cable or satellite package. There go a few more teetering marriages. (What about a sports marriage show, with instant replay of arguments over the remote plus the X's and O's of therapy?)

To start, NFLN is available only to DirecTV's 11.9 million satellite subscribers (Channel 212) and a handful of cable systems, with more under negotiation. To start, the only live games are preseason and NFL Europe contests with a vast array of original programming. Detailed breakdowns inside a game of the week. Player and coach video diaries. Real-time stat charts for fantasy players. Smalltown and college football features. The channel also draws heavily on 110+ million feet of archived NFL Films---every play of every game for 40 years, half never broadcast. When someone breaks a rushing record, we'll see how previous record holders did it. Plus a nightly show from Los Angeles on NFL news reports from team sites, explanations from referees and analysis from former players such as Seth Joyner and Mike Ditka. Replay: The new channel will be 24 hours. And includes Mike Ditka.



For those who don't like football, the new channel is still too much. Will others want fulltime football? It doesn't matter. They'll get it anyway. Oh, and the League develops its own broadcast outlet for present ad sales, future game broadcasts and negotiating leverage with the networks. As a nation, we once thought 15 minutes of nightly news, minus Camels commercials, by John Cameron Swayze sufficed. Who imagined needing, let alone wanting, 24- hour news channels? Or fulltime channels on history, soaps, biographies, NASA, cartoons, airplanes, government, sex? What's next, programs on awkward blind dates, breast enhancements, nobodies fleeing in stolen cars, overdressed women vying for a clueless bachelor, underdressed B celebs swimming in snakes? Wait, we already have them. Athletes on trial too.

So maybe, just maybe, pro athletes and coaches actually playing football makes sense, in a crazy sort of weird way, mind you.

Originally published in the Los Angeles Times, Tuesday, November 4, 2003.

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