Are fans losing trust in the NFL?

Trust takes a lifetime to establish and only a moment to destroy.

Before we get too deep into things, I’m not here to promote conspiracy theories. I may have some interesting questions that some may take as such, but I am definitely not saying that the answer is one way or the other. I thought it was an important thing to establish first.

When it comes to NFL fans who trust the league to deliver the product they expect, there are different levels when it comes to those who are wary of the NFL. While some have reached a level of mistrust where they believe the results are predetermined, there are other levels of mistrust that may be much more common.

As I continue to keep my pulse on the Pittsburgh Steelers fan base, as well as those across the NFL, it seems that there are more and more fans claiming that the NFL is “fixed” or “rigged.” Perhaps with the growth of social media, these voices that felt this way simply have more outlets to say those things. Whether or not that is the case, it seems to be a narrative, although I believe it to be false, which has been gaining more traction of late.

Why do I think it is a false narrative? Because I think there is too much money at stake for it not to be otherwise. Yes, money is also the factor why some people believe this to be true. Either way, I can admit that there are additional factors that have come into play that make it more popular for some to believe that outcomes in the NFL are predetermined.

What I think is the biggest factor related to the number of fans who believe the NFL fixes their games is not just the legalization of sports betting and a much broader platform to do it, but the NFL actively promotes such a thing. There is a lot of money being moved around with sportsbooks, and when more money gets involved, there are more questions about the integrity of things. I’m not saying I think this is the case, but I can see where people who have lost their confidence in the NFL because of sports betting are coming from.

Another factor that people may believe the NFL is in the game-fixing market is based on officiating. Since NFL officials are imperfect humans asking to do an imperfect job when they’re supposed to make real-time determinations of the world’s best athletes where multiple slow-motion cameras still can’t accurately determine the result, there will be a reason. for people to question the motives. People simply have a tendency to mistrust others first until a pattern of trust is established.

Personally, while I believe most NFL games boil down to a handful of difference-making plays and officials can be a significant determining factor as to how these plays end, I’m not sure the NFL has enough skill to do it. whether it was actually one big scripted conspiracy. Something would stand out to an even greater degree to blow the whistle on the whole thing. Between that and living in a world of constant inside sources leaking information, there’s no way the NFL can keep it a secret. They are just two big ones of a scheme.

While I don’t think the NFL is currently rigged for certain teams to win, there is something I question almost every week that I don’t trust in the NFL. While I don’t think the NFL is specifically trying to have one team win over another, I’m also open to the idea that they aren’t completely neutral every game.

What exactly do I mean by this possible conspiracy theory? I think the NFL is in the business of keeping games, particularly the higher profile games, more competitive than they naturally are in order to have a better product to sell.

When an instant replay review is sent to New York, I immediately question the process. I don’t trust Some of these plays are so close that they don’t really meet the standards to be voided under the rules. But one thing I have considered in many cases is that if the game is so close that the determination could go either way, that decision ends up being made to help maintain and restore the best competitive balance in a game.

I’ll use some plays from the Super Bowl as an example. With the Eagles leading late in the first half already by seven points, a pass down the sidelines was ruled complete for DaVonta Smith. After a review of the booth, the play was annulled, ruling that Smith did not maintain possession throughout. The ruling was not that Smith did not have possession before going out of bounds, but rather that he had possession but he lost it when he hit the ground. Was there really a conclusive hearing to show that he lost possession even though the ball hit the ground? Was it really enough for cancel the call?

For me, the question I asked is would the call have been overturned if the Eagles were trailing by seven points at the time? What if it was a tie game? In other words, did New York try to make it difficult for the Eagles to go up 14 points before halftime? I don’t trust that they made the decision based solely on that play and the rules that govern it while avoiding the circumstances of the game affecting their decision.

Here’s an example from the other team’s perspective and how the game situation may have changed the decision: the overturned sack and fumble that the Chiefs returned for a touchdown. If the Chiefs were trailing by 14 points, do you think the NFL would have overturned that decision? If it would have made the game more competitive but not created a lead change, would they have been willing to? They could easily have said that there was not enough evidence to overturn the decision in the field. So, in this case, it wasn’t that New York made a call to keep it more competitive, the question would be if the situation was different and they could Would they have made the game more competitive in such a close but pivotal play?

The NFL instituted instant replay to “hit the call,” which should have helped establish confidence. But when a play goes up for review, do fans trust that the right decision will be made? Just ask Jesse James on December 17, 2017 or Terrell Edmunds on September 15, 2019. Both were cases where the correct call was made on the field and incorrectly overturned due to replay. Having a system to help establish trust that makes the right decision and is wrong destroys much more trust than it potentially could have generated.

Since we live in a world of increasing technology, the human element that comes into play with many things will continue to make people question the motives behind it. Officials are human. Replay officers are human. Players and coaches are human. For this reason, fans may be losing trust in the NFL and the humans behind how games are run and officiated.

Maybe the NFL isn’t rigged.

Maybe the NFL doesn’t have an agenda to keep games competitive.

Maybe the NFL is just flawed humans trying to do a job no one will agree to all the time.

Maybe it’s that NFL fans are flawed humans who don’t trust other flawed humans when there’s an enormous amount of money at stake.

I’d be surprised to find someone who trusts the NFL to do everything right all the time. Because they don’t, there will be some mistrust involved. The big question is whether fans allow the mistrust to get to a level where they can no longer enjoy the product.

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