Stadiums need to keep up with TV

Eric Grubman, executive vice president of NFL ventures and business operations, told USA Today the NFL expects an attendance dip for the third consecutive year, mainly because of the economy.

Count me among those optimistically expecting the economy to come back around eventually.

More interesting is the league’s recognition that the product’s so good on TV that some may not be inclined to buy a ticket even when their wallets are healthier.

More from Michael McCarthy's piece:

"Another problem for the NFL, Grubman said, is that the live game experience is competing with the increasingly more high-tech home viewing experience.

"The rise of high-definition TV, instant replays from nearly every angle and the RedZone Channel (which whips viewers to scoring situations in different games), have made it easier and cheaper for fans to watch games from the couch without the expense and hassle of attending a live game.

"That's made TV a huge bright spot for the NFL. For the 2009 season, the league drew its biggest audiences in 20 years. Regular season games were watched by an average 16.6 million viewers, up 2 million from the season before, and the highest number since the pre-Internet days of 1990.

"The product is really exceptional at home," says Grubman. "That makes it a little bit easier, if you're having a tough time making ends meet, to not go to the stadium."

The first person I heard articulate disappointment in his home stadium’s operations was Clay Travis, who’s on the same station I am linked to in Nashville.

He thinks the folks running LP Field can do a better job keeping ticket-holders updated on what’s going on around the rest of the league. But the Titans are hardly alone on this.

If fans who need to endure traffic/weather/obnoxious drunks/etc. can avoid those hassles and tie into crucial replays, their fantasy team’s progress and their pick pool more easily from home, they're less inclined to buy a ticket.

The Titans do run updated scores and who scored on their video boards at LP Field. But at EverBank Field, Lucas Oil Stadium, Reliant Stadium and every building in the league, it’s past time for stadium operation crews to update the schtick people are routinely forced to endure during stoppages of play.

Ticket-buying fans want replays of very recent league highlights -- not this “in action earlier today” junk that qualifies as ancient history by the time it’s played.

They want the same angles on the play that’s being reviewed (once a red flag’s been tossed or an official has been buzzed) that their friend has at home. How silly is it that at a game’s crucial moment, we see fans on TV at the game calling pals at home to ask “Catch or no catch?” (If that remains a delicate issue with officials, tough. Make rules that allow for it. He’s going to get crushed over the blown call anyway. Why should non-ticket buyers get the jump on that?)

People at games deserve those things on the giant TV screens their tax dollars helped pay for. They deserve assurances of reliable cell signals so they can find what they want if you aren’t giving it to them.

And as a bonus, they deserve relief from having a DJ in the crowd screaming his or her way through a guess-the-temperature or name-that-year contest or yet another mascot skit where he beats up someone dressed in the visitor’s uniform.

No fans I know are eager for highlights from "Rudy" or applause meters. Most fans I know would prefer a timely highlight to a shopping cart race on the JumboTron.

Teams should be working harder than ever to make fans feel more a part of the entire NFL game day. Because the networks and RedZone sure do a nice job of that for those fans on Sunday’s when they stay on their couch.

Don’t get me wrong. I love a good shopping cart race.

I just know that while I watch the excitement unfold, I’ve also hot a high speed connection on the laptop in front of me in the press box -- a luxury the people who make my line of work possible don’t enjoy from section 313, row F, seat 9.