While watching my Green Bay Packers get trounced by the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football tonight, I was again reminded that the NFL sells a truly great product. American professional football is so good that the people who sell it are extremely bored; therefore, they have to make their product less appealing to make selling it more challenging. While this approach has been poisonous for the record industry, the self-imposed sales handicap somehow hasn't seriously impeded the NFL's march toward "America's Pastime" status.
Perhaps you've seen the title sequence for Sunday Night Football featuring Faith Hill. In it the country music star sings a football-oriented re-write of the Joan Jett And The Blackhearts' hit "I Hate Myself For Loving You" about how Faith Hill totally does not hate herself for loving pro football. Actually, I think Joan had it right the first time. I really do hate myself for loving the NFL when I'm forced to sit through this song every week, or any other attempt to awkwardly shoehorn music and movie stars into games that are perfectly fine without them.
I understand the philosophy behind having Hill sing soulfully about the excitement of seeing Tony Romo hit T.O. on a brilliantly executed fly pattern. The NFL is trying to attract non-fans with the old bait and switch: Give them something they like–in this case, the wife of Tim McGraw, who used to do his own weekly football jingle during Monday Night Football a few years ago–and hopefully they'll come around to liking what they don't know or care about. As for football fans annoyed by having, say, Vince Vaughn in the broadcast booth talking about his latest shitty romantic comedy during the last five minutes of the fourth quarter–which happened during the Packers game against Denver last season on ESPN–they won't stop watching because that would mean getting out of their pajamas on Sundays. So, there's almost no risk and a potentially high reward.
Still, I don't see how this strategy ever works. Let's say you love Faith Hill. There are a lot of avenues where you can get your Faith Hill fix and not have to listen to John Madden wax rhapsodic about the grandeur of grass-stained offensive linemen for three hours. I, on the other hand, have only one avenue for Sunday Night Football, and it doesn't come with a Faith-less option. Faith Hill fans have little reason to tune in, and I have no choice but to be annoyed every week, just because I really love pro football and wish the NFL would let me enjoy it in peace. It's a fucked up system.
Here's an interesting question: What if somebody good sang the Sunday Night Football theme song? (Since I'm the one writing this blog post, "good" will be defined as "The Hold Steady." But feel free to substitute your own definition for good, and write it on your computer screen over every appearance of "The Hold Steady.") Would this make the theme song any better? If The Hold Steady sang about Charlemagne, dressed in sweatpants and a Packers jersey, getting ripping high and cruising down Oneida Street to Lambeau in a car full of hardcore kids, would I (quite hypocritically) be excitedly droning on right now about Craig Finn finally connecting with the mass audience he deserves?
Maybe I would do that—because I am a 30something white male pop culture writer after all—but I seriously doubt it. In fact, I think The Hold Steady (or whoever you say is good) doing the Sunday Night Football song would be worse than Faith Hill because it would make me hate a band I love. I will gladly sit through Faith Hill if it means I don't have to see Tad Kubler play a guitar solo as fireworks shoot off in the background and the Manning brothers look on, all Children Of The Corn like.
But, hey, I could be wrong. So, I ask you, A.V. Club nation, what do you think about this music-sports bait and switch? I'm talking specifically to the non-sports fans out there. Do you watch sports if a musician or actor you like is involved in some inconsequential way? What would it take for you to make it through a football game? A hilarious broadcast team of Al Michaels and that British junkie comedian guy who hates virgins? A Led Zeppelin reunion with a resurrected John Bonham at halftime? A love scene between Angelina Jolie and Jesus Christ in the middle of the third quarter? C'mon, everybody! The NFL needs your suggestions!