How The Next Generation Watches Football

Today's young adults consume the NFL in ways that vary greatly from their parents. A panel of college students discuss those differences, including the impact of Twitter on Sundays and which broadcast personalities resonate

By
Richard Deitsch
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How someone views the NFL and its product largely can depend on their perspective. (Doug Murray/Icon SMI)
How someone views the NFL and its product largely can depend on their perspective. (Doug Murray/Icon SMI)

The lead item of this week’s column is absent a familiar voice:

Mine.

Hold your applause, please.

Instead, I’ve empaneled a group of college students—newspaper editors, writers and television majors—to answer a series of questions on how they consume the NFL and to share their thoughts on broadcasting.

The panel:

The only requirement the panel was given was to keep the answers tight. They were free to skip any questions. 

How do you watch NFL games? Be as specific as you can.

Adriana Bush: I typically stream the games online because I work at the newspaper every Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and there are no TVs and I don’t get phone service. Streaming is a hassle because sometimes pop-ups will come up that block the entire screen and prevent me from watching the game. Or the Internet service will be slow so I’ll hear the broadcaster announce a play but the screen will be frozen on a previous play. But it’s better than nothing. As soon as I get home I try to catch the night game on TV. I always watch the Monday and Thursday night games on a TV at home while reading commentary on Twitter with my phone.

Cody Goodwin: My living room has a gorgeous 46-inch TV. But I usually have both my phone and/or computer close by. I’ll use both Twitter and the Yahoo! Sports App on my iPhone for both commentary and stat tracking during the game. If it’s a Chiefs game, I’ll use the TuneIn Radio App to listen to Mitch Holthus from 101 The Fox in K.C.

I always have my computer and iPhone next to me while watching football.

Sarak Kirkpatrick: As a Seattleite and Seahawks fan studying in Boston, I have to watch games on my computer for the most part. Usually I have Twitter open in one window and the game in another.

Ryan Krasnoo: I watch games at my apartment on TV, and I normally have access to either my phone or computer. I’ll probably be tweeting about certain things happening in a particular game, as well as checking my fantasy team to see how my players are doing.

Beth Maiman: I always have my computer and iPhone next to me while watching football. On my computer, I am checking how my fantasy team is doing and I use my phone to check Twitter or text friends about how their teams are holding up. If it’s a big game for my favorite team, then the devices are put away because I find it distracting.

Brooke Pryor: For the most part, I watch NFL games on my iPad using NFL Sunday Ticket while I’m at work. I work with three assistants and they usually have games pulled up on their laptops, so between all of us we have a mini-sports bar minus the drinks and wings. I also get push notifications for halftime and end-game updates for my favorite teams, which feels pretty redundant while I’m watching the game.

Alysha Tsuji: If it’s a really important game to me and I want to know everything that is happening at once, I’ll have the TV on, my laptop open, and my iPhone in my hand.

Aron Yohannes: My layout is pretty nice during the actual games because I always have multiple screens in front of me. I’ll have two TV’s up—one for Fox and the other for CBS. Then I have NFL Red Zone on my laptop along with TweetDeck open. I swap back and forth between the two. TweetDeck is perfect for keeping up with stories, player injuries and stats before, during, and after games. As a Raiders fan, I have to watch them lose so I put that on my iPhone because I can throw that the farthest.

The NFL got into the social media act at the 2012 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, setting up computers on the sideline for players to tweet during the game. (Perry Knotts/AP)
The NFL got into the social media act at the 2012 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, setting up computers on the sideline for players to tweet during the game. (Perry Knotts/AP)

Is there something different about how you watch the NFL compared to your parents?

Bush: My dad only watches the game on television and if he’s at work or out, his second choice is listening to the game on the radio. He doesn’t know how to work social media and would never watch it on the phone because he complains that the “screen is too small.” If I’m at work, my second choice is streaming or Twitter, not the radio. In fact, I don’t even think there’s a radio at all in the office.

Goodwin: Twitter’s the biggest difference. They don’t follow the tweets during the game. They just watch it. Occasionally, my dad will tune in to radio broadcasts, but it’s not often.

Kirkpatrick:
The most significant difference is my heavy reliance on Twitter. My parents just watch games and read game stories later, whereas I’m refreshing Twitter every 20 seconds during a game.

Krasnoo: My parents are casual Patriots fans, so they will follow the Pats, but few other teams. With me staying up to date on my fantasy roster and being active on Twitter by following NFL analysts, I think I consume the NFL much more holistically than my parents do.

Maiman: Considering my father is always asking me why I need my phone or computer out while we watch football, then yes. My dad sits down for the entirety of the game, not moving even for a bathroom break, while I will take full advantage of the commercial breaks to occupy my time with something else. Also, if his beloved Vikings are on TV, that trumps all, even if there is a better game on, which is vastly different from my generation, who are more concerned with fantasy football and catching the Red Zone Channel. 

Pryor: Everything about the way I watch NFL is different from my parents’ viewing habits. I’m not quite sure how I ended up as a sports journalist considering my dad naps through NFL games and often changes the channel to NASCAR and my mom once said she would rather watch anything other than an NFL preseason game. They are extremely casual viewers, and today I had to explain fantasy football to my mom. But it’s definitely refreshing to go home and not be surrounded by all football all the time. As far as sports journalists go, I guess I’m still a casual viewer by most standards, but I enjoy fantasy football and I enjoy being engaged in a few teams every week.

Tsuji: Yes, definitely. My parents aren’t on Twitter. That’s already a huge difference. They see the game on TV—and that’s it. Maybe my dad will talk about it at work the next day. Meanwhile, I’ll watch the game, post some tweets and talk with friends about it right after.

Yohannes: Oh, yeah, there’s a huge difference. Once an NFL game is done, so are my parents. My parents switch the channel and move on with their lives. I head straight to the stats and notes to research more about the game. My dad also likes to write off games early; you can convince him that a game is over in just the third quarter. Plus, my parents watch the NFL as just a hobby, but this is my career and passion.

Do you watch an NFL pregame show, and if so, which one and why?

Bush: I normally watch the FOX pregame show. I like that they have a great mix of cast members and analysts consisting of formers players from different generations. Also, I watch show because it’s entertaining with their comedic additions, such as Rob Riggle’s weekly picks.

Goodwin: I actually don’t. I used to watch ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown back when I was younger—from age 5 until about 11. It was neat to hear about the stories of the day and listen to the analysis and get the numbers I needed to know. But I found I could learn all of that just by reading, too. Just not a big fan of the personalities of those pregame shows.

Chris Berman is in his fourth decade being a part of ESPN's NFL coverage. (Getty Images)
Chris Berman is in his fourth decade being a part of ESPN’s NFL coverage. (Getty Images)

Kirkpatrick: Rarely. I generally get all of my pregame analysis from Twitter or newspaper articles. Those tend to be more informative than anything I can get on TV.

Krasnoo: I don’t, no. They don’t interest me much, and I have other commitments and responsibilities on Sundays as well, so I typically only have time to watch the games themselves.

Maiman: Since I have always lived on the West Coast, anything before 10 a.m. is a rather early wakeup call for a college student. However, if I do happen to be awake, ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown is my choice. Beside the fact that the show is entertaining, I like the way they break down certain plays and are willing to share their opinions and offer advice in fantasy football. In addition, I grew up with Chris Berman, so he is basically a father figure, and Cris Carter was my first ever football jersey.

Pryor: I don’t usually have time to watch pregame shows on Sundays, but I do like to watch ESPN’s NFL Insiders during the week because I really like Chris Mortensen and Adam Schefter. Both provide great insight and together they have a really great energy and dynamic. I also like being able to get quality NFL news during the week rather than waiting to catch up with everything Sunday morning or get snippets during SportsCenter.

Tsuji: No, I don’t tend to watch the NFL pregame shows as heavily. The game is what matters. If there’s any news or updates I need prior to the game I’ll have already seen it on Twitter. I’m more about the postgame shenanigans.

Yohannes: I always rotate between all of the different pregame shows on CBS, Fox, ESPN, and NFL Network. All of them are good in my opinion but each in their own different way. It’s a close call between ESPN and CBS as my favorite right now, but I’ll say CBS because they always keep me entertained.

What kind of analysis do you want from an NFL pregame show?

Bush: I want to hear keys to victory for each team, what players to watch, why these players are predicted to have success, injury reports for any players who are game-time decisions, and fantasy football projections for certain players. 

Goodwin: Hard to say. I’m a big fan of film room work, so I wouldn’t mind seeing more of what certain teams have to do to score and stop certain players and teams. The ins and outs are interesting to me, but numbers are always fun, too. Just lose the fluff in the broadcasts, I suppose.

Kirkpatrick: I want more stats and relevant news. I don’t need the dramatic storylines and unnecessary fluff. I want to know who’s playing, what the matchups are, interesting statistics and so on. I want specifics, not absurd speculation and tomfoolery. If pregame shows gave more of that, I’d be more inclined to watch.

I used to watch ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown … but I found I could learn all of that just by reading, too. Just not a big fan of the personalities of those pregame shows.

Krasnoo: I like when analysts tell me something I could not have gathered on my own. Breaking down certain scoring plays or going through coaches’ thought processes in particular situations always intrigues me.

Maiman: Although I have been watching football since the tender age of 3, I never had the opportunity to play and therefore really like when pregame shows break down plays or key scoring drives. I also enjoy when analysts include their predictions as well. 

Pryor: In some ways, I avoid the pregame shows because there’s only so much analysis I can take. But if I could have an ideal pregame show, I would want it to be more streamlined with quick-hitting analysis that hits the major points—injuries, key matchups and what to watch for, etc.—something that can be easily digested.

Tsuji: From a pregame show, ideally, I expect to hear the predictions of the hosts, the history of the two teams playing against each other and about the current success/failures of the teams playing. What I would like is for the anchors to have personality, without focusing too much on their predictions and not enough on the game itself.

Yohannes: Well I definitely know I want great film breakdown for upcoming games. I certainly don’t want to watch debate and listen to opinions that I’ve heard all week long. Showing tape is a big component to me and I want a pregame show that can help viewers understand more of what needs to happen correctly on the field for a team to win. When I think of analysis, I think of somebody breaking something in pieces for others to understand.  A lot of shows already do a solid job of it but they can extend it and still do better.

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11 comments
firedog55
firedog55

I'm 56, and I watch football the same way the people in the article do, at least for my favorite team: Game on TV, nfl radio broadcast over the net, and follow/participate in one or two online chats about the game. Also have online stats/play by play on a web page during a game.

I will also jump to various coverages of other games using the same media as above.

iainrwbartholomew
iainrwbartholomew

When the Jets are on TV here I'm all over Twitter, but sadly I'm usually watching on NFL Gamepass which means I can't use Twitter outside of lengthy breaks in play because there's just enough of a delay for the game to be ruined by people tweeting about what I'm about to see. That shouldn't still be happening in 2013.

pvdsports
pvdsports

I am decades older than the people who contributed to your panel and I have been a multi-media football watcher for quite a while. It began with my fantasy football efforts. Yahoo Sports is always open on my computer. Then once I joined Twitter my phone is at the ready when I'm hanging on the couch and it's open in a window if I'm at my desk. I find it odd when I watch with friends of a similar age and they don't.

JeffSeibold
JeffSeibold

I was surprised to see that no one mentioned Mike Pereira as one of the best to follow. He is great to follow during NFL Sunday's commenting on specific plays, the perspective of the referee, and how the rule is written/interpreted.

SIreaderJ
SIreaderJ

count me in on someone who usually has an ipad out and/or phone while watching a game. I know some of these kids say their Twitter feed is more important than their TV, but i'd be they are saying that for the sake of this article and could not look you in the eye and tell you that with a straight face. 

I enjoy some sports writers commentary during games, but have had to unfollow numerous ones who post way too much play-by-play. Not necessary and annoying on twitter. 

DaveG
DaveG

I've given up on most pre-game shows,  A lot of the time I literally can't understand what they are saying. I'm not talking about the X's and O's. That I understand.  It's either their accents or their need to screech (Deon Sanders & Michael Irvin come to mind) that make many of the ex-jocks incomprehensible.  A nice on screen simultaneous translation might be helpful.

evileyefleagle
evileyefleagle

Watched Frontline last night and am wondering how many concussions are caused by fans banging their heads against the wall because of the repetitively stupid contributions of the sideline reporters.

Ciscos
Ciscos

I hope you forwarded this information/article to the NFL and ESPN.

JimTinCT
JimTinCT

Watch games on TV, have a second and two other screens (Pad/PC and Phone) active as well. Very typical TV viewing - for high involvement programming. Same would be true for reality shows and series like Breaking Bad.

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