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Has anybody checked on The Olympics recently?
Are they… like… okay over there?
Well yeah, it’s clear: They definitely are not.
It’s no shocker that any sport’s health is dependent upon the lifeblood that is TV viewership. And not just because ad revenue pays the bills, gets more robust TV contracts, the lot — but because young fans need to be inspired somehow to become Olympic athletes themselves. They often do that by watching the Games on TV.
But audiences these days seem far less inclined to care even a little about the world’s most specialized athletes.
Especially U.S. watchers
TV viewership of Tokyo’s Summer Olympics in 2020 (well, 2021) suffered a massive blow, amassing only 15.5 million sets of eyeballs. For context, that was down 42% from the 2016 Olympics in Brazil. Even the 2018 Winter Olympics — historically the Liam Hemsworth to the Summer Games’ Chris — eclipsed that number, and that was on a downward trend that shrank in this year’s Winter Games too, dropping 36% from Pyeongchang to Beijing.
You’d think, after we were all cooped up like we were on house arrest for 18+ months that something like the Olympics would signal a welcome return to normalcy — something that we as a society would leap at the chance to embrace with open arms and dutifully washed hands.
But no. It just keeps sinking. (FWIW as I researched this piece I discovered more people watched the Westminster Dog Show than the U.S. Olympics Trials by more than 100,000 people).(Granted, this Maltese is EXQUISITE) .
So, like, why?
A few theories.
One: National pride has become something of a lightning rod unto itself these days. In an ironically bipartisan stance, a whopping 88 percent of the country agree that it’s heading in the wrong direction. And no doubt, if you feel that way, you probably don’t feel like slamming a Bud Light against your forehead, chanting U!S!A!, no matter how badly Simone Biles dominates the Russians. Indeed, national pride isn’t just something generated by the Olympics: it’s often a prerequisite to caring in the first place.
Two: They didn’t exactly make it easy to watch. It was well documented that NBC’s Olympics streaming was terrible. From audio issues to the feed dropping, to scheduling, to just about every technical aspect you could imagine: they flubbed it.
Three: The lack of trust in Olympic fairness. Scandals have rocked the Olympic community and committee, from doping to sexual abuse to outright cheating by the judges (Bad Sport on Netflix covers one ice skating exmple super well in their episode Gold War, I should add).
It’s clear that The Olympics need to adapt to modern viewers’ tastes. Maybe, the Olympics need to relight the torch — pun intended — by getting the fire from an unlikely ally.
The NFL has Entered the Chat
Recently, more than a few outlets have reported the NFL has decided to insinuate itself into the Los Angeles Summer Games of 2028 by pulling for Flag Football to be added to the game list. Why? Because it clearly has aspirations to turn the uniquely American sport and make it global (London games any one?)
And for its part, the NFL offers a few solutions to the above problems: Despite a few controversies, pro football has largely survived on both sides of the political aisle (in fact, according to 538, it’s the most centrist of all the major sports). They know a thing or two about rebuilding trust, and they’ve clearly got the technical acumen. But most of all: the NFL has viewers.
By that metric, it’s a gold-winning champion itself. While the league took its own spankin’ over the last 20 years in various bouts of fan ire or disinterest, last year it grew by an impressive 10%. On average, 17.1M people watch a regular season NFL game (and remember that’s one game on one day, while the Olympics are a 17-day event).
All this to say: With a juggernaut like the NFL pushing for it, it actually could happen.
But to describe the movement in terms of Olympic-level archery:
It’s a long shot.
There’s the logistical side of how the games would be played (it’s one of those sports that requires a lot more downtime between games). And then there’s the issue that we’re the powerhouse.
Much like women’s softball was briefly an Olympic sport that was dominated by the U.S, the committee doesn’t take kindly to lopsided athletic contests. So, until the rest of the world cares enough to field their own flag football teams — and kids in those countries see it and want to become that kind of athlete themselves — that could compete with the likes of ours, it’s unlikely to catch fire.
In any case, the committee will decide whether flag football will be an Olympic sport this December. We’re thinking here the odds are against it, but flag football ever sees the light of day, you can rest assured we’ll have a pool for it.
In the end: What do you think? Would Olympic-level flag football in 2028 get your eyes? Do you see the committee giving it a shot? Tell us your thoughts in the comments at the bottom of the page!