Did you see the article “Buffalo Bills struggle to make dent on national TV map” in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle in Sunday, September 19th? Placed on the cover of the sports section, it featured a map of the continental United States. The country, bathed in red, was speckled with smaller splotches of various other colors. A beautiful graphic, you would think the D&C would have been proud to have included it in the on-line version of the article. Alas, they didn’t and the article suffers.
But this isn’t about vivid art in a hometown newspaper. This is about the reckless writing of misleading headlines. The point of staff writer Kevin Oklobzija’s story apparently means to show the inanely obvious as it leads to the conclusion “the matchup that will draw the most viewers is what matters most, and right now the Bills don’t matter much at all.”
Look, we all know right now the Buffalo Bills might just lose to the University of Buffalo Bulls, but, and give Oklobzija for at least alluding to this, that’s not the main reason why the Bills had such a small coverage territory. In fact, the Bills appear to have had a bigger coverage area than both the Chiefs/Browns game and the Ravens/Bengals game. Most of the nation was awash in the Dolphins/Vikings game. Why? Oklobzija eventually spills the real answer: The “Favre Factor.”
Everybody wants to see Brett Favre. After all – who knows? – this may be your last chance. It certainly wasn’t because there’s a national ache to watch the Miami Dolphins. Indeed, the week before, when the Dolphins visited Buffalo, only residents of Western New York and Southern Florida were allowed the luxury of watching the broadcast.
So, it seems the Bills are not the only team struggling to make a dent on the national TV map. I would guess there may be at least 20 out of the 32 NFL teams who are trying to make a dent on the national TV map. To achieve true TV stardom, a team must have: a) a recent history of rwinning; b) a good prospect of future winning; and, c) a handful of colorful and marketable player personalities. Or you could just be the Dallas Cowboys, fast becoming the NFL’s version of Lady Gaga overexposure.
The Buffalo Bills do not stand alone in this marketing dilemma. Truth be told, we had our day in the sun. We may have lost four straight Superbowls, but we still keep a November 16, 1992 Wall Street Journal cartoon on our refrigerator where a man tells his wife “Sorry, but a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do, and I got to watch the Bills play the Dolphins.” Ah, for the return of Marino and Kelly on the gridiron. Somehow, Peyton vs. Eli doesn’t quite match up.
Perhaps Oklobzija’s greatest sin occurs in his characterization of a recent Nielsen survey of all 32 NFL teams. The Bills did much better than one would expect, but Oklobzija writes “The Bills’ brand doesn’t sell well nationally, though…. The Bills ranked 20th of 32 teams.” Contrast that to the article “Surprise! Buffalo Bills Score in Nielsen’s New NFL Ratings” concerning the same survey: “the Bills reside just short of the middle of the pack…Wanna know what’s more amazing? The Bills lay immediately behind both the New York Jets and the Miami Dolphins – and they are bigger market teams with winning teams!”
When the rest of the world insists the glass of Western New York is half empty, who else besides us has the responsibility to reveal it’s half-full?