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Sports


The NFL's publicity machine
Terry Pluto talks about what keeps the NFL the hottest pro sport year-round
by WKSU's AMANDA RABINOWITZ


Morning Edition Host
Amanda Rabinowitz
 
After the Super Bowl, the NFL remains in the spotlight with free agency on March 13 and the draft on April 26th.
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The NFL is the one pro sport that remains hot months after the Super Bowl. Tuesday marked the first day at that the NFL’s free agents can sign with another team. Browns fans will be closely following to see what star running back Peyton Hillis does, and who the team will pick up. WKSU commentator Terry Pluto says the free-agency period is one of several ways the NFL stays active after early February.

Terry Pluto on the NFL's publicity machine

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Terry Pluto talks about the Browns and RG3

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Terry Pluto on Peyton Hillis free agency

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Terry Pluto on the Cavs good week dilemma

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Terry Pluto on Fausto Carmona charges dropped

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P: The NFL has a publicity machine that any presidential candidate would love to have. It seems like we’ve been talking incessantly about candidates and everything else for a long time. The NFL, for sports fans, has even been more obsessive. You would think when the Super Bowl ended at the end of January that there would have been this quiet months—

R: Where we’re not hearing about football.

P: Right. Instead, it slicked right away into free agency starting March 13, and the draft starting April 26. Here’s the magic of the NFL in terms of marketing. What they do is after the Super Bowl, where all the good teams have played through the playoff, and you have your two best teams. The minute the season ends, now all the bad teams start talking to their fans about who we can get in the draft and who we can get in free agency. They’re selling hope.

R: We never do get a break.

P: No, you don’t hear, for example, a whole lot about what free agents New England is going to sign, or what the Steelers are going to do. It’s all about, for example, think about this. There’s a kid from Baylor. He’s so big now, he just has two initials and a number. R.G. three: Robert Griffin III. Where’s he going to play? So they’ve taken this quarterback from Baylor, who’s not even the best quarterback in the draft—he’s the number two rated quarterback.

R: Who’s the number one?

P: Number one is a guy named Andrew Luck from Stanford who’s going to Indianapolis. And then other places like Cleveland—we want R.G. three to come to our town because we want a savior. I’m serious. These quarterbacks are supposed to save these teams.

R: Is that how football remains so popular and why people are thinking about it year round is because of this?

P: They just keep churning it around. You go from the regular season to the playoffs to the free agency, which guys are not under contract. For example, with the Browns, Peyton Hillis. Will he stay here? Will he go somewhere else? Who will the Browns get in free agency? They need a right tackle. They need some other things. And the NFL has this magic of ESPN . . . one, ESPN two, ESPN three, ESPN 14, ESPN all news all the time.

R: Well who’s fueling this market? Is it the NFL, the sports market, or the fans themselves?

P: Fans first of all are obsessed with the off-season because most fans think that ‘if you give me enough scouts and enough film and enough information, you know what, I could get free agents and I pick free agents or draft picks better than these guys.’ And of course, looking at the Browns, maybe you should have put up a vote: who should you take with the number four pick? In other words, you get to play general manager, and a lot of fans like to do that. Remember, we live in the era of fantasy league, fantasy football. Everybody is picking their teams, and suddenly the NFL is one big fantasy league.

R: And then you have the NFL itself just loving every minute of the publicity.

P: This is exactly what they want. Frankly, the NFL is the most socialistic league if you really want to get down to it. They share their TV revenues better than any other league. They have the toughest salary caps, which allow teams such as Green Bay or Cleveland, if they would ever do it right, to compete with teams in New York or New England or anywhere else. And they also have their draft and free agency is really set up to give teams that had had poor records before, to get better players.

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