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Did the NFL get hoggy?

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media at the NFL meetings, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell speaks to the media at the NFL meetings, Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2016, in Houston. (AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith)
Eric Christian Smith, AP

First, this shocking news: Watching pro football on TV is not nearly as popular as it was a year ago.

Let’s put it this way: More people chose to watch the World Series than the Sunday night football game last week — a game that featured the Dallas Cowboys. That pretty much never happens, and it wasn’t even close.

Or let’s put it this way: The Presidential debate crushed NFL games. Twice. Clinton vs. Trump beat the Giants-Packers on Sunday Night Football and the Falcons vs. Saints on Monday Night Football.

Has the world spun off its axis?

According to Michael Mulvihill, executive vice president of research for Fox Sports, NFL TV ratings are down across the board from last season at this time — 24 percent for Monday Night Football, 19 percent for Sunday night, and 18 percent for Thursday night. Those are significant drops.

You’re probably tempted to blame it on the league’s domestic violence issues, Colin Kaepernick, the publicity surrounding concussions and injuries, the Cleveland Browns, Deflategate, Roger Goodell, or some combination of all of the above (the NFL has seen better days, right?). Some are blaming the glut of bad teams/bad games and, speaking of no one to cheer for, even the distraction of a presidential campaign that doubles as a reality TV program.

With all those variables, it’s difficult to decide exactly what is happening, but there might be another reason: Greed.

A month ago I wrote that televised games might be too much of a good thing for football fans and the sport in general. Now there are indications that the league has reached a saturation level.

When the NFL signed a network TV deal to broadcast "Thursday Night Football" games in February 2014 — this was in addition to "Sunday Night Football" and "Monday Night Football" and primetime Sunday broadcasts — Mark Cuban made a dire prediction.

"I think the NFL is 10 years away from an implosion," Cuban told reporters. "I'm just telling you: Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered. And they're getting hoggy.

"Just watch … when you try to take it too far, people turn the other way. I'm just telling you, when you've got a good thing and you get greedy, it always, always, always, always, always turns on you. That's rule No. 1 of business."

Not much attention was given to Cuban’s remarks at the time. Maybe some thought he was merely protecting his own interests. As owner of the Dallas Mavericks, he had reason to oppose NFL growth, especially since the NBA and NFL seasons partially overlap. He looks prescient now.

"They're trying to take over every night of TV," Cuban said. "Initially, it'll be, 'Yeah, they're the biggest-rating thing that there is.' OK, Thursday, that's great, regardless of whether it impacts (the NBA) during that period when we cross over. Then if it gets Saturday, now you're impacting colleges. Now it's on four days a week. It's all football. At some point, the people get sick of it."

The NFL’s greed is insatiable. Goodell has pushed to expand the league’s regular season from 16 games to 18 games to rake in more millions, even while preaching player safety out the other side of his mouth. Players pushed back against a longer season for that very reason, but aside from such considerations, it would be a piggy business decision and saturate a market that might already be oversaturated.

The novelty of weeknight games has worn off, and dressing the players in uniforms the color of Grey Poupon (see the Jaguars) and the other “Color Rush” uniforms isn’t enough to change that. The NFL is still the biggest draw on TV, but fans have reached a point where they wont watch just any game the league throws at them. Speaking of which, who is choosing the games for TV, the presidential candidates?

The Thursday night games have featured the Patriots-Texans (27-0), Dolphins-Bengals (22-7), Packers-Giants (26-10), Cardinals-49ers (33-21) and Jaguars-Titans (36-22). "Monday Night Football" has given us the 49ers (now 1-6), Rams (3-4), Bears (1-6), the Saints (3-4), the Bucs (3-4), the Panthers (2-5) and the Cardinals (3-4). No one could have predicted the demise of the Panthers, but some of the league should have known better than to offer the public, say, the Bears twice on MNF.

Time will tell if the hogs get slaughtered.