Much-Debated ‘Taylor Swift Factor’
Exposes Angry, Clueless NFL Critics

By David Glenn
North Carolina Sports Network

NBC Sports analyst and former National Football League head coach Tony Dungy recently appeared on Fox News as part of a small panel discussing why less than 25 percent of Generation Z members — meaning those who are, roughly, 13 to 28 years old right now — describe themselves as “avid sports fans,” when polls of older generations tend to produce percentages of “avid sports fans” much higher than that number.

While that’s an interesting topic, and one that definitely concerns many in the sports world with the long-term future in mind, Dungy decided to point to some sort of Taylor Swift Factor as his explanation for the trend in the sport he knows best, the NFL.

“That’s the thing that’s disenchanting people with sports now,” Dungy said. “There’s so much on the outside coming in. Entertainment value and different things that’s taking away from what really happens on the field.”

With all due respect to Dungy, his comments were a classic case of the old saying “missing the forest for the trees,” and unfortunately Dungy pushed a worthwhile topic in an ignorant, clueless, misleading and even occasionally angry (see endless anti-Swift venom) direction.

Swift herself likely will be able to … Shake It Off (IYKYK), but in the meantime, let’s try to make the world a bit smarter and more informed, shall we? Otherwise, Dungy and the many others who think as he does on this topic will be stuck with this, excuse the expression … Blank Space … between their ears.

Are there NFL viewers who complain about too many camera shots of Taylor Swift? Of course there are. Are there even NFL viewers who have “sworn off” or stopped watching NFL games because, as Dungy suggested, there’s too much attention being given to off-the-field stuff and not enough attention being paid to what’s happening on the field? Probably yes.

However, history has repeatedly taught us that only a tiny fraction of fans who promise or threaten to boycott a sports league or a sports team actually follow through on that threat in the long run. As it turns out, a lot more people like — or even become addicted to — the feeling of being angry or screaming about boycotts or celebrities than are actually willing to go through with a boycott that, in the end, may prevent them from watching their favorite team or favorite sport, especially in the biggest games.

Whether you love Taylor Swift, hate Taylor Swift, love the NFL or hate the NFL, the following facts still apply, whether you or Dungy or anyone else likes them. Real-world facts and hard evidence tend to be very stubborn that way.

#1: The NFL is so incredibly popular right now, especially in the United States but increasingly around the world, that it has become truly the most lucrative professional sports league IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD.

That is not an exaggeration. The NFL’s annual revenues are now more than $20 billion per year. There is no sports league — in any country, any era, any sport — that even comes close to that number.

The only other sports leagues that have surpassed even half that amount, or $10 billion per year, are Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association, and even they did so only in the past few years.

There are other popular sports leagues all over the world, including the English Premier League and several other very lucrative organizations in the world’s most popular sport (most Americans call it “soccer”). But even those very successful leagues have annual revenues that are less than half — and often less than a quarter — of the NFL’s annual revenues.

That obviously underlines, beyond any shadow of any doubt, the extreme popularity and incredible financial success of the current version of the NFL.

#2: If Dungy was right about off-the-field distractions, this year’s TV ratings would have gone down, right? Instead, almost all the evidence points in the opposite direction, with Swift actually improving viewership numbers of the NFL games she attends, especially among women and the younger generation.

The popularity of the NFL has been going up for decades, and the 2023 calendar year — the “Swifty” one that just recently ended — continued that undeniable trend.

How do we know that? With actual evidence, you know, the stuff that smart people consider when trying to determine whether a “Taylor Swift is hurting the NFL” theory or any other theory has any merit, or whether it’s just more of the ignorant, unsupported tripe that qualifies as news for some American media outlets — and, unfortunately, for many clueless American consumers — these days.

Of the 100 most-watched American television broadcasts in 2023 — and that’s television programming of any kind, mind you, not just sports content — a whopping 93 of those 100 most-watched broadcasts were related to professional football, including the top 20 most-viewed telecasts. That’s according to Nielsen, the company that’s been estimating American TV audiences for decades.

College football had three games whose audiences ranked in the top 100. There were no NBA games, no college basketball games, no MLB games, no National Hockey League games and no Major League Soccer games anywhere in the top 100, but there were 93 such NFL games. Young people, including Gen Z-ers, obviously are contributing to those amazing numbers, too.

Do you know what the most-watched broadcast in American TV history is? It’s not just the Super Bowl, but the most recent Super Bowl — the one held last February, between the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles. It was viewed by an estimated 115 million people.

And guess what? Millions — not everyone, mind you — but millions of viewers each year love the halftime show, creative commercials, crowd shots, cheerleaders, celebrities and lots of other things that are mostly or entirely unrelated, in Dungy’s terms, to the actual game on the field.

Fifty years ago, in the mid-1970s, the Super Bowl attracted TV audiences of less than half that size, and some intriguing details alongside the NFL’s growth provide relevant, impactful, intelligent perspectives that unfortunately were left out of the imbecilic Fox News discussion entirely, not that most of the legally embattled channel’s viewers would notice or care.

While viewership of the World Series in Major League Baseball has gone down — by a lot — in the last half-century, and the viewership of the NBA finals has gone down, pretty dramatically, from its peak during the Michael Jordan Era in the 1990s, the NFL’s biggest games have been trending aggressively in the exact opposite direction.

That upward NFL trend clearly includes the 2023-2024 season, which obviously included the “Taylor Swift Factor” and ended up as the second most-watched NFL season in history.

Perhaps those other, less popular sports need more of Swift and others like her, not less? Wouldn’t that be a fun topic to study in a thoughtful way?

#3: The NFL currently rests on the firmest, long-term economic foundation in the history of sports.

Again, that’s not an opinion, exaggeration or some ignorant, misleading, Fox News-style commentary. As always, readers are encouraged to research the facts themselves and fact-check all sources of information.

(A little 21st century secret: This is how intelligent consumers can separate actual journalists from the con artists, grifters and soulless performance artists who are turning them into more angry, less educated, more ignorant versions of themselves. The grifters never want to be fact-checked; it is among their greatest fears. Their consumers’ ignorance is their oxygen.)

During negotiations that occurred while the carnival barkers were discussing the supposed demise of the NFL, the league’s current TV and streaming deals roughly doubled the value of its previous contracts, from about $5 billion/year to about $10 billion/year. Again, no other league — in any sport — has ever come close to that latter number.

The new contracts, with traditional TV partners (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC), the world’s leading cable sports provider (ESPN) and a modern streaming service (Amazon Prime), extend all the way through the 2033-2034 season, meaning almost exactly a full decade from now.

That gives the NFL a long time to figure out how to connect even better with Gen Z and other, younger fans.

No other professional sports league in history has ever had contracts that valuable, over that long a term. That’s just one more thing that makes the most lucrative professional sports league in the history of the world different from truly everyone else.

The grifters have been telling you since even before Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem that the NFL was in decline.

The “Go Woke, Go Broke” boys depend on the anger, naïveté and ignorance of their audiences, along with their unwillingness or inability to follow the facts or consider actual evidence. They just hope you’re addicted to being angry — at Kaepernick, or Swift, or some other Nonsensical, Manufactured-Specifically-For-The Rage-Machine Topic of the Day.

They’ve been lying to you — repeatedly, and on purpose — only in a way that doesn’t leave them subject to megamillions in legal settlements, as Fox News (which broadcast Dungy’s ridiculous comments) has been dealing with because of their repeated, purposeful, we-think-you’re-stupid-and-you-keep-proving-us-right lies on various non-sports topics.

What many Americans haven’t figured out yet is that it’s actually accurate to say that the NFL has many legitimate challenges, including its lesser popularity with the younger generation. There also has been a decline in participation rates with youth football. There are serious medical problems, including CTE, and related lawsuits involving many former NFL players. There are many, many fans who complain about — fill in the blank — too many penalty flags, too many commercials, too many stoppages of play, too many replay reviews, too many bad calls, off-the-field player misbehavior, not enough on-the-field physicality, the so-called “wussification” of the sport, and, yes, for some, even too many Taylor Swift camera shots.

But smart, informed people realize that all of those examples are merely individual pieces of a much, much larger puzzle. And even if a dozen or more of those puzzle pieces involve some negativity and/or complications, you would be unwise to ignore the much greater number of positive signs — you might even say billions of positive signs — well into the next decade.

Otherwise, like Dungy and his ilk, you definitely will miss the forest for the trees.

Dungy is not a stupid person, but this is not the first time he has polluted his brain, his Twitter account or the television airwaves with politically driven, partisan nonsense.

If he’s willing to open his eyes to the actual evidence, even he will be able to see the absurdity of his own words.

Perhaps you can see it now, too.