The NFL doesn’t want you to have access to the “All 22” film

The NFL doesn’t want “All-22” game film — the “eye-in-the-sky” view that coaches use to analyze their teams and their opponents** — released to the public because “it would open players and teams up to a level of criticism far beyond the current hum of talk radio… [F]ans would jump to conclusions after watching one or two games in the All-22, without knowing the full story.”

It should be this simple

This is, of course, ridiculous. Obviously the argument doesn’t work, because if anything the All-22 would clarify the hasty conclusions fans and commentators already jump to on the basis of poor angles and little information. And even if it did open them up to criticism, so what? It’s an arbitrary game played for people’s enjoyment. If the First Amendment to the Constitution protects citizens’ ability to criticize the actions and policies of government and government actors, even during times of war — something that could potentially have a cost in human life — I should think that people who are paid millions of dollars to coach and play an arbitrary game can stand a little bit of heat. The whole thing is silly.

The proffered reason — that it would result in too much criticism — is so silly that it can’t possibly be true. But if it’s not true, then what is the real reason? I struggle with this (though I shouldn’t overlook the Occam’s razor-esque possibility that it’s simply that the people with decisionmaking authority over these kinds of things at the NFL are not intelligent, thoughtful people and do it for no real reason at all), as the only apparent conclusion is that it’s simply to insult the intelligence of fans and people who enjoy football. In short, it leaves two possibilities: first, either we really would fail to comprehend the complex array of movement on the field by twenty-two supremely athletic but human men, and thus we need the gentle paternalism of the cameraman and producer to show us, in a kind of cinematic baby talk, “See, with this close-up the quarterback throws a pretty spiral to the receiver!”; or, second, football isn’t even a game so much as it is a product to be branded in a particular way, and by restricting the All-22 the NFL can by Orwellian imagery of extreme close-ups and slow-motion shots emotionally convey to us the narratives solely how they want to in the way they want to. In either case, it’s all about controlling the message; the only question is why, and all the answers are depressing.

I should add that while I am here critical of the NFL I also don’t see colleges in general or specifically Pac-12 or SEC in conjunction with ESPN, or the Big Ten using its own network, uploading the game film for their last few games. I think eventually they will, as all of that film is fully accessibly by opponents (so there can’t be any argument about a competitive advantage) and is fully digitized and sorted within hours of each game and almost instantly stored on the cloud. College football wants to present these same narratives too, though I find it’s easier (for a number of reasons) to access college game film, and further there is simply less control over the message. But while it’s probably less explicit, as it is certainly less centralized, college football is vulnerable to the same criticism I’ve leveled at the NFL. Maybe if there will be movement in this area it will come from some enterprising conference in college football — say the combined C-USA/Mountain West — who wants to spread the word about its teams in any way possible and is willing to put its teams’ game film online. One can hope.

**The discussion of “All-22” is a bit misleading because game film is typically shown both from the All-22 angle as well as from ground level either behind the offense (to better observe the offensive line) or the defense (for a similar reason). What we want is access to both.

  • jaws.

    lost ticket revenue seems like a bad argument too. If people are willing to pay $20 to park, $100 for a ticket, $9 for a beer and another $15 for any type of food, just to sit outdoors in December four stories above the action,  I don’t think a new camera angle on replay footage is going to stop anyone.  On top of that the stadiums prohibit smoking and stop selling beer at the end of the third quarter I don’t know why anyone would want season tickets anymore. I take the nice 60 inch HD plasmas at my local watering hole.

  • Kwin1979

    Because it wouldn’t be live? Are you saying you would give up watching live NFL games because you could wait and watch all-22 film later? I doubt that. All-22 would be to analyze the games after the fact.  

  • Anonymous

    Great read.  I personally think it’s the “purposely withholding” theory. Part for “product” (they need people to watch their analysis shows) and part personal power (former players & coaches want to hold the power).  It’s why most analysts poo-poo on using stats (no matter how legit) because they essentially let fans hold the “power” (knowledge) when they want you to come to them for that.  It’s all ridiculous, as the number of fans who would actually even slightly analyze currently available stats** or 22-film is so few & far between that there’d still be plenty of people to watch the various programs & pre-games.           **(all the mainstream sites desperately need to expand the stats they offer. ESPN’s added targets & YAC recently, but they mention things like hits & hurries (against the QB) all the time during games and yet they’re still unavailable (for free at least)).

  • Anonymous

    haha, right? It seems like the number one reason for guys becoming overrated is announcers/talking-heads ignoring whether they are consistent. They hand-pick the highlight plays and ignore everything else (ex: I’ve read that despite Suh leading DTs in sacks in 2010, he was very boom or bust in getting pressure (sacks/hits/hurries))

  • GoTygers
    Looks like the NFL is considering it.  They are just trying to figure out how to make as much money as they can on it first.

  • Batsandgats

    yeah right, you can’t replace the game day atmosphere just by having game film. I think the hardcore fan would GO to the game AND pay for the gilm film

  • Anonymous

    ESPN pays the NFL for exclusive content.

    It sucks and won’t change.

  • Anonymous

    I must cry foul. I’ve been a season ticketholder to a Big 10 school for over 20 years. My seats are in the endzone. I watch the game on Saturday and on the following Sunday I watch the DVR of the game. So for the NFL to say that people won’t come the game is bullcrap. My preference is A-22.