At the 1958 NFL Championship Game, Commissioner Bert Bell, who the previous year mandated white vs. color jerseys to cater to black-and-white sets, sat in the corner of the Baltimore Colts locker room weeping. He understood what the Colts overtime victory over the New York Giants—The Greatest Game Ever Played—meant for football, which soon eclipsed baseball in popularity.
Will NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell weep, albeit for different reasons, after the October 25 Jacksonville Jaguars-Buffalo Bills game?
For the first time in NFL history, the internet live streams a game. CBS broadcasts the 9:30 a.m. Eastern game to the Jacksonville and Buffalo home markets. But Yahoo bought the rights to live-stream the London game to the rest of the world for an undisclosed dollar amount speculated to reach into the eight figures.
Last October, the league celebrated the 75th anniversary of the first televised broadcast of an NFL game. When the Brooklyn Dodgers beat the Philadelphia Eagles 23-14 at Ebbets Field on October 22, 1939 on live television, Americans owned fewer than 1,500 sets. RCA, the parent company of NBC, the broadcaster of the first televised game, unveiled the new medium to Americans at the World’s Fair earlier that year. Outside of a few people in the northeast, nobody could watch commercial television in the United States.
By way of comparison, Internet usage in the United States now approaches 90 percent at 280,000,000 people. Unlike the NFL’s 1939 foray into television, the Yahoo live stream appears about as cutting edge as a spork. The internet equivalent of the NFL televising a game in 1939 would have been live streaming one in the 1990s. Real Networks, after all, audio streamed a New York Yankees-Seattle Mariners game back in 1995. The Jacksonville Jaguars had played their first game four days earlier. MLB.com now sells live-streaming subscriptions to every out-of-market game for $79.99.
The NFL arrives two decades late for the party. If Roger Goodell pulls a Bert Bell after the Bills-Jaguars game, those won’t be tears of joy you see streaming over the interweb.