The NFL Narrative

The idea behind my project is to try and show how the NFL and the media (TV, Sports Raido, the Internet) shape the NFL football season into a narrative to make it easier to follow and more enjoyable to watch. The idea is to take a look at how the media sensationalizes (spelling?) the game and the incidents surrounding it in order to make a compelling narrative. American’s are used to watching narratives in their movies and tv programs and it makes sense that the NFL and the cable stations that cover it would want to try and fit it into the same category – an example:

a commercial running for this week’s thursday night Patriots-Jet’s game features Brett Favre as the “hero” and the Patriots as the “rivals” that he will have to over come – it also talks about how Favre is starring in his 280-somethingth straight “episode” (a reference to his record number of games played in a row)  – the game has been set up as a narratie already – tune in to see if Brett Favre can beat his rivals – the commercial gives characters (favre, the jets, the patriots) and gives them clearly defined goals (Favre: beat the patriots – Patriots: beat Favre) even a casual fan of the game still might tune in to see how the story unfolds.

Another interesting aspect to cover is the off-field lives of NFL players – whose lives can literally be made to look like a running soap opera by the media.

Another interesting thing to look at is the actual coverage of NFL games and how they are filmed – Professor Hector Vila who teaches a class on “Media, Sports and Identity” says that, “…the camera following the professional game on any given Sunday actually follows, for the most part, the narrative of the color commentator, not the actual game since the camera can’t capture the entire game.  The entire game—or the rest of the experience—is done through a series of “flashbacks,” these too keeping with the narrative.” I think that it would be interesting to look at what Bordwell says about flashback and then analyze an NFL game to see how cable stations use flashback as a part of their narrative.

Tenative Thesis: The NFL, along with sports media (TV, Internet, Sports Radio) sesationalizes their product in an effort to fit it into a narrative structure that is easier for the public to consume. The NFL and sports media form this narrative in the way that they cover each team throughout the season and in each week leading up to a game, and also how they cover and film each individual game.


Class Texts

David Borwell, Narration in the Fiction Film (university of Wisconsin Press, 1985)

David Hermann, editor, The Cambridge Companion to Narrative (Cambridge University Press, 2007)

J.J. Murphy, Me and You and Memento and Fargo: How Independent Screenplays Work(Continuum Books, 2007)

Interview with Hector Vila

Aaron Baker and Todd Boyd, editors, Out of Bounds: Sports, Media, and The Politics of Identity (Indiana University Press, 1997)

– more sources to come

Leave a Reply