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If NFL doesn't watch it, rule will ensure no one will

February 05, 2008|By TIM ROWLAND

You've heard it, I've heard it, but we never thought it would have any effect on real life: "This telecast is copyrighted by the NFL for the private use of our audience. Any other use of this telecast or any pictures, descriptions or accounts of the game without the NFL's consent is prohibited."

Frankly, it's not even my favorite bit of legalistic jargon. I'm more of a "Price excludes tax, title, destination and options, all vehicles have some options, not everyone will qualify for special financing" kind of guy.

But who do we find is coming under the gun from none other than the NFL commissioner himself - video pirates? Computer hackers? Unauthorized biographers?

No, it's churches.

Yes, churches.

When I first saw the story in The Washington Post, "NFL Pulls Plug On Big-Screen Church Parties For Super Bowl," I assumed it was due to some sort of infraction against the wall of separation between church and state. But what state? Penn State?

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Far as I know, the Constitution is silent on the issue of mixing religion and nachos.

And apparently - although I didn't know this either - Super Bowl parties are fairly common among churches, which use the popular, secular event to bring in some folks who otherwise might, how do we say, be standing on the sidelines instead of on the promises of God.

But now the NFL is calling mass interference on these gatherings, saying they cut into TV ratings. The NFL would rather have 200 people watching on individual sets than on one big one because that boosts ratings and, consequently, ad revenues.

"There is a part of me that says, 'Gee, doesn't the NFL have enough money already?'" said Steve Holley, executive pastor of Immanuel Bible Church in Springfield, Va.

You would think. After all, if they're not making budget, all they have to do is slap another fine on Pacman Jones. Or just sell another endorsement: "The AK-47 - official assault weapon of the National Football League."

The story also mentions Broadfording Brethren Church in Hagerstown, which has cleverly changed the name of it's "Super Bowl Party" to the "Big Game Party."

That should throw the NFL dogs off the scent. No, I mean that. Because with the NFL's mentality, I do not believe it would take much.

Look at the facts. Here is a church that has the capability of bringing in maybe a couple of hundred people to watch the game - probably a fair number of whom would not be inclined to watch otherwise.

The NFL doesn't want that.

Instead, it goes out and creates the NFL Network to show professional football games on a channel that no one gets.

A lot of people watching; no one watching. I'm the NFL. Which do I pick? Oh, I don't know, let's go with - no one watching. That will be good for the game. Can I have "Boneheads" for $200, Alex?

Idiots. If I were the NFL, I'd play into the church angle like you wouldn't believe. That's a big audience. I might even tweak the halftime show in which Joseph of Arimathea suffers a wardrobe malfunction and loses his tunic.

A further irony is that the NFL rules - no watching of the game with a screen larger than 55 inches - do not apply to sports bars. So it's OK to skew the TV ratings if everyone's drunk.

It's a silly rule, but one I believe is open to exploitation. All you have to do is change your sign. So instead of the Broadfording Brethren Church, you would have the Broadfording Brethren Church and Sports Bar. I'd presume they already have the wine. The other 364 days of the year, just say the bar is closed for renovations.

Otherwise, you'll be getting every bum off the street walking in ordering three fingers of communion.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at timr@herald-mail.com. You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on www.antpod.com.

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