KAZ’S KORNER

To many ardent National Football League fans, their favorite team is on sacred grounds. Anyone talking trash about their team is liable to end up with a fat lip.But either the number of diehard fans are really dying off or the interest in pro football is on a rare decline. NFL owners are notating a noticeable drop in their receipts from ticket sales in the first half of the 2017 season. Television ratings have slipped dramatically. Sponsors are either bailing out or are seriously thinking about doing it. Sports talk shows are predicting that in 20 years the NFL will either be gone or will have the popularity of water polo. And speaking just for me, I’ve noticed I’m watching NFL games only during commercials of the show I’ve elected to tune in—except if the Houston Texans, Dallas Cowboys or Seattle Seahawks are playing.

I’m not going to say that a smattering of the NFL players who refuse to stand for the National Anthem is the reason for the attendance decline, but it probably has something to do with it. Veterans of the military and retirees have led the parade of those who have bailed out and  have vowed never to watch another NFL game in person, view these games on television or even listen to the play-by-play on the radio ever again, mostly because of the disrespect to our flag they have recently displayed. These dissenting NFL players claim the First Amendment of our Constitution gives them the right to protest, while the fans upset at this action say they shouldn’t bring politics to the workplace—and the stadium is their workplace.

I believe that many fans who have already purchased season tickets or have bought them for a specific game merely decided not to show up either because of the protesting players or they are turned off because the NFL front office is doing nothing about this issue. Fans in Green Bay wanted to watch their future Hall of Fame quarterback Aaron Rodgers lead the Packers, but a season-ending injury squashed that thought. Dallas Cowboys fans were excited to watch the tandem of quarterback Dak Prescott and last year’s leading NFL rusher Ezekiel Elliott perform together and were planning on taking the family to watch the annual Thanksgiving Day game against the Los Angeles Chargers.  But Elliott’s upcoming six-game suspension is keeping them from coughing up the currency for the tickets, not knowing whether or not Elliott will even be playing on Turkey Day. The Indianapolis Colts’ supporters keep getting put off about the return of quarterback Andrew Luck, who was told recently that his surgically repaired right shoulder wouldn’t be healed enough to play until the 2018 season. And those poor fans in Houston who were celebrating the Astros first World Series championship with a huge parade last week didn’t even finish their first celebratory drink before getting the news that the Texans’ phenomenal quarterback Deshaun Watson tore the ACL in his knee and would be out for the season. Texans head coach Bill O’Brien, whose teams have finished 9-7 in all three of his seasons in Houston, would accept a 9-7 season right now with Tom Savage as Watson’s replacement. Savage stunk up NRG Stadium Sunday for three quarters against Indianapolis, which was a 12-point underdog before Watson’s unfortunate injury. Houston trailed the Colts 20-7 with 9:12 left in the game when Savage drove the team for a touchdown and came within seven yards of scoring the game-winning touchdown. The Texans ended up losing 20-14 and dropping their record to 3-5 at the halfway mark of the season. Those Texans fans who wanted to see the next Tom Brady this season will have to wait until next year to watch Watson in action. The crowning blow that makes me believe the NFL is losing its popularity is that huge advertisers like Poppa John’s Pizza is bailing out of sponsoring the NFL and Budweiser is thinking very seriously of doing it too. Dallas Cowboys’ owner Jerry Jones, who has a financial interest in Poppa John’s is trying to lobby enough long-time NFL owners to vote for a new commissioner. It will be very interesting how this vendetta plays out!! KWICKIES…One of the NFL franchises that probably won’t show any significant decline in attendance is the New England Patriots after quarterback Tom Brady declared his body will be able to withstand the punishment of the NFL until he is 45 years old. In fact, the 40-year old Brady recently signed a five-year extension to his contract. His record since reaching the age of 38 is 28-7 with 73 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He has a passer rating of 106.7 since age 38 compared to Kurt Warner (93.2), Brett Favre (90.2), Peyton Manning (89.5) and Warren Moon (82.0). Five players from the Houston Astros first World Series championship team are among the 149 major leaguers to officially become free agents last week. Four of the five were on the Astros playoff rosters—designated hitter Carlos Beltran, outfielder Cameron Maybin and relievers Luke Gregerson and Francisco Liriano. Reliever Tyler Clippard is the other. I must apologize to you readers for leading you astray when I predicted the Houston Astros would win the World Series in six games. They did it in seven. I was saddened to hear about the passing of long-time Bridge City baseball coach Chuck Young. He was a good friend and really good baseball player. He played on our old Hubbard Electric teams during the summers. Jacksonville Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette found out the hard way last weekend that although he may be a new millionaire, he still must follow what few rules the team imposes on its players. Fournette broke some team rule and got suspended for Sunday’s game against the Cincinnati Bengals. He also learned a valuable lesson that the team  can get along without him real fine. Jacksonville won handily 23-7. Congrats to the Lamar women’s soccer team for not only coming in first place in the Southland Conference but also winning the conference tournament Sunday in Corpus Christi. It was the first championship for the Lady Cardinals in their 11-season history. The victory made the Lady Cards eligible for the upcoming NCAA tournament.  JUST BETWEEN US…What a shame that Houston Texans’ quarterback Deshaun Watson is through for the season. He was named the NFL Offensive Player of the Month last week before getting hurt and the AFC Rookie of the Month after an October in which he set an NFL rookie record for the most touchdowns in a calendar month with 16 to break Dan              Marino’s record of 11 in October 1983, according to the Houston Chronicle. With Watson at quarterback, the Texans were leading the NFL with a 30.7 scoring average per game, 19 touchdown passes and a 103.0 quarterback rating. Last season the Texans ranked 28th in scoring offense.