The NFL is a business that is pure and unfiltered entertainment. That means that the NFL experience to the millions of fans worldwide is about giving those fans an escape from their lives. It's very much like the film or music industry, as revenue streams are created by the very fans who pay to be swept up in the competition.
To attract fans, the NFL promotes players to a celebrity status, not unlike the strategy found in cinema. NFL Players are talked about, fans get to read about their families, their education, and with draft profiles so readily available, even casual fans can put their finger on a football player's life history, medical history, salary compensation, and even what they do to hang out in their spare time.
Bonds form between fans and those players. Respect, appreciation, love, and support, are similar to the spectrum of emotions that siblings form for one another. Sometimes that relationship is long-term. Sometimes, the fanbase just begins to warm up to a guy and he's signing with another team.
The Mayfield Miracle is an instant LA Rams classic
Fan support is the lifeblood of the NFL, driving fans to purchase tickets to attend games, purchase NFL merchandise, subscribe to the myriad of pay-for-play streams of NFL news like the NFL Network, ESPN Insider, The Athletic, and a host of Fantasy Football strategy sites. It big business, one that means billions of dollars.
But it boils down to the business end of it all. And as the LA Rams fans are learning first-hand, that business can mean severing those relationships with little to no warning.
But there are the predictable partings, the contracts that expire which result in an NFL team and a player parting ways. Predictable, but no less unpleasant for the fans to accept. One particular player whose short-term tenure with the LA Rams is quarterback Baker Mayfield. He was the quarterback who stepped off a plane to Los Angeles, and hours later led the team to a miraculous comeback victory. It has become an instant LA Rams classic.
Baker Mayfield doubled down for the LA Rams fanbase, gifting a complete beatdown of the Denver Broncos on Christmas Day. And in the process, enamored the LA Rams fans, starving for reasons to feel positive about the team that would go on to end the season with a record of 5-12.
Sometimes love just ain't enough
The hope among many LA Rams fans is that the team will find the funds and the cause to re-sign free agent quarterback Baker Mayfield. It was instant chemistry for the Rams fans, a semi-mobile quarterback who is more about 'winging it,' than hours upon hours of film study and knowing the offense inside and out. And best of all, he proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he could win games in the Rams' offense.
The thing is, other teams noticed too. And with the uncertainty at the quarterback position for both the San Francisco 49ers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Baker Mayfield is an ideal option for their team rosters as well. He is gifted enough to start for an NFL team and even to win games. But he is not quite gifted enough as to be the unquestioned starter. And probably most importantly, he is the right price point for an NFL team in need of a veteran quarterback just-in-case.
The LA Rams fans love Baker Mayfield. But, as the song by Patty Smyth and Don Henley goes, Sometimes Love Just Ain't Enough. The Rams fanbase loves the players, but that love does not stop the team from making those tough decisions necessary to keep the payroll under the annual NFL salary cap limits.
Love may not be enough, but I think it does make a difference sometimes. I'm just not convinced that in the case of the Rams extending quarterback Baker Mayfield, who clearly wants to star again, it will be a difference maker. And that's okay. He deserves to sign for the most money he can get.