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Why the NFL is losing viewers

Credit: astrosystem via FotoliaThe NFL is still far and away the most popular sport in America. Its weekly viewership averages more viewers than last year's World Series and bested the Emmys by roughly 5.4 million sets of eyes. However, the 16.7 million people who tune in each week is down about eleven percent from last season, and that's made some around the league—and even more among the various TV stations that pay the NFL a collective seven billion dollars annually—a bit concerned.

Unfortunately for the league and its broadcasters, there doesn't appear to be an easy fix. As Neal Pilson, the former CBS executive and the founder of Pilson Communications, told The Washington Post's Mark Maske, "We don't really know, I can't give you a specific reason why the NFL's ratings are down . . . You have to look at five, six, seven things to figure it out. It's a confluence of multiple negative factors."

Among those factors are the litany of choices viewers have whenever they turn on their televisions, the election coverage and debates that have garnered an increasing amount of attention, and the lack of great draws, be it because of the retirement of stars like Peyton Manning or down years for the teams in some of the country's biggest markets. And while some of those factors will abate over time—the World Series and the election will both end well before the football season does—it's unclear how the NFL's prospects will look going forward.

The league will get its money, and it remains the most popular draw for American sports fans. NFL and TV executives don't have to worry about that changing any time soon. But whether the early results from this year are the start of a new trend or just a blip on the budget reports is unclear, and it's likely to stay that way for a while longer. There are simply too many factors at work for a clear and easy answer.

The issues in our lives often work in much the same way. We want to find clear and easy solutions to problems far too complex to be solved that simply. And that's completely understandable. After all, a quick fix is typically preferable to a complete overhaul. But whether it's our relationships with other people, problems at work, or temptations that we just can't seem to avoid, the best solutions are seldom the simplest.

The reason is that few of our problems are the result of just one sin in our lives, be it our sin or the sin of another. We're a mess, and that's not going to completely change this side of heaven. The Holy Spirit is constantly working to unwind the tangles of sin and depravity that have bound themselves to the various parts of our lives. And while progress can, and should, be made, the process can be long and arduous.

However, we do both ourselves and the Lord a disservice when we expect him to magically unwind the various strands of our fallen natures with a snap of his fingers. He wants us to play a role in that process and to work alongside him as we take our problems before his throne and prayerfully rely on his help to first understand and then rectify whatever issues are causing those difficulties.

The good news is that our God knows us better than we know ourselves (Romans 8:27). Given that truth, we don't have to be afraid or intimidated by the prospect of sorting out the complex combinations of factors that have given rise to the sin in our lives. He knows just what needs to happen in order for us to become more like the people he created us to be. And while, in his power and with his help, we strive towards that ideal, there's continual grace for our missteps along the way.

There will never be a sin or problem to which he doesn't have a solution. If, however, we're so set on finding an easy answer that we close ourselves off to the one he wants to provide, then those issues will never fully go away. It turns out that the quickest fixes are often the most complex. Are you willing to let him show you the truth of that today?

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