Infrastructure of the National Football League

Middleware in the NFL

Professional sporting leagues expand worldwide and generate billions of dollars a year.  Fanatic fan bases can be found across the world and for many individuals, cities, and countries a sport’s team can generate a sense of unity.  There are a large number of factors and elements that work together for these leagues to function properly.  By analyzing the internal infrastructure of a specific sports league, such as the National Football League (NFL), we can begin to understand all of the middleware elements that help to deliver entertaining games to people worldwide.  We can view the games as the application layer and all of the fan bases as the network. Without middleware elements, such as referees, players, owners, stadium venues, food suppliers, TV networks, etc, it would not be possible for the games to be delivered to the fans.

An essential middleware element is the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA).  They are responsible for providing “players with a formal representative to negotiate compensation”1.  The NFLPA works closely with another middleware component of the NFL, which is the President Roger Goodell, and other high-ranking officials.  These individuals work with the NFLPA to generate agreeable contracts regarding player salaries, rules and regulations, player safety, and various other overhead tasks.

The NFLPA is a fairly static organization that has not undergone much change since it’s founding in 1956. Obviously there have been managerial changes but their goals have remained largely the same.  They seek to generate and maintain a happy relationship between the players and their employers (the NFL).  More specifically they are also there to gain proper health and retirement rights for retired players as well as to promote and defend the image of the players.  The services they provide are very similar to their purpose as a foundation.

The infrastructure of the NFL appears to be quite transparent but as we discussed in class the previous week, when there is a break down in a transparent system the entirety of the system is exposed.  In March of 2011, there was a contract dispute that almost cancelled the entire NFL season.  During this dispute many of the middleware elements were brought to light.  Personally I was quite unaware of what the purpose of the NFLPA was until this breakdown occurred.  Of course the NFLPA is only a minor component that serves as the glue between the games and fans but without it the NFL would struggle to exist.

Another and more relative example of a middleware component are the NFL’s referees.  Although they are arguably more visible middleware element to NFL fans opposed to the NFLPA, they are an essential element that keeps the NFL games honest and fair.  Due to a recent labor dispute with the NFL Referee Association, the NFL has temporarily hired different refs to referee the NFL games.  There has been much speculation and critique of these replacement refs as some current players and coaches have complained about the quality of the refereeing.  This has generated discontent amongst players and fans.

It is important to note how critical these two components are.  If poor referring were to continue players may refuse to play to eliminate the increased chance of injury.  Clearly this would have a crippling impact on the NFL as a whole and in return would disrupt fans loyalty to the games they enjoy attending and watching.

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