All for the attack in the American sport, in search of an audience

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New York (AFP) – Baskets, touchdowns and goals are raging this season in the major North American professional leagues, resulting, in part, from rule changes that favor the attack and the show, strong arguments in the conquest of a globalized audience.

Never, since its inception, the NFL, the professional football league, had seen so many touchdowns scored in a regular season, with the 1286th registered on Sunday, the last day of the year 2018.

Basketball in the NBA, we must go back to 32 years to see, as this season, all teams in the championship display an offensive performance of more than 100 points per game (117 points for Milwaukee, the best attack, 100.4 for Chicago , the least prolific).

In NHL, the flagship ice hockey championship, no record, but figures sharply higher, more seen for 13 years.

In all three cases, this firework is largely the result of rule changes, but also instructions given to referees.

Like the NHL, which has reduced the size of the guards' protections several times, the leagues compensate for the emergence of players who are much faster and more athletic than their predecessors, who, without modification, could lock the game by their defense.

But the general philosophy seems to go far beyond, at odds with the world's first sport, football, less focused on change.

"The NBA has been advocating freedom of movement for over a decade," said former Celtics winger Paul Pierce on ESPN in early October, "so I do not find it surprising that they are all heading for the attack, because let's be honest, offensive basketball is exciting. "

Pushing the cursor, the professional sport even ended up shaking the sacrosanct saying that a title could be won in defense.

The two finalists of the last Super Bowl, Philadelphia and New England, had the two best NFL attacks, while in the NBA, the offensive machine Golden State has won three of the last four titles.

For the first time in the history of modern sport in the United States and Canada, the attack is unanimous, whether in terms of sports or economic interests.

In the NFL, referees have been instructed to protect quarterbacks and receivers of violent tackling, which has also reduced serious injuries, in a league where violence is a recurring subject, says Michael Lewis, professor of marketing at the Emory University (Atlanta).

– Generation "highlights" –

The acceleration of the attack is part of a new era of the sports industry, where major leagues want to capture a part of this now globalized audience, synonymous with new sources of income.

"The excitement of the attack can be connected to the interest of the fans and their investment, which is interesting in itself," said David Abrutyn, a partner at Bruin Sports Capital.

With the digital revolution and the development of mobile technologies, sports consumption modes are multiplied and much more personalized, he says, which allows to exploit endlessly the images of goals, touchdowns, shootings points and other dunks.

"Highlights and short-format content, which essentially includes the best offensives, are undoubtedly economic tools, attractive to fans," says Abrutyn.

Leagues and championships are now competing head-on and even positioning themselves, more generally, against all forms of entertainment, to attract far beyond the usual fans, especially within the generation YouTube.

Nevertheless, there is the question of the proper calibration of the attacks, so as not to alienate a part of the public, especially the purists, who could see a deviation.

Michael Lewis recalls that during the 1970s, the NBA, for a time, suffered from a reputation of a tasteless championship, where attacks unfolded endlessly, which hampered its development.

This season, he says, "some of the fans are clearly unhappy with what the NFL has done and feel like it has become impossible to hit a quarterback."

However, after two seasons of sharp decline, the TV audiences of the NFL are up significantly, between 4% and 8% depending on the channel.

"Could you be too radical?" in changing rules, questions David Abrutyn. "It's quite possible, but I think that these championships employ a lot of talented people who will prevent that from happening."