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(Photo courtesy of NFL)

By Ron Borges

Talk of Fame Network

Has the public finally had it with the NFL, a.k.a. the No Fun League?

Has it grown weary of the sound of wind chimes tinkling inside the heads of too many of its favorite stars?

Are TV ratings this season deflated across the league because Tom Brady has taken a job with Nielsen or because there is something wrong at the core of the NFL?

Three weeks into a new season, ratings are down 12 percent on Sunday night, 12 percent on Monday Night, 5 percent on CBS and essentially flat at FOX. For the first time, a Presidential debate chose to buck Monday Night Football, something the Reagan-Carter debate chose to avoid, and the result was a 38-per cent decline in Monday Night’s rating for the Saints-Falcons game, dropping from 8.9 to 5.7.

Is this a marketing problem, a protest problem or a problem of the league’s own making? It is too early to know, but whatever is happening it bears watching because although it is early in the NFL season, TV viewership slippage is more concerning than slippery footing at the Hall-of-Fame Game.

Some argue players’ protests during the national anthem led to a #BoycottNFL backlash that is hitting the league where it feels it most: The TV audience. That theory argues fans come to watch pro football to escape real-world issues and are rebelling at having them thrown in their face before kickoff. That seems to me like a bit of a stretch because anyone who doesn’t want to see such protests need only wait for the time it takes to go get a beer and popcorn in the kitchen to avoid the whole matter.

Others wonder if it’s the absence of marquee players like Peyton Manning and Brady, one retired and the other living on Elba for another week before returning to the NFL from a controversial four-game suspension. Are TV ratings deflated because of Deflategate? That sounds like a lot of hot air, too.

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So why are fans suddenly not watching?

Here’s one possibility: The suits on Park Avenue in New York have begun to ruin the game by turning it into pinball. Rules changes designed to outlaw defense have succeeded. Defense has nearly been legislated out of existence, foisting phony points and phonier stats on a gullible public that is starting to wake up and realize what’s been going on simply isn’t real.

It’s been manufactured by legislation, not by wily offensive coordinators.

The Saints-Falcons game was a good example. Between them, they scored 77 points and gained 916 yards. That’s not pro football. That’s the NBA All-Star game, another event where defense is not allowed.

How many more times do you want to see a defender flagged for helmet-to-helmet contact when the “penalty’’ was actually caused by an offensive player lowering his head as a tackler approached?

How many more guys who don’t know how to tackle do you want to see sprawled on the ground because nobody told them to wrap their arms around the guy with the ball?

How many more flags for pass interference or unnecessary roughness for barely touching a wide receiver or, God forbid, the quarterback can you stand before you flip to HBO in search of Hard Knocks?

It’s too early to say the NFL has peaked, but the game they play today is not the one that created the NFL phenomenon. They’ve outlawed half the game to the point where they’ve begun to hurt the whole game.

Is America falling out of love with this version of the NFL 2.0?

I don’t know, but 50 percent of all marriages in this country end in divorce. That’s a stat the men running the NFL should not forget.