A few things about the NHL that’d be necessary to remember if we weren’t constantly reminded of them: The dialogue surrounding the league is often stupid. The news is often bad. And plenty of time, the errors are unforced.

So, with that in mind, there was a bit of data making the rounds on Wednesday morning that seemed to tick all the boxes: U.S. national TV viewership, in the second season of the league’s deal with ESPN and TNT, is down 22 percent from the first, according to Sports Business Journal.

That’s a big drop regardless of the context, and it probably doesn’t bode all that well. Anything the NHL says or does in that space should be treated with a healthy level of skepticism — and all the points Sean McIndoe made Wednesday morning about the (now) 30-year Gary Bettman era applied.

That’s why so many folks on Twitter keyed on it; it matches plenty of our lived experiences, whether we’re fans, folks who cover the sport or both. “NHL uncovers a manhole, then falls into it” isn’t a trope. It’s observed reality, and it’s happened with regularity for … eighteen years? Thirty? One hundred? Did the Montreal Wanderers have a media rights deal to botch?

In this case, though — and maybe only this one — you should think twice before internalizing the ESPN/TNT deal as a failure because there are legitimate explanations for the drops. If this surprises you, you are not alone.

In ESPN’s case, they started using hockey as counter-programming for NBC’s “Sunday Night Football.” Nationally speaking, that’s where other broadcasts go to die; American sports fans, other than ones who root for the teams involved, have better things to do. Folks, you’ll be shocked to hear, would rather watch football or, like, eat dinner.