…or how I came to the decision to stop watching NFL football.
Long before Super Bowl 48 came to an end and Seahawk fans were dancing in the streets of Seattle, the realization that pro football had lost any fascination for me – and, in fact, was beginning to feel like a really bad choice for how to spend 3 – 9 hours on approximately 20 fall and winter Sundays – had begun to sink in. But being away from the games for a few weeks and with some time to think, I’ve come to the conclusion that not watching pro football is a great change to make for my Next Third of life.
Football has always been a distant second to my real love of baseball. I still subscribe to Tom Boswell’s Why Baseball is So Much Better Than Football philosophy. (Reason #63: The baseball Hall of Fame is in Cooperstown, N.Y., beside James Fenimore Cooper’s Lake Glimmerglass; the football Hall of Fame is in Canton, Ohio, beside the freeway.) But I’ve always watched football – college and professional – and have actually enjoyed it in the past. All that has changed in the last couple of years, and I’ve finally come to the realization that I need to pull back and act on my convictions.
So why would any sports loving American male stop watching the NFL. Well, let me count the reasons:
10. Those stupid Roman numerals – How pretentious can any sport be that lists its championship game by Roman numerals? The World Series, which has been around since the beginning of time, is content to use the year (i.e., the 2013 World Series) – although one could make the case that simply using the words “World Series” for a game between two North American baseball teams is pretentious enough. But back when the words “World Series” were coined, America was the center of the baseball universe. Simply put, I don’t like Roman numerals on cornerstones of important buildings, so why would I want them used for a silly game.
9. The NFL is a non-profit (no, seriously) – Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, was paid $44.2 million in 2012. The NFL made $10 billion dollars that same year. Yet, the NFL is a non-profit. Seriously. How can a business that generates $10 billion, that makes international corporations pay millions of dollars to advertise on its championship game, and that treats most of its players like interchangeable parts (the average career of a NFL player is 3.2 years, notwithstanding what Roger Goodell has said) be considered a nonprofit by the U.S. Government? Money talks, and the NFL makes sure that its tax advantages stay in place. I’ve worked for the nonprofit sector since 1983. Having the NFL included as part of that sector is a joke.
8. FOX coverage of NFL football – This is part 1 of a two-part rant. (Part 2 will pick up with reason #4.) FOX Sports coverage of Super Bowl 48 simply solidified a growing unease with the militarization of football by FOX. I would prefer to watch my sports without being shown countless patriotic scenes, troops in Afghanistan, more renditions of God Bless America than anyone should have to listen to in a lifetime (are you listening Major League Baseball), military flyovers for everything from preseason games to Super Bowls, and so much more. Enough already! It’s a damn game, not some statement on the American psyche and national manhood. I’m also tired of FOX Sports coverage of baseball, but at least there I usually get to listen to our wonderful Nats announcers on MASN and – if I’m really sick of listening to Tim McCarver – I can even turn on the radio and turn down the sound on the World Series. This network has already ruined much that was good about America (e.g., civility in public life, objectivity in journalism), must they also ruin sports coverage in the process? No one should have been surprised by Richard Sherman’s rant to Erin Andrews after the NFC Championship – he was just doing a fine impersonation of a FOX News anchor. By contrast, the coverage of football on CBS and especially on NBC (with Tony Dungy on the set) looks quaint by comparison, but is more in line with the stakes that are actually in play in the NFL (read, not very high as these things go). To FOX Sports, this is war!
7. Miami Dolphins bullying – I don’t even have the stomach to go into this, but would simply say that in any honorable profession, such actions as Richie Incognito’s bullying of fellow player Jonathan Martin would never have been allowed to have escalated to the point they obviously did. Incognito has had “issues” at every level where he has played, yet he was allowed to continue to play in today’s NFL until his victim finally had enough. Might I also ask what type of employer hands out “inflatable female dolls” to his employees, as one of the Dolphin’s coaches did. But that fits right in with a sport that has “cheerleaders” who are clearly there to serve the macho male audience. Who is running this show, Larry Flynt?
6. Television coverage of the NFL draft, NFL combine, ad nauseum – Seriously, if almost half a year’s worth of coverage of the NFL’s games isn’t enough, now we have to cover the NFL draft, the NFL combine, etc., etc. as if these decisions were going to shape world peace and solve climate change. Perhaps if we spent as much time talking about world peace and climate change as we do about the NFL, we might actually make some progress on those fronts.
5. Thursday Night Football, Monday Night Football…when will the madness stop? – Many years ago, the NFL decided that more of a good thing was better…and introduced Monday Night Football (cue the music in your head). So, if Monday night works, why not Sunday night, why not Thursday night? Heck, since the players are interchangeable parts, let’s just play every night and we’ll cut that average career in half.
4. FOX subjects innocent NFL fans to Bill O’Reilly – This is part 2 of my rant about FOX Sports. I made the mistake of tuning in to the FOX Super Bowl 48 coverage about 90 minutes before the game, thinking that all the silly stuff would be out of the way and I could hear a bit about Manning, Wilson, Sherman, Welker, and the other players. But noooooo. FOX News intruded with a mean-spirited and disrespectful interview of President Obama by FOX News blowhard Bill O’Reilly. My blood pressure kept rising as I listened to a litany of the FOX News faux scandals that O’Reilly hurled at the President. Why did the NFL or FOX think that this was something that NFL fans would want to see? As usual, Timothy Egan hit the nail on the head with his recent column Bill O’Reilly’s Gift for the Ages. Read it. You’ll laugh if you don’t cry.
3. Steroids – We hear about steroids and other PEDs every other day in baseball, and the sport did come late to the table in addressing the issue. But when was the last time you heard about PEDs in football? And have you noticed that football lineman are now all the size of an 18-wheeler. “Refrigerator” Perry seems quaint by comparison. And I’ve actually met former NFL great Ed “Too Tall” Jones in person. He was tall…but he didn’t look as if he took at whole bottle of PEDs every day. You can’t say the same thing about today’s average NFL lineman.
2. Concussions – As someone whose spouse fell and suffered a serious concussion, I’ve seen firsthand the very real effects of impacts to the head. I worry a great deal more these days about spills, trips, crashes, and other mishaps that could lead to concussions. So why do I want to watch – and support – a sport where hitting someone as hard as you possibly can is considered great play? And when I read about the stars of my youth – players such as the remarkable Tony Dorsett – having signs of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a degenerative condition many scientists say is caused by head trauma and linked to depression and dementia, I wonder if I can continue to support a sport that leads to such injuries. I know that concussions occur in all sports, baseball included. But no other sport outside of boxing comes to mind where the play itself puts players in such risky situation on such a regular basis.
1. Daniel Snyder – Okay, this is too easy. I’ll admit it. But with Daniel Snyder – who is younger than I am – as the owner of the Washington football club (that has a racially offensive name that he refuses to change) for possibly the rest of my life, it is easy to make a decision not to watch NFL football. Snyder has shown only one talent as a football owner: to make money off the long-suffering Washington football fans. Otherwise, his “stewardship” of the team is laughable at best. I went to a Washington game about a decade ago and decided after an 8-hour day getting to-and-from the stadium and “enjoying” the game that I had enjoyed enough Washington football in person. I’ve already taken the next logical step, in that I didn’t watch a complete Washington game the entire 2013 season. So let’s go all the way…and not watch any games – Washington or otherwise!
This decision should give me a tremendous amount of time on Sunday afternoons in the fall and winter. In those beautiful days of September and October, I can go bike riding with my wife. When the weather turns cold, I can pull out a guitar or a book and enjoy them without keeping an eye on the television set. And when I go to bed on Sunday night, I don’t have to worry about the stress of a last-minute loss or a blow-out, because I really won’t care.
I’m sorry to say goodbye to the NFL, but it is time. Life is too short. I’ll try to remember to update you on my progress this time next year.
More to come…