So, No Games Huh?
NFL viewership. NFL ratings. NFL, NFL.
"Less is more" is how the saying goes right? In my case none. Before the kickoff of the 2017-2018 season, I decided to not chart any of my television sails to NFL landmarks. The game is an awesome game. I'll admit that. But there was a multitude of things that poked away at my moral barometer when it came to the NFL culture. Little by little I saw my interest in the sport was being chipped away at, like a sculpture that would finally reveal a monumentally disinterested sports fan. So to be fair in my assessment here, written on an NFL Sunday, I'll go through past crappy moments and how they shaped my perspective. Then, I'll speak about how life is...in the absence of pigskin fandom.
Winning vs Morals vs Sensibilities
Ray Rice knocked his wife out. Ben Roethlisberger "allegedly" raped not one but two women. Julian Edelman has been accused of being a little touchy with the hands. There are Greg Hardy, the Pouncy Twins and many more NFLers that have either domestic violence, physical assault, or rape orbiting their spheres of personhood.
That's a very ugly blemish on the NFL that even Sephora can't address. Which begs the question, should winning supersede morals? Why the heck do we need makeup?
Think for a second about babysitting the NFL does when they clean up narratives involving domestic violence or physical assault...just to keep a player on the field to play like a "man". Define irony again? Your message clearly smells of one that places winning over morality. To be clear, this is an NFLPA and NFL front office problem. I would be fine with a year suspension (no pay) followed by a character evaluation to determine reentry.
Depending on circumstances, I believe second chances are fine, at the same time I believe in accountability and corrective punishment. Place players in a program that educates them on the principles of model citizenship and how to navigate arguments civilly. A program of this sort could be a prerequisite for reentry. A change in the NFL's approach to this may put a chip back on my old block.
I hated watching quarterbacks play in such a risk adverse manner, you know the Alex Smith way of playing. Looking good doing nothing. So much is dictated by the OC and the QB. Analytics has shaped sports so much that efficiency is what drives decision making. I understand this when it comes to deciding to kick a field goal or go for the extra yards, but the game was so boring. To add the weight of commercial time on it, it was a nightmare to watch NFL games. Approaching the watchability of baseball, I fell asleep so many times during games. Ugh! It will get to the point with play calling, fans will be able to predict plays given game situation. Fans want to be experts, but don't really want to be experts you know. They want to fall into a bowl of suspense salad, mixed around with a long drive here, tossed in with some fumbles and a couple 30-yard passes (not bubble screens). Croutons matter. I didn't see that last season so much. A lot of bland recipes. A run here on 1st down, a slant here, seam pass there. I miss the risk-taking.
The NFLPA cares about player safety. The NFL wants those dollars. Okay, that was lazy, and a poor argument. They both care about the money, they negotiated the current terms. The problem lies in stars. The bottom line takes a hit when a franchise player gets hurt vs a special teams player. The calvary brings out the canon when Tom Brady gets hit. Whereas Geno Smith is privileged with a pee-shooter of support. So obviously, a level commitment to player safety is lacking. Highlighted with concussions and prescription pain relievers, players are routinely trotted back on the field like gladiators. It is the nature of the beast, but it is distasteful. I keep telling my friends, if my son Chief ever plays the game, we are going the kicking route. Fewer injuries, less noise.
I am a Denver Bronco fan. I have been since I knew what football was. Like being born a black dude, I didn't have a choice in that matter. So hearing in the 2016 offseason that we were not going to pursue Colin Kaepernick (further referred to as The Kap) was alarming. We had just let Brock Osweiler go in free agency (good choice) and we had an unproven QB from the coveted journalism school, Northwestern. Trevor Simien, everybody. Given our pick in the draft, we weren't going to get a QB better than The Kap at the time. That boat sailed, we drafted Paxton Lynch, Trevor started, looked half decent and then the season for an all-time great defense was squandered.
This season, the 2017 season, seems to be a mirror image of last years. Squander, Squander. Lucky for me I haven't been watching the games. But for those other fans, those who live in Denver and see the Broncos as one of the few highlights of their week, this has to be upsetting. This one is on John Elway. Who appears to deflect the blame, by saying the players played "soft". Nothing is as soft as the QB situation he cursed the team with.
Also, people say they don't want politics in their football but don't knock that door down when a team president endorses a supreme court nominee on letterhead that donned the team's logo. The team could of easily just signed The Kap and deflected every question that had controversial undertones. When things normalize, people avert their attention to the next hot topic. It would have been a small price to pay for a better quarterback. But alas, they didn't sign The Kap and what we have is a wonderful example where politics trumps winning. And that goes for a handful of teams in the league.
Jerry Jones' True Colors
Ye ole Jerry is a wild man. His arrogance bleeds like water. It is a part of that billionaire's boy club you might expect in a league with a bunch of old owners. In one season he has went from, ensuring no issues with his coveted running back's suspension, becoming ornery over his pending suspension, showing solitude with his players, declaring that his players will not play if they kneel during the anthem, to threatening to sue the league over Roger Goodell's contract extension. JERRY, Jerry, jerry. This grab for attention is not becoming of you and through my sabbatical away from the league, somehow you have remained relevant. I'm not sure that is a good thing. Plus, we all know it's about the green Jerry. Please don't insult us with your miraging stance on social injustice.
No matter your rooting interest, incompetence is everywhere
Tyrod Taylor gets benched by the bills and his replacement, Mr. Peterman throws 5 interceptions in the first half. Awesome job coach! Coaches everywhere are jettisoning their teams, everywhere.
So I mentioned many things that hopefully for you substantiate my position on the NFL. If it doesn't, oh well. Luckily for me, good things have come from not watching. Here are a few.
I don't chase all the headlines.
In any given season I read up on everything football. ESPN became an unnecessary staple in my life. I began to realize how much gravitated around football. I'd watch a game. Watch the replays of the game I watched. Look at statistics of the players who played in the game I watched. Listen to highlights and commentary on ESPN radio. Write the players letters. Write the equipment manager letters. Water Boy... Do you get my drift? I was doing too much. Too involved in something I had no stakes in. All this, without even participating in a fantasy league. Stopped all that...well...most of it. Every now and then I'll check ancillary stat lines for the sake of group chat arguments.
I drink less beer, eat less junk
Football naturally has a sub-economy attached to it. Largely dictated by poor nutrition choices. If I watched a game in the past, I wanted to make it an event of sorts. Even if the fanfare was small, I would get a couple of beers, pizza, or something embarrassingly easy to prepare. This has basically been eliminated each Sunday. No football has been good for my nutrition and my waistline.
I spend more time with the family
When I was a loyal cable subscriber, Sunday's were sacred. I had to watch the pregame show, flipping the channel from CBS to FOX to ESPN. Then depending on which game was on, flipping between both. I'd even get mad when only one game was airing in my market. Two consecutive game slots, more ESPN highlights, then the Sunday night game and I was looking at roughly 10 hours or more of NFL in my life. Well, I'll basically get 160 hours of my life back. Those hours have been put to good use. I have been able to help out around the house more. The kids and I have been going on more and more nature adventures. Also, we've been able to work on their scholastic enrichment more. My wife and kids are getting so much more quality hours, hours I wouldn't get back watching the game.
I get more done
I've really been able to help set the family week in motion better each Sunday. There used to be way more last-minute situations when those 10 hours on the couch were routine. Instead of watching and stressing myself out later, getting important things done has been easier. We (the family) do more because I'm not being selfish with my football time. All in all, I can't say that I regret one moment away.
So I mentioned many reasons the NFL pushed me off the ledge into the pit of non-viewership. To recap it was centered around the league's management of domestic violence and physical abuse; silly owners; preference for garbage time, visor worthy quarterbacks over The Kap; stupid politics; Juuuuurrry Jones; and incompetence for the sake of incompetence. This opened up a reality that was already in front of me. Time and family.
In the future I know I'll watch football again. It's an exciting sport and I really like the players, but I will likely do so with a large level of indifference. I don't care about it as much as I did...and I'm fine with that.