Last week, Sports On Earth editor Will Leitch penned the article, "Football is about to rule our lives again":
If there is one pattern that has emerged in the last few years of Football In Turmoil (While Not Really In Much Actual Turmoil), it's that the punditry takes turns kicking the NFL and college football all offseason, speculating on The End Of Football, and the NFL takes all the public relations hits with its typical tone deafness ... and then the games start and everyone forgets all about it.
To those who unconditionally enjoy the NFL, he isn't wrong; all summer there's nothing for football fans to do but rail against its fatal flaws until it's finally on TV. If you like football, then by all means complain, kvetch, watch it, enjoy it, give your money/attention/adoration to it.
I used to be an NFL fan. Actually, I didn't start out as one, but joined the fold after being school-spirit-shamed by some older boys in high school. I enjoyed my time as one of you: the allure, the rivalries, the suspense, the highlight-reel-worthy plays, the feats of athleticism. It was sports porn. And the fantasy football -- holy heck, this was a lot easier than fantasy baseball. Just check it once a week! And the action is incredible, because look at how the ball bounces after it's dropped and -- OH, ANOTHER INTERCEPTION -- and hold on there's a timeout and now an injury and now a commercial and now they're punting and going to commercial again.
It's not just the really high number of head injuries. It's not just that more and more players start retiring before age 30 and that some even want to kill themselves by age 40. It's not that the players seem to change teams every couple of years because the salary cap makes it so. It's not just that there are so many players on the field that it's difficult to keep track of all movement and wonder how much simpler the game would be if there were, like, six players. It's not just that the upper management of the league seem to be hideously unethical and despise any sense of personality from their employers. It's not just the ludicrous amount of ticket prices and licensed merchandise, or the loud, lumbering message to America that you have to like this sport or you will not have friends on the weekends. It's not just about the Redskins name. It's not even just the ridiculous weekday drama story lines, or the over-emphasis and over-scrutiny of each and every freaking play. It's not, unlike college football, that the NFL players are all massive humans with freak speed, essentially making the professional game a game of Who Can Push The Hardest.
But it's all of the above, translated to: the game is a noisy, boring mess and very few individuals affiliated with the league are likable. And I feel slightly cheated because, ultimately, I once liked it because of peer pressure.
Regarding college football, I am torn. These are younger, sprier humans who can recover from injury quicker, but head wounds are still head wounds. One feeds into the other and they are basically the same sport, with a few different rules, fewer behemoths and more opportunity for great plays. But how loathsome does your company have to be when another group doesn't even pay their athletes and you're the shittier organization?
Statistically, you probably disagree with me, and that's cool. Enjoy your sport and find happiness in it. I didn't. So I'm not going to purposely watch any NFL games anymore. I'm gonna try hard not to tweet about it. I muted "NFL" on Twitter and after baseball season I'll find something else to do on Sundays.
And this is the only recourse we have left; the NFL is going to do what it wants. The power lies in your choice of entertainment, acquaintances be damned.