When do you just say “screw it” and walk away?
When is it too much?
When does the good outweigh the bad?
For the past week, these questions have been running through my mind as it pertains to whether or not I still wanted to be a fan of the NFL or not. Of course the Ray Rice scandal was the impetus for this, but it’s also been something I’ve been kicking around for a while now. I love watching football, but I’m really starting to hate the NFL. With another Sunday on the horizon, what am I supposed to do? Do I watch or not?
Oh, well thanks to NFL black out rules, specifically the ones pertaining to opposing games of your region’s home team, the Pats aren’t on in New Jersey because Fox is showing the Giants/Cardinals game at 1, when the Pats play the Vikings. We live in a transient country. The idea that everyone within a 75 mile radius of Met Life Stadium is either a Giants or Jets fan is wildly outdated and absurd. Just being a Jets’ fan is absurd enough!
So I guess it doesn’t matter. I can wait a week or so to make a decision about remaining a football fan or not.
Eh, maybe not.
You can chalk up my disgust at said black out rules as one of things that bugs me about the NFL. I get it. You want people to come to your games. But I’ve never understood the necessity of eliminating a game to ensure that people watch a region’s home team game. If you’re a Giants’ fan, you’re going to watch that game regardless of what game is on the other channel. If the NFL truly is a universally-loved sport, a sport where seemingly everyone has a team they follow, why wouldn’t you try and cater to the most fans possible and show as many games as you can at a given time?
Oh that’s right- the NFL doesn’t give two shits about their fans. Yet another thing that I hate about the NFL. So that’s two things so far.
When last year’s Super Bowl was in New York, I hated the ego of the league to think that they could pull off a cold-weather game; that people would come regardless of the weather. I wanted the weather to be terrible just so they’d look like assholes. Of course it ended up being a lovely night, a night of unseasonably warm temperatures. Lucky bastards. Although this was good too, because I flat out rejected the idea that a snowy Super Bowl would be a good thing. It’s the championship game. I want the outcome decided on the field; the outcome to be unaffected by outside factors. Snow would be such a factor. I want to see the two best teams play each other and for the best team to win. Inclement weather could greatly sway such a thing from happening. Not cool. I wanted it to snow, I didn’t want to snow. My relationship with the NFL is nothing short of complicated. Of course Peyton Manning ended up getting shellacked in the Super Bowl, so I ultimately walked away happy. (shakes fist angrily in the air.)
The ego of the League and it’s commissioner, Roger Goodell, have been my biggest bugaboo, though. They’ve become the cocky jock in school, the one who can seemingly do no wrong, suffers no consequences, constantly ends up on the good side of life. And that may be why a part of me has enjoyed seeing Goodell kicked around so much this week. It’s why I thought Bridgegate was refreshing, because of how it turned the spotlight onto Chris Christie. It’s fun to see those who feel untouchable and almighty be knocked around and thrown in the dirt a bit. No one is untouchable. We need reminders of that. Checks and balances exist for a reason and both Christie and Goodell operate without them. This ended up biting them in the ass and ended up wrecking havoc on them presently and presumably in the future. A constant in life is cheering when the bully gets his ass kicked. It lets out a primal scream from deep within us; a scream that has echoed throughout the corridors of social media this week. The getters got got. It’s always a good feeling.
But it can also be a confusing one.
After everything that has come to light this week about the NFL and the people that run it, I just don’t know how I can then sit down on Sunday, watch football and feel good about it. There is a big part of me that would feel like a hypocrite and that would feel like an enabler, someone who is part of a problem and not a solution. How the league handed the Ray Rice case and how they’ve responded to the scandal that erupted this week with the release of the now infamous Elevator Tape is inexcusable and I feel that for one day, ignoring all of that and contributing to their cause is in some way condoning their actions. I feel that part of the problem is that the NFL knows they have America hooked, that we love football so much and can’t go without it. So they think that eff it, they can do whatever they want. People will keep coming back. How are they any different from drug dealers? They have us addicted and as a result, can jack up prices, be with-holding and we won’t care. Just as long as we get what we want. Being a football fan is becoming dangerously close to being a pawn in a totally different game. The idea that come Monday morning Roger Goodell will take a break from bad press and lawyers to look at another week of roof-busting TV ratings and revenue makes me sick.
But shit, the Patriots are 0-1 and are playing a tough Vikings team. An 0-2 start wouldn’t be catastrophic, but the game is definitely as close to a must-win game as a week 2 game can be.
That matters right?
But so does feeling good about what you choose to do in your free time.
I’ve had an indescribable feeling since mid-August about the 2014 NFL season. My excitement felt forced and ginned up. A lot of the previews and predictions I read and listened to felt like white noise and felt more obligatory than voluntary. Part of me hated the tweets last Sunday morning, fawning over the start of the season. At times it felt like people were talking about a cult. There was a brain-washed tinge to it. It felt like New Year’s Eve- the peer pressure to be a part of something awesome, the need to be involved, forceful participation. One of the reasons why I’m not the biggest fan of New Year’s Eve is because of all that, because of the pressure to do something awesome because you should, not so much because you want to. On the eve of the 2014 season, the NFL was starting to feel that same way.
But shit, I need to monitor the players on my fantasy football team. Got cash money riding on that shit dude!
That matters right?
But don’t you want to believe in something and do you believe in the NFL? Do you believe in it’s staying power, it’s future, it’s commitment to keeping your favorite players on the field? Last season, Rob Gronkowski of the Pats came back in the middle of the season after suffering a season-ending injury the season before. Gronk is a force of nature and an absolute enjoyment to watch. Watching him on the field again was beautiful, a wonderful reminder of how great he was and how much fun it was to watch him rampage a football field. It felt like it had been years since we had seem him play. With him in the lineup, the Patriots’ offense looked the juggernaut it had the potential.
It was awesome.
And it was short-lived.
Gronk played only seven games in 2013 before he was once again knocked out for the season. It wasn’t an illegal hit or even a particularly malicious hit that took the big man down. The hit was actually incredibly legal, thanks to the NFL’s desire to prevent head injuries. Good intentions, but poorly planned actions. The result of the new rules basically meant a defender had no choice but to go low on a player. Knees instead of heads basically. So while Gronk was spared a concussion, he was not spared an ACL. Gronk’s 2013 season was akin to watching a comet streak across the sky- beautiful, but short-lived. His injury just didn’t seem fair as far as fans were concerned. We were being deprived of the enjoyment that comes with watching him play. Again. Gronk played all 16 games his first two years. But the next two- he played 11 and then 7. Anyone who watches sports has favorite teams and favorite players. The problem with the NFL is that in the blink of an eye, your favorite player could easily be out for the season or at the very least, a handful of games. So you have to ask yourself, are you watching games to see players make amazing plays or for players to just make it through without injury? And if it’s the latter, then how much fun is that? I’ve realized over the past couple years that I watch Patriots’ games with split desires. I desire to see them win, I desire to see Tom Brady make it out of the game healthy. That seems wrong to me. It also doesn’t seem to be that much fun. Sports are naturally supposed to be somewhat stressful, but not because you’re stressed about the physical well-being of your favorite players. That is the wrong kind of stress.
The Walking Dead was easy to quit because I was never really that invested in the show to begin with. I didn’t quit Phish as much as became friends with them instead of lovers, our relationship more casual than platonic. Either way, we’ve never been as close as we once were. A movie has to be pretty bad for me to stop it halfway through- Snow White and the Huntsman was probably the last movie I watched that I bailed on before it ended. I’ll quit a book if by one hundred pages I’m not interested, I’ll quit a mixed drink if it’s not mixed properly, I’ll cancel a magazine subscription if it’s collecting dust more than collecting my interest.
So I’ve quit things before.
I’m capable of doing it.
I just don’t know if I’m ready and/or able to quit the NFL. The Ravens and Steelers played last night and I could have cared less. But that’s not any kind of indicator because I hate both of these teams and even under the best of circumstances, I wouldn’t have cared. Let me guess- the Ravens won 13-10?* Who really cares? How could you care given the week the NFL has had? The actual sport of football seems some trivial and stupid right now. Caring about it just seems wrong.
Come Sunday, a referendum might not be passed when it comes to my NFL fandom. Discussions might be had, ideas and philosophies tossed around. Monday morning might come and even though I didn’t watch a snap, I’m still catching up on the weekend’s results, whether it’s because of fantasy football or just general curiosity. But whether or not I’m still a fan is firmly on the table. It’s being considered. And it has to be. The negatives are starting to outweigh the positives. Once that happens, regardless of what it might be about, you have to put some serious thought into the situation. I want to watch the NFL and not feel bad about; feel slightly ashamed. Right now, those feelings are at the gates. They’re scaling the walls. A defense is being mounted, but it’s not the strongest.
It might not be this week; it might not be next week. But it could be soon. My days as a NFL fan seem numbered. It’s unavoidable at this point.
So hey, how is Everton looking right now?
Come on you Blues!