I remember when Sundays meant something. It wasn’t all that long ago, either. Waking up in time to watch ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown at 11 a.m., then after two hours of greasing the wheels it was time for the real fun – football all day. First at 1, then at 4, then after watching the highlights on NFL PrimeTime, again at 8:30 for one more go-round.
That was about a decade ago. I’ve watched football since, but each year my interest has waned. Finally, in 2015, I’ve hit my breaking point. Now I try desperately to find something, anything, else to watch on Sundays. If there aren’t any other pro sports on, then it’s time for sitcom reruns or a matinee movie.
So what made this happen? There are a plethora of reasons, but the primary culprits are Roger Goodell, the New England Patriots, and Fantasy Football.
Here’s what losing interest in the NFL has made me learn: if you “hate” someone or something, then you are emotionally invested in it. For years, I found myself tortured by railing against authority, which is basically the Patriots on a yearly basis. I was only met with frustration and disappointment, not to mention Internet and real-life trolls that, like the team they support, feed off the anger and hatred of others. In that scenario, no one wins, even the losers that use the Patriots to feel better about themselves.
Watching Roger Goodell repeatedly Plaxico Burress himself on major issues was disgraceful yet pleasing, because this is the man that already had my ire by continually fixing parts of the game that were never broken. Again, raging against the machine was a futile cause, because we as “fans” are powerless.
Ah, and then the Fantasy world. So popular, in fact, a hit show blossomed from its premise (“The League” on FX). As someone who hasn’t played since reluctantly agreeing to join a friend’s team eight years ago, this is another black mark on a league already devoid of any novelty. The interest it sparks is not genuine in any way; instead, it brings non-educated sports viewers into a world where they don’t belong, and it also brings out an ugly side in people.
The side that makes people say things like, “How dare my starting tight end miss a game with a shattered kneecap, I’m facing the first place team in my league this week! He deserves that broken knee!”
It doesn’t help that for those who choose to steer clear of Fantasy, there is no escape, because every score ticker and update has an element of it. Why? Because even though all sports are about money and marketing, no organization does it as seamlessly and shamelessly as the NFL.
So what’s the remedy for this? I can refer you back to my new Sunday routine, which emphasizes that hatred and dislike of something can only be furthered by indulging in it. Emotional separation is the only tactic that will at least come close to setting you free.
I know that I’m not alone in this sentiment, either. Many football followers are tired of watching reruns on Sunday, a movie with the same storyline and same ending. Or maybe instead of reruns, it’s like watching Two and a Half Men with Ashton Kutcher after falling in love with the Charlie Sheen version. Why even keep the show on the air?
Speaking of TV references, I liken this recent disconnect to a Halloween episode of the Simpsons, where Springfield is being overrun by literal advertising giants that have come to life and are wrecking the town. Lisa consults with Paul Anka and discovers the fix. She informs the townspeople, through song of course, that the only way to make them go away is, “Just don’t look.” After Lisa pulls a drooling Homer away from the Lard Lad Donut guy who now features sprinkles, the last villain is dead, and all is well again.
So can we tune out this sad excuse of an NFL and make it go away? Not quite. The Patriots are going to continue to terrorize the league, with the same cast of recurring characters – the Packers, Broncos, and Colts – playing second-fiddle. Games will continue to be played in cities like Nashville, Jacksonville, San Diego (for now), and St. Louis (for now). But those are like trees falling in the forest that no one hears. Do they really make a sound?
The one true beauty of football is that you actually can tune it out for most of the week, even as Goodell tries to force-feed you more games on more days of the calendar. Since each team only plays once a week, indulging in the game is a choice you can opt against making by not looking at ESPN or NFL.com or listening to talking heads try to sound smart on television or radio.
No one said sports are fair, and no sports are. The NBA is just as top-heavy as the NFL, minus all the sickening, cult-like fandom and watered-down elements that have effected quality of play and importance of positions like running back and linebacker. Or, the fact that in a sport with 22 players on the playing surface at once rather than 10, one position makes all the difference in the world (that’s the quarterback, of course).
It’s hard (for me, anyway) not to gravitate towards baseball even more these days than when I loved and played the sport as a kid. It’s extremely refreshing to see the Kansas City Royals in the World Series for a second straight year after 29 years of silent Octobers, playing the New York Mets. It’s also a thinking man’s (or woman’s) game that requires a little more intellect, patience, and appreciation to enjoy. These are not virtues exemplified by the vast majority of today’s football fan. Maybe they never were, even the decade-ago version of myself that was too naive to notice these things about the NFL.
I’m already thinking about my plans for Super Bowl Sunday – namely, what else can I do while the world gets ready to explode after the unnecessary two-week build-up to a four-hour climax of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers (oh, and the Patriots and Packers, since there are apparently other players on those teams).
Sure, I still have my cynicism, but it has been quieted as my Sundays now follow suit.