I’m Only Giving the NFL Two More Years

I like watching football.  I love my Philadelphia Eagles.  We’re starving for a Super Bowl win after all these years and it seems like we are entering a period when that might be possible.  It’s exciting.

But if something doesn’t change, I can’t keep watching.

Football is a fun sport to watch.  It moves at a perfect pace for television and is easily filmed for dramatic tension.  It looks good in slow motion and offers plenty of viable reason for breaks in the action.  It was made for this day and age and I am along for the ride.

But there is a lot wrong with football and the NFL, and the sport itself isn’t elegant or poetic enough to make up for the issues (as opposed to baseball, which is also rife with problems, but gets an eternal pass because it is elemental, cerebral, artistic).  If the NFL doesn’t fix itself soon, I will remove myself from its fan base after two more seasons.

In no particular order, the problems as I see them:

–If you are a fan of football you must acknowledge and make peace with the fact that it is a sport built on violence.  This alone is not rare in the world of sport and, if one is inclined to like sport to begin with, not reason enough to dismiss it.  But in our modern world an athlete is still an employee working for an employer and that employer is responsible for their safety.  Despite all the public light being shined on the problem of concussions and lasting negative health effects of professional football, the NFL has still fallen far short of answering how it will deal with the future health of all its players.  Is this a simple issue?  No–it’s incredibly complex and layered and I don’t envy the NFL’s position in trying to adequately address it; however, the current fact is that the NFL has been the opposite of adequate–they have bungled the issue at every turn and treated their players like commodities.  I cannot be a long-term fan of a corporation that dehumanizes it’s players.  Not just because of the obvious safety and human rights issues, but the players’ humanity is basically why I want to watch any sport to begin with.

–The rules continue to change every year–often very drastically–to favor the offense in order to make the games more consumable for a mass audience and more television-friendly.  I am generally not opposed to the rules of a sport evolving over time; that surely happened plenty even before the television era.  But it is now happening in the NFL so quickly and blatantly that, to a large degree, and element of the actual “sport” is being sapped out in favor of pure entertainment value.  At the current rate of change, I estimate we are about 10 seasons away from being on the level of professional wrestling.  On that same note:

–I am the first to admit that I watch the NFL as much (in my case, more) for the storylines than the actual game.  No other sports league gives us the kinds of plots the NFL does.  Once washed-up quarterback gets second chance with rebuilding team playing a game at his old team’s stadium against a coach who wanted him traded or Guy whose brother died five hours ago decides he’s going to play anyway in the stadium where his brother worked as a beer vendor.  I just made both of those up but they are completely in line with the soap opera storylines being promoted in the sport nowadays; like I said, I bite into them full force like anyone else.  It’s compelling.  But things are starting to feel a little…staged.  This is the least well-formed of my reasons, but also the one I feel most in my gut.  The game schedules seem more crafted to achieve ultimate drama and plot more so than any real competitive reason.  Rivals are scheduled to play each other in the most prime time slots and days while small-market or teams light on legacy get little national spotlight; “flex” scheduling allows television networks to move games to prime time if, say, one of their athletes is playing after getting arrested or bad-mouthing the commissioner on SportsCenter.  Take, for example, tonight’s season opener (which I will be eagerly watching, as much as my toddler allows): Tom Brady allowed to start the first game of the season after a FEDERAL JUDGE threw out a four game suspension imposed by the COMMISIONER HIMSELF for allegations of CHEATING that ultimately lead to a SUPER BOWL WIN, all while allegations of SYSTEMIC DEACADES-LONG CHEATING continue to surface against the entire team he plays for, VERSUS one of the most storied, well-decorated teams in the league’s history (although they seem to be in decline) shortly after said team signs MICHAEL VICK as a back-up quarterback–a man with a history of animal abuse to back up their current quarterback–a man strongly suspected to have a history of sexual assault.  And these are two of the most storied, well-respected teams in the league. It all sounds very much like professional wrestling.  I would not be very surprised if half time was commissioner Roger Goodell walking out to midfield as a microphone is lowered from the rafters and he screams a ten minute threatening rant aimed at Tom Brady, just like the heels in the World Wrestling Federation.  What I’m asking for is less manicured drama.  Let the game create the drama.

–Be more inclusive to female fans (pink merchandise is pandering, not inclusive).  Make everything associated with the league cost just a LITTLE less.  Fix your schedule so all the games aren’t happening at the same time (I actually like Thursday Night Football and think the idea should be expanded).  Stop playing games in London–nobody cares.  Get a team in Los Angeles.  Do completely away with the point after.  Make the kickoff like it used to be.  Do away with cheerleaders.  Make the team from Washington, DC change its name.  That might be all I have to gripe about.  All that being said, I’m still here for at least two years, so GO EAGLES.  Watch this video, it will make you change your favorite team:

2 Responses to “I’m Only Giving the NFL Two More Years”

  1. Kyle Sundgren Says:

    You’re not wrong on any of this and I agree with everything you say (except get a team in Los Angeles. Those fuckers had TWO teams and couldn’t handle it. They lost their privileges!), but I think you’re a loon if you think any of this can be fixed in a mere two years.

    You gotta admit that there are some issues you brought up that will never change and will probably get worse as time goes on. That’s probably the reason for you giving the NFL a deadline in the first place.

    When you mentioned the fictional scenario of Goodell calling out Brady at half time, my eyes lit up! Oh that would be a hoot! I would only enjoy it if it were legitimate though. That’s precisely why I’m not a WWE fan though; all their drama is staged where as the NFL drama is, as far as we know, real.

    • sethdellinger Says:

      Oh yes, don’t get me wrong…I in no way expect these things to be FIXED in two years. I just want to see the league evolving in some way by then; I want to see evidence of real change. That’s all I’m asking for.

      I too assume the drama in the NFL is REAL…but whether or not things and people are being nudged toward these situations, and then someone else is making sure they are highlighted…that is a different story.

      Whether the people of LA deserve a team or not is immaterial…they are the third largest market in the US (believe it or not, Houston is second)…it’s what the league needs.

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