Tuesday, September 13, 2016
Confessions of an ex-NFL Fan
Hi, my name is Mike and I'm a recovering NFL fan. No, that's not me in the picture...I just thought it would class up the place. Maybe not.
My addiction to the NFL started as a lad. I was born in the state of Maryland and the Baltimore Colts were my "home team". (Yes, Virginia, the Colts were originally from Baltimore!). I used to watch Johnny Unitas on what would be by today's standards, an incredibly small black and white screen.
Back in the day, they didn't have the numbers painted on the field every ten yards. The people in the stands knew exactly what portion of the field you were on. Back then, they only had lines. And on TV, all the lines looked the same. You'd watch a player make what you thought was a ten to fifteen yard run only to have the announcer tell you he'd gained five, because he had initially run back ten yards behind the line of scrimmage.
But it was great! I watched whenever I could. I personally watched as Johnny Unitas invented the two minute drill. Those were the days! Johnny Unitas and Raymond Berry were the Montana/Rice of their day. Technology has improved greatly since then, on both sides of the camera. The play by play guys then would give you stats, but what you see today: the graphics of every player, how tall he is, how much he weighs, which school he attended, interviews with the quarterback's grandmother...none of that was available to the average viewer. You just watched the players go up and down all those lines that looked the same. As a kid, that was enough.
Teams stuck around back then. The Colts were the Baltimore Colts for what seemed like forever, until they snuck out of town one night, in the dead of night to go to Indianapolis. That seemed like a huge betrayal, but even that wasn't enough to take the NFL monkey off my back.
There was one other time I went cold turkey. Back in the day before instant replay became a fixture in every game, referees had to rely on their old Mark I eyeballs to call every play. And one season, they were particularly bad. I mean they stunk on ice. After watching game after game determined by bad calls of referees, rather than the strength and abilities of the players, I got disgusted and gave up the NFL.
As I recall, the world didn't come to an end. I didn't experience any physical symptoms of withdrawal. Life went on. A year or two later I tried it again after implementation of instant replay. It wasn't perfect, but a definite improvement over bad officiating.
Which brings us to the current situation. The Olympics had a brush with the black power movement in Mexico a few years back, but it passed with only one incident. Not sure what they might have done to prevent a repeat, but, so far so good! The NFL is a different story. It was bad enough when NFL players parroted the erroneous "Hands up, don't shoot" last year, but now the NFL is arbitrarily choosing whose free speech matters. They deny the Dallas Cowboys the opportunity to express their own free speech, by not allowing them to put a sticker on their helmets to honor fallen Dallas police officers. They fine players whose free speech dared to put memorials to 9/11 on their shoes. Free speech for thee but not for me??
If it is important for the NFL to control the look of the product they produce on the field, they should consider the actions and demeanor of their players who take the field. The NFL has gone out of their way in the past, to support the troops, arranged for military bands and military flybys. But allowing players to disrespect the national anthem... some of that goodwill may be short lived.
President Obama praised Kaepernick for "starting a conversation". But, what kind of conversations are acceptable to the NFL? Was Ray Rice "starting a conversation" about spousal abuse in that elevator video? Using the Barack Obama standard, so called 'hate crimes' laws would simply disappear. A Klansman who burned a cross on your lawn could claim that he was just "trying to start a conversation". If it's okay to sit during the anthem, is it all right to flip the bird at the flag? What's the difference? How about setting one of those giant flags on fire? It's all free speech, isn't it?
Well , you might say that flipping off the flag or members of the armed forces visiting the stadium or burning the flag "crosses the line". And that's the point, isn't it? Someone has to draw the line as far as the deportment of those who represent them. Whether it is a hotel concierge or the counter worker at McDonald's who asks if you want fries with that, the person that writes the checks has the right to set the rules. You don't want to wear the paper hat? Don't work for McDonald's. Don't refuse to wear the hat while working the fry machine and tell us you are 'starting a conversation' about hygiene!
If I were a millionaire sports star, I could think of any number of ways I could "start a conversation" about whatever was on my mind. After game interviews, take out a full page ad in the New York Times, hire a skywriter, set my Ferrari on fire in my driveway and let the press (and my insurance company) interview me!
But to publicly disrespect the flag, IMHO, crosses that line. I do not need to watch a demonstration of the ignorance and gullibility of spoiled millionaire jocks, who believe things that simply aren't true about the state of law enforcement in the country that provided them wealth, fame and boundless opportunities.
If the NFL doesn't agree with me, fine! That's their right. But if I refuse to watch any of their teams, or patronize any of their sponsors, or promote them in any way, that's my right, too, which I will exercise until such time as I am satisfied that the NFL is not providing a platform for a poisonous form of dissent.
The NFL didn't miss me when I left the last time. They probably won't this time either, unless enough people who feel the way I do pull the same plug.
I have a feeling I'm going to get a lot done with all the time I've just freed up on my weekends!
I may never go back.