Tag Archives: spygate

Not For Long: How the NFL pushed fans like me away from the game

3 Aug

This is a post that has been long overdue. And it should’ve been written years ago, but there were more pressing issues to think and write about. But now on the heels of the NFL trying to place a stranglehold mandatory vaccine initiative on its players, I figure its time to get it all out in the open.

There was a time when football was my favorite sport to play and watch. From 1989-1995, it was my sport. I remember when the NFC East was the the NFC “Beast” and anyone winning that conference was all assured of winning the Super Bowl. Sure I was a die hard Cowboys fan, but the Eagles had Randall Cunningham, and the New York Football Giants had legendary defensive players and had an epic Super Bowl run in 1990 that cemented my fandom. Throw in the big time, bone crushing hits that made the sport popular, and it was the perfect balance of brutality and ballet.

My fandom waned as the Cowboys star dimmed, and my interests in other things intensified (school, girls, drugs, music) but you could catch me watching some fool’s ball on the right Sunday if a matchup was intriguing enough. Even if I didn’t watch, I still kept up with who played for what team. But with each passing year, I noticed subtle changes the competition committee would employ to make the game more exciting for the casual fan. I would say by the mid 2000’s, the league was obviously trying to push the league in a direction that would benefit players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, and Tom Brady. Now, the NFL is glorified Arena League ball, or comparable to flag football on steroids. But there are a number of reasons why I don’t watch the NFL. Like to hear them? Here it go.

Reason #1: The Death of the Big Hit

I fell in love with football because it was a gladiator sport. If you were a receiver going across the middle, chances were you were going to get crushed into smithereens. Big hitters like Steve Atwater, Ronnie Lott, Chuck Cecil, Andre Waters, Thomas Everett would take a receivers had off. Yes it was violent, and it was dangerous, but that was the fun of it. The Ravens-Steelers rivalry from last decade was the last penchant of real football left. Now the league has legislated all the big hits out of the game. Defensive players can only hit the quarterbacks between the numbers on their uniforms. Hits above the shoulders or below the knees get flagged and they introduced a “defenseless receiver” rule where if a player isn’t looking, they can’t be hit. Whatever. I blame fantasy football. So much money and viewership is made from gambling and fantasy football participants–many of which never really cared for the game until they started playing–that the league has a vested interest in keeping the offensive players healthy; even at the expense of the defensive players (who still have to make their money somehow).

Reason # 2: Thursday Night Football

You can pinpoint both an uptick in injuries and a drop off in quality of games right around 2006, when the league introduced Thursday night games. The thinking was that Sundays and Mondays weren’t enough football for the week, the world needed more product which would equate to more money for owners and a crumb or two for the players. How the NFLPA agreed to this, I don’t know. But it has been proven time and time again that they have the weakest player union in all of sports (one could even argue that in a sport driven by Black athletes, it is a microcosm for the larger world, where Black faces like Gene Upshaw and DeMaurice Smith, serve as “representation” for the larger population, but only obtain benefits for a small minority). The Thursday night games as a whole have been mostly poor quality, filled with turnovers and injuries. Players often complained about the shortened week after a Monday night game, where there is a quick turnaround and less time to recover from the week’s previous game. Now a team can play on Sunday and then turn around and play four days later. Most players say that they are usually still bruised and aching up until Friday of a normal week of play. To add insult to injuries (pardon the pun), the NFLPA agreed to a 17th game; starting this upcoming season. All I can say is that we teach others how to treat us. The NFLPA is as fangless as the Congressional Black Caucus.

Reason #3 The Plantation Model

The NFL is just one big plantation. It really starts back when players are in college, playing for these huge programs that generate millions of dollars for universities (Football generally makes money for the rest of the sports at a school) and their coaches. Players have to keep in line and if they so much as speak up about an issue within the program or in society, they can get their scholarship revoked or playing time culled if they offend a coach or donor. This feeds into the mentality of the pro player who becomes conditioned to just shut up and play. The optics of this looks real bad when consider there are no Black owners in the NFL, and only one Black general manager–in a sport that is about 70% Black (especially at the skill positions). There are only a handful of Black NFL head coaches, and for a long time, you would be lucky to see two or three Black starting quarterbacks.

Then there are the uniforms. The league is extremely particular about how a player should look during the game. A player can get fined for having the wrong colored socks or cleats. Any messages written on their uniforms–no matter how well intentioned—can be garner a fine of tens of thousands of dollars.

To top it off, players couldn’t even openly celebrate without their team getting penalized on the field and garnering a fine later in the week. The NFL is the king of squeezing out the individuality of its players in favor of a “uniform” look.

Lastly, there is the issue of Colin Kaepernick. While I can agree that the NFL is a private industry (that somehow garnished non-profit status while raking in billions of dollars) and they have the right to give a job to whomever they want, as a consumer, I also have the right to support or not support that industry. There was a large contingent of fans (and let’s face it, most of the owners are huge GOP donors) offended by what Kaepernick was saying in the media, and by what he was protesting. Was there collusion to keep him from landing another job? Probably. Kaepernick didn’t have to opt of his contract with one year remaining, and he didn’t have to sign that settlement. But he is probably better off for doing so. He made millions in a sport where your livelihood can be taken away in one play–which reminds me– NFL players are the only sport without guaranteed contracts. They can rip a player’s contract up at any time and send them out in the street.

Reason #4 Roger Goodell

I could write a whole article about the buffoonery of Roger Goodell if it weren’t already well documented. Its no coincidence that the quality of play in the NFL dropped around the time Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stepped down in 2006. Goodell anointed himself the judge, jury, and executioner of “The Shield”. Players were now being fined and disciplined for off the field matters in addition to what they did on the field. Goodell bungled high profile scandals like “Spygate”, “Bountygate”, the referee lockout of 2012 (which was an embarrassment), (the alleged) CTE cover up by the NFL that resulted in Will Smith making a movie and using a bad accent in it, and also the Ray Rice fiasco. I couldn’t figure out how such a bumbling idiot was able to keep such a profile job until I read that the NFL had made the most money it had ever made with ole Roger Dodger manning the helm.

As it is, with a lot more adult responsibilities, I don’t even think about the NFL very often. Sundays are spent with family, or working on projects. I don’t miss it. In fact, I missed it more when I was watching it–pining for the good ole days of Ronnie Lott and Bo Jackson, and Mike Singletary. But it was a good run. I’d go as far as to say 2012-2013 was the last year I really had any vested interest in who won the Super Bowl. Every year thereafter, I just hoped it was anyone but the Patriots (which could be another post in itself). Who knows, maybe I would’ve outgrown it anyway. All that being said, I guess I’m happier without it. Even if it is America’s favorite sport.