In life there are moments that have unforeseen consequences. In sport when your team loses the impact isn't always felt right away. Often times there is a delayed reaction. When that reaction occurs and you start to finally feel anger and disappointment. The realization that opportunity is lost forever that unforeseen consequences can rear their head.
When my beloved New England Patriots lost Super Bowl XLII to the New York Giants I was completely numb. As the game unfolded I never felt safe, even when the Patriots took the lead late in the fourth quarter. In the days and weeks that followed I just wanted to avoid anything and everything NFL related. Given that the majority of what I watched on TV was sports related and that I listened to more sports radio than music at the time this was difficult. As I struggled to avoid our nation's most popular sport anger bubbled to the surface.
I was angry that the best team in NFL history would never get the respect they deserve because the one game they lost happened to be the Super Bowl instead of Week 2 or a Monday Night in Miami. I was angry that the Patriots could not shut up the 1972 Miami Dolphins, to date the only NFL team to go undefeated and win the Super Bowl. The classlessness of that team cannot be understated. Most sportsmen realize that records are by in large meant to be broken, and don't openly root for would-be challengers to fail so they can cling to their place in history. All throughout the season the Dolphins rooted against the Patriots and made derogatory comments in the media. Every year when the last undefeated NFL team loses, the remaining members of the 1972 Dolphins have a little reunion complete with a champagne celebration. If I could lace that champagne with cyanide and get away with it I would. I was also quite disappointed. I admit that most fans would kill to have had the success the Patriots have had in the 2000's, but this was a chance to do something that had never been done before. The Patriots could well win the Super Bowl again, but the once in a lifetime chance to go 19-0 was gone forever ant that was disappointing.
For about a month I managed to do a decent job avoiding the NFL. One day ESPN was on in the background and there was a segment on about the NFL draft. I asked my roomate if the draft was that coming weekend. He laughed and told me the draft was two months away in April. While suprised that I had insulated myself to such a degree that I forgot when the draft was, I was also angry. Why does the media spend almost four months starting from the end of the Super Bowl talking about the NFL Draft? How many 1st rounders make it? 50%? But yet people spend one third of a year talking about a bunch of college kids, the majority of whom will amount to nothing. It was at that moment I realized how incessant the coverage of the NFL was. This is a league whose season lasts five months, but is covered year round? ESPN shortens Baseball Tonight in June to cover NFL Mini-Camp? The NFL occurred to me as another mass produced consumer product that is shoved down the throat of the American Consumer.
At that moment I was out. At that time football while a distant second to baseball was still my second favorite sport. That didn't matter I was not going to be force fed a product whose flaws were finally becoming aparent.
- The ubiquitous media coverage of the NFL. Most of this coverage was from NFL rights holders that pay billions to broadcast NFL games which only gives them more reason to push the NFL even more.
- A tyrannical commissioner whose rule of the sport is the epitome of capriciousness.
- The NFL game-day experience is mediocre at best. Tailgating is awesome, nobody loves to grill and drink beer more than me. Watching an actual NFL game sucks. During all of the commercial breaks you are just standing around in the freezing cold. Out of the four traditional North American sports going to an NFL game is last and it's not even close.
- The NFL's illusion of parity pissed me off. It's not more competitive than MLB, but fans who don't know better still think that if MLB had an NFL-style hard cap with revenue sharing that would cure all of the sport's ills. All a salary cap does is help keep salaries artificially suppressed and prop up incompetent organizations that can't maximize their own revenues.
- Speaking of commercial breaks, the game has no rhythm. Even the most staunch NFL apologist has to admit that touchdown, commercial, kickoff, commercial, 3 and out, commercial, sucks. There is nothing worse than watching a football game where the opening drive lasts 10:00 (playing clock time, not real time). You just know the networks are going to jam as many commercials as they can into the rest of the game and it will be unwatchable.
- The chauvinism of some NFL fans really started to bother me. The type of people who complain that soccer doesn't have enough scoring or that baseball is too slow. I guess watching 0:05 of actual play, followed by 5 replays, in between commercials is action packed! These fans will also point to the NFL's ratings and revenue as a sign of it's superiority. Bud Light is America's best selling beer, vanilla the best selling ice cream flavor, and Justin Beiber the most popular contemporary musical act. That the NFL rakes in zillions does not impress me.
Admittedly I have softened my stance since then. When I am home on a Sunday I will watch the Patriots. I pay some attention to the league but I don't spend my entire Sunday watching games. I still avoid the shoulder programming around the games except for Bill Bellichick's pressers. I am not the NFL fan I was then it's a tossup between football and hockey as a distant 3rd behind football and soccer for me. On that day in February 2008 I was done with the NFL.
This is Part I of a two part piece. Given that I am already over 1000 words I felt the need to break it up. Yes I realize how self-indulgent this is,