Why I'm Never Watching The NFL Again After Super Bowl XLVII
Football isn’t a sport anymore. It hasn’t been for decades now — and I no longer want any part of it.
Like most young, lower-middle-class suburban males, I was raised to worship football — to worship the NFL. The New York Jets were my faction, my family’s faction, and I was taught to idolize Joe Namath and his ilk. “Wow. He guaranteed he’d beat the highly-favored Baltimore Colts and made good on it? What a great man!” Forget Albert Einstein, forget Frederick Jackson Turner, forget W.E.B. Du Bois, and forget Carl Sagan — NFL quarterbacks were the end all and be all of human achievement.
However, the “great” Joe Namath was a lecherous alcoholic. The sport’s culture kept me ignorant to this fact. Instead, it taught me about the (whitewashed) history of the NFL, the various franchises, and about all the current players and their skills/deficiencies. Vinny Testaverde, Brian Cox, and Wayne Chrebet were the “heroes” suburban Long Island gave me. Being the ever-obedient child, I did what I was told. I watched football religiously, wore my Jets jersey on Sundays — and on Mondays too if the Jets had won.
But watching football wasn’t enough. I was enlisted in the local football team (the Bobcats) each year from age 5 to age 16. This wasn’t optional. No amount of tears or pleading could separate me from being forced onto the gridiron to engage in the parental pissing contest that is youth football.
Each year I played, I was pushed deeper and deeper into the football culture — what it was, what it meant. I learned about beer, Buffalo wings, Hooters, objectifying and marginalizing women, all of it.
I didn’t know that there was another way. I didn’t know that culture wasn’t supposed to be like this. As the famous quote goes, “We don’t know who discovered water, but we know it wasn’t the fish.” Just so, how could I realize the sordidness and iniquity of the football/NFL culture when I had been surrounded by it for over a decade?
In high school I stopped playing football. I had been chubby as a youth and had therefore made a decent lineman. In high school I slimmed down to 135 pounds, making me terrible at anything football-related. Because I’d “embarrass” myself and my family, I was finally allowed to quit playing.
Each year that I wasn’t obsessed with the football life was another year that I began to see the disgusting intricacies of the “game” and everything surrounding it.
I am now nearly 10 years removed from constant exposure to the football culture. That 10 year respite has given me clarity enough to know that I never want to see another NFL game as long as I live, nor read another article about it, nor see/hear a radio/television broadcast about it.
The Super Bowl is the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the NFL/football and its place in American society. Super Bowl XLVII was no exception. After watching it, I turned off the television, and simply said to myself, “I can’t put up with this anymore.”
“This” is actually several things.
The sport is a business now. Everything NFL-related is overly commercialized. It’s not the half-time report or the post-game recap, it’s the [insert mega-corporation] half-time show and the [insert other mega corporation] post-game recap. Furthermore, try watching a football game without simultaneously doing something else to pass time during commercials. You’ll go insane. There are just too many of them. You’ll spend more time watching the same commercials over and over again than you will actually watching the high-stakes “action” that the NFL purportedly delivers each Sunday.
The commercials, too, are awful. Understandably, nobody likes commercials. However, the commercials that air during NFL games often depict males as mouth-breathing dolts focused only on Bud Light, tits and partying while females are just eye candy or hopelessly forlorn. Remember the one that compares drinking Bud Light and eating a bunch of chicken wings to winning a boxing match? Remember the one where the man is incapable of fixing his lawnmower and Eli Manning has to fix it, and the man’s wife swoons at Manning? Or how about the one where the couple flees to Buffalo Wild Wings because their friends moved on with their lives and *gasp* had children? What about the Samsung commercial where, of course, the woman is slacking at work and attempts to steal credit for what her male coworker did?
The NFL doesn’t make these commercials, true, but the greater football culture perpetuates these crude gender roles. Need an example? How about Jets fans ritualizing sexual harassment. Men play football. Men watch football (save for the one “cool chick” who every pathetic suburban sports fan wishes he could marry). Women just look pretty — the gridiron is no place for them unless they’re scantily clad or flashing the audience.
There are also other issues about the NFL. The absurd, arcane rules (things like the infamous “Tuck Rule” and Frank Gore getting fined for having his socks at the wrong height) are an annoyance. The brain trauma the athletes are being exposed to and the NFL’s refusal to adopt real solutions to it is another major problem. The NFL will likely never enact the most optimal solution — removing pads and helmets. After all, do you see swaths of rugby players — men who play a brutal contact sport but don’t wear pads — committing suicide via gunshots to the chest to preserve their battered brains for study?
These aren’t even the biggest reasons as to why NFL football is so loathsome.
The true culprit is the sanctification of football and its athletes.
Ray Lewis is a terrible human being. But why let facts get in the way of a touching narrative? The man was good at playing football. He could tackle other men really well and had a gift for hammy motivational speeches.
Football idolatry has gotten to such a point in the United States that these abilities can now absolve a man of all his sins. Even the mainstream media is OK with venerating him. Ray Lewis is a great human being because he was a talented linebacker and if you question that you’re just a miserable, useless malcontent. Lewis will no doubt become a commentator on ESPN or some other network, as well as one of the most acclaimed figures in the league’s history. As the years go by, fathers will watch along with their sons and tell them “That’s Ray Lewis. He was one of the best to ever play the game. He’s a motivator, a humanitarian, a truly great man.”
The miasmatic culture of football-worship will persist. The NFL will continue to be not a mere sports league but rather the home to a pantheon of Gods — infallible, incorruptible, and unquestionably superior.
It’s this insanity that I can no longer bear. Criminals are hoisted upon shoulders and given thunderous applause, all while a deer is conspicuously missing its antlers and a pair of corpses rot in the ground. But who cares about that — it’s FOOTBALL!
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If you’ve been looking for a chance to say something then this very well could be it.
I wish to God I’d had a list like this when I was 23.
Answer phones better than anyone else has answered phones before. Relay messages so brilliant, they bring people to tears. Turn the coffee run into the choreography of Swan Lake. Become best friends with every intern and every underling and every taxi driver you encounter.
I remember taking the pen and notebook from that woman outside the courtroom, flipping to a clean page in the book, and writing, JESSICA IS SAD in big, bold, uncoordinated letters. “My sister is going to be a good writer someday! Look at how nice her lines are!”