I love the Jets. I hate the NFL.
I am obsessed with fantasy football. I loathe Roger Goodell.
Thus, every Sunday and most Monday night I am glued to the television supporting a sport I love and a league I despise.
I would love to tell you that I’ll stop watching. I would enjoy sharing that my disdain over the actions of the NFL is so great that I cannot bear support them for one week longer.
But I am not a liar.
Thus, this is the conundrum that many fans find themselves in. And it’s going to get worse before it gets better.
The NFL is too big to fail. The question in my title was misleading – the question has been answered a thousand times over. The real question is – what will happen? And the real answer is likely, “Nothing.”
We shouldn’t support the NFL like we do. In fact, Americans have almost been trained to reject their corporate overlords. We don’t like when things become too popular. Our bands and brands, our performers and leaders, we usually tire of them when they hit critical mass. Look at ESPN. In the 1990’s, the upstart misfit from a mid-sized town in Connecticut was adored and beloved. Today, the network is one of the most powerful and valuable media brands in the world – there are entire sites devoted to mocking it or airing its dirty secrets.
The NFL? We can’t get enough.
Even as the league pays nearly $1 billion to former players. Even as it strong-arms ESPN out of promoting its coverage of the concussion issue. Even as players suffer injuries at an alarming rate.
We don’t care.
I wrote about the new college football rule for targeting that features an automatic suspension for a helmet to helmet hit. It is a tremendous rule. Players deserve to be punished immediately and severely for a play that is dangerous and has led to the concussion epidemic that has taken over the sport.
You will never see that rule in the NFL. Because the NFL doesn’t care about player safety. Oh, they levy fines. And players write checks. It’s water under the bridge. When your game check is $250,000 and you’re fined $50,000 – who cares? You still made $200,000 for a week’s worth of work. If you believe in your mind you made it there due to your aggressive – read: dangerous – play, why would you change?
The NFL cares so deeply about player safety that they have again begun a push for an 18-game season. Because nothing says “player safety” like exposing players to 2 more games of punishment. The NFL knows that regardless of what fans say about it, they will watch. Fantasy leagues will get 2 more games. TV networks will get 2 more games. Gamblers get 2 more games. Everyone wins! Except the players.
But the players aren’t the only one who lose in the NFL’s total domination of the world. We suffer too. The fans suffer on a weekly basis. In fact, I would argue that the NFL is the most un-fan-friendly league in the world. They can be. They know we’ll watch.
Have you attended an NFL game in-person recently? I will spare you the horrifying details on the cost – of tickets, of food, of beer, of parking, of souvenirs. It is simply a hideous experience. The game is made for television. It is made for the people who paid nothing instead of the people who paid hundreds. The never-ending television timeouts. The lack of replays. The staggering amount of extremely drunk old men. Attending a game is largely not fun once the tailgating ends. Yet we still go. We have to. We have a collective addiction to football that we cannot cure.
Even when we do watch from home, we are inevitably screwed. Take it from me as a Jets fan. I live in Washington, D.C. now. The Jets are rarely on. The archaic television policies the NFL continues to abide by leaving us in the dark ages. Oh, sure, the NFL RedZone is great. You know what’s better? Watching any game I want.
On Saturday night, many college football fans were up in arms that ABC decided to do a split-national telecast in its 8pm primetime slot. You either got Michigan/UConn or Kansas State/Texas. People were upset. They are used to being able to watch every college football game every week.
This scenario plays out every single week in the NFL! No one complains.
Even worse, the NFL will never, ever have competition. In any other form of business – and I mean, literally any other – this would be considered a monopoly. In football, that means an anti-trust exemption and tax breaks.
Even when another league thinks of coming up – the short-lived XFL or WLAF or UFL – they are roundly and routinely mocked by the media. You know, the legion of sportswriters whose paychecks largely exist due to the success of the NFL. They’re in on it too. The next time you hear a bad word on television about the NFL will be the first – every single broadcast channel has an NFL contract.
Just this summer, Fox Sports 1 jumped into the sports media fray. Their goal of beating ESPN was as laughable as the United Football League trying to out-rate the NFL. The Fox Sports 1 launch was met with open arms – competition is great! – while the UFL was met with the resounding sound of silence. And, yes, Fox Sports 1 has been every bit the failure so far that the UFL was.
Is there hope out there?
And we only have ourselves to blame. We let it get to this point and there’s no turning back. The money is too great. The popularity is too entrenched. The league is too ingrained in our lives.
Roger Goodell will continue to cash 7-figure checks over the littered bodies of men who no longer have memories. Taxpayers will continue to write 10-figure checks to build palaces for billionaires. The media will continue its forced love affair with the league in fear of being outcast from a cash cow.
I’d like to continue this rant. But I need to check out the waiver wire for my fantasy football league.
Sigh. I hate being part of the problem.
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