I am kind of over people being incredibly sanctimonious about football. It doesn’t help.
Facebook is a minefield on days like yesterday. You have a bunch of people that are wicked hyped up about football and love it to death, some people who get into it when the timing is right, and then people who hate it. I can understand the reasoning behind every single stance on the NFL itself and football as a sport. It’s honestly hard to tell who’s more vocal about it lately – the screaming fans or the folks so adamantly anti-football that they’re willing to call football fans any name in the book. Idiots. Sheep. I honestly can’t even repeat some of the stuff I saw on Facebook yesterday, and this is the goddamn Clam, which is pretty much a mayonnaise fetish site at this point.
But calling football fans names and insulting their intelligence is not going to help solve any of the giant, looming problems the sport has. And it needs to stop.
Of course, I say this as a person with a hockey-related tattoo. I’m sure everyone in high-horseville will knock twenty IQ points off their idea of me just for that, and I’ve totally lost Manic Pixie Dream Girl status with more than a few of you. I’ve got to be an absolute fucking dolt, right? Also I spent my teen and tween years in Foxboro, getting my schools paid for by ticket sales. So, biased. Obviously. Wake up, stupid!
Sports are culture, and it’s intertwined with how we live our lives. It’s not that simple.
If you didn’t watch the game, you missed quite a fucking show. There’s no doubt about it. It was insane. It had everything, and it was only settled at the last few fucking seconds when of course, a rookie intercepts a pass and saves the damn day. Hollywood would kill for a script like that.
And I mean, Katy Perry’s Left Shark kind of won the entire night.
Here’s the rub: the inherent complexity and chess-like maneuvers of American football are not for idiots. You can watch, of course, slackjawed and with dog food for brains – but to cast the sport as something for rubes is missing the point completely. It’s a logic puzzle at times, a series of pick-your-own outcomes, and it turns out that sometimes it’s not chance, or sporting as hard as you can sport, but it’s brilliant coaching that makes the game. There are massively relatable characters on both teams. It feels fucking amazing to win. Men who have worked their whole lives for what they just accomplished celebrate on live TV, entire cities get to bask in something incredibly positive to keep the rest of the world’s shitty news at bay. Champions, baby.
The sport has major, major, glaring problems – there is no way to dance around that fact. There’s a huge, and reasonable, argument that it shouldn’t even exist because of the overarching negative health impact on the humans who play the game. I will go out on a limb and say that I don’t think kids should be playing it. We now know too much about how football can seriously hurt developing brains, and that even in high school, a player who may not even suffer a concussion can show changes in their brain with one season of play. One season. On the college level, too much money gets spent on football – taking everything to a grotesque level of admiration and hero worship, and the cover-up of absolutely awful, terrible behavior. It ends up being the farthest thing from academia one could even fathom.
On the NFL level, a blind eye towards the long-term effects of concussions on players, domestic violence, criminal activity, and racist-as-fuck team names leaves a terrible taste in a lot of mouths. There’s no painting that shit in a positive light. It’s awful. No excuses can be made for it, although there’s no lack of trying.
But here’s the thing: A sea change is coming. A wave of awareness has hit – there’s no escaping the mountains of data piling up, the news of cover-ups. Football fans and non fans know it’s bad. But the cognitive dissonance is still too vast a gulf to traverse right now, and it will take years of pushing to get change accomplished. That’s just the way it is.
Calling fans of the sport stupid is misguided and doesn’t help push for positive change at all. It just ends up being divisive, promoting backlash, and making the anti-football movement look bad. It’s like blaming Walmart employees for being poor instead of blaming fucking Walmart. And guess what? A lot of smart motherfuckers watch sports, and watch football.
It’s massively entertaining for a huge swath of our country’s population, if you’re wondering why. It’s as stimulating as a play, a movie, or an opera, at times. And almost every form of human entertainment we’ve got involves some kind of level of suffering. Look no further than what has just happened to Bobbi Kristina. Fame destroys people’s psyches. Heath Ledger. Michael Jackson. Brittany Murphy. Chris Farley. I could go on for hours. It’s not just football that leaves broken people in its wake, so singling out football fans as being stupid is disingenuous.
When you strip away its problems, the core of the sport is still deeply likable. It’s been ingrained in most of us since youth and it will not just turn off like a switch. The relationship between consumer and product with the NFL is not as symbiotic as people assume. The NFL is in charge, not the people watching – yet. It will take time, and it will take education, and it will take intense outside pressure on the league to change. And guess who needs to exert that pressure? Fans. Not the guy who wasn’t watching in the first place. If that guy not watching is a major fucking dick to the fans, it’s not going to work.
Also, go Pats.