It feels like I was born a football fan. It’s honestly the only thing that I actually remember sharing with my father. We would spend 12 hours together every Sunday and Monday cheering for whatever games were on television (usually Vikings where we lived) and waiting for the scores of our teams (Raiders for him, Dolphins for me) to scroll across the bottom of the screen. We would sit there and talk about stats and players and formations and every other portion of the game that we loved. We would live and die by our teams, riding a high all week if they won and being upset until at least Wednesday if they lost. The two of us once drove from Atlanta, GA to Williston, ND, and all we talked about the entire way was football. With football, we were a family.
Since then, it’s felt like football was in my blood. I played in high school and was inconsolable when Dan Marino retired. I’ve watched the games in stadiums and followed them on computers while deployed. I remember maneuvering the ship in a certain way so that we could get a reception to watch the Colts/Bears Super Bowl in the middle of the Indian Ocean. It started at 1:00 in the morning, and I stayed up for all of it.
It’s all done now though.
Let me start by saying that I’ve realized for several years that being a sports fanatic is a ridiculous thing. There is absolutely nothing logical about your happiness being decided by a group of men that don’t know you exist playing a game hundreds or thousands of miles away. When my team beats yours and I throw it in your face, how exactly did I win? Am I congratulating myself for picking a team 35 years ago that was better than yours today? Cheering for your favorite team or your alma mater is one thing, but being an actual fanatic makes zero sense.
In addition, football certainly doesn’t make itself easy to love. There are so many conflicts and contradictions that makes it physically uncomfortable to follow. I rail against all the rules that don’t allow players to really hit each other anymore, but I cringe whenever someone gets a concussion. I want to see the players become bigger, stronger, and faster, but I call them stupid when they test positive for PEDs. I complain about the immense amount of money they make, but scream abuse when players can’t walk 5 years after retiring. I’m proud of the fact that I played, but I will never let my son put on a helmet. I miss the connection with my dad, but it’s not necessary for the relationship with my kids.
Enter the Ray Rice saga. The latest news is that the league actually had a copy of the video the entire time, but it doesn’t matter. All credibility was lost when the initial 2 game suspension was handed down. Everyone knew what happened in the elevator. Why does the fact that a video of it now surfaced make it worse? Everything since then has simply been an attempt to cover tracks, but it’s an example of another contradiction. I expect the players to be monsters on that field every weekend, but then I’m appalled when they can’t act like functioning human beings off it.
We can complain about how the league has handled everything, and we can ridicule the players. The bottom line, however, is that we as the fans are the problem. We hear about the disastrous effects to players lives from concussions and other injuries and then turn on the game to cheer the big hits. We are ashamed when 21 year old millionaires act like 21 year olds, but we still pay hundreds of dollars for seats at the stadium. We watch videos of players knocking their loved ones unconscious and then immediately check our fantasy line-up.
I, for one, am done. We had a good run together, but football is just a game, and I no longer support it.