The NFL has been a bad product for some time. It's getting worse.
There are a lot of things I liked about football for most of my life. This is my first year not participating in fantasy football in almost a decade and in all, it's been more than 15 years since I was first introduced to the concept.
I don't have an allegiance to any football team. If I did, it would be the Chicago Bears. I think bears are amazing, Chicago is a place that I love to visit, and the city is home to a lot of other sports organizations that I am considerably more fond of.
I guess you could say that my "awakening" to just how trash the NFL and football as a whole really is, started probably around the time that the Bears really started to suck. It wasn't fun to watch them anymore after their last Super Bowl appearance. The only thing that made the team fun was their cigarette-loving quarterback who seemingly cared about football just as much as I do - not at all.
Fantasy football kept me around for a long time, even after I stopped caring about the sport. I played it for the last couple of years without watching a single game in full. The only football I saw came in the form of whatever was on when I was at a gathering of some type with my wife's family. Eventually, even that wasn't enough to keep me around.
To be perfectly clear, this isn't a boycott and I'm not making a political statement. I genuinely think football is incredibly stupid. Here are a few reasons why:
1. Football is boring.
For seemingly decades, fans of the sport of hurled derisive insults in the direction of other sports, as if baseball or the real football, soccer as we call it in the United States, were going to vivify into a singular menacing object that was going to fight against the sacred rights of freedom-loving, good American football fans. In an average NFL game, there is something like 12-13 minutes of total action, spread out over the course of several hours. College is no better, and the skill level is comically poor when compared to the professional level. Sports like hockey, basketball, and real football (soccer), have constant action. I'd argue that it's too hard for the average NFL or Alabama fan to keep up with the "frantic" pace of those other sports. You could even argue that baseball isn't as slow. The average pitcher takes about 20 seconds between pitches. NFL teams get more than 30 seconds between plays, the college version gets even more time.
2. Football is unsafe.
There is inherent danger in all sports, but American football is the worst. I played sports growing up, in high school, and at the college level - injuries happen to everyone. But the NFL, and the college product, and the high school product, can't seem to solve the riddle. As human performance science has taken leaps forward over the past couple of decades, athletes are becoming muscle-bound freaks of nature that possess unreal speed combined with a devastating ability to transfer energy. That transfer of energy is what causes CTE, a major cause of depression and other cognitive dysfunctions that have led to multiple suicides and other tragic misfortunes. And this is particularly a problem in the community of football players. They trust their equipment to protect them, but it can't. When they outlaw the targeting of defenseless players, basically put a bubble around the already clunky, clumsy quarterbacks, and try to penalize helmet-to-helmet incidents, they created another problem - devastating lower-body injuries. ACL tears are common in most sports. It's an essential ligament for the human body when converting energy and momentum - cutting, starting, stopping, energy transference. The rules meant to prevent players from taking each other's heads off created a new target - blow up the knees. I don't think most players are trying to end careers or truly injure other players, but they send an explosion through each other that creates season-ending injuries all over the place. Football is dangerous in a way that most other sports are not, and it makes the product on the field of play significantly worse.
Oh, and the league has been unbelievably shady about covering up research on the negative effects of playing football on the human brain. Like, they are bribing ex-players with big one-time payouts, but with the condition that none of the damning evidence of brains and football being bad for each other can be disclosed.
3. Football is American. Only American.
I can't tell if this fact makes it the most American of sports or not. We crush the world in basketball, but there are dozens of countries that push the United States now at the Olympics. Many modern NBA stars and some of the sports biggest prospects are from outside the United States. The World Baseball Classic is a poor microcosm of the sport, but it still gets the point across. Taiwan, China, Korea, Japan, Venezuela, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Mexico, and a growing number of European countries all boast world class baseball talent. They compete against each other and regularly other countries best the United States. Ask Russia and much of Europe about hockey. Almost every major sport is a game the world can and does play. I don't know if this all started because people in the 1800s were stubborn about getting good at rugby or if the guys who invented football just didn't want to be left out when the inventors of baseball and basketball figured it all out, but somewhere along the way America rejected a sport everyone else plays - rugby - and insisted on playing with their own football, the world as a whole be damned. Just play rugby already. The United States would be so good at rugby. Can you imagine what it would have been like to watch Ray Lewis in his prime as a rugby player? Howie Long? Hell, even Trent Richardson could have picked up the game even if he was an absolute bust of an NFL player. Sports are more fun when they are international, and the only way that ever happens for the American version of the sport forces itself down the throats of every other country and that hasn't happened yet - remember NFL Europe? And the most American thing about it is that fans of the NFL have a great pride and think it is sport done the right way and if the rest of the world doesn't adapt this broken mess of a game, it just confirms their worldview that we're the only ones who understand how an empire should work.
4. The Anthem.
There is a social media post making the rounds that seems to indicate that NFL players didn't stand on the field for the anthem - this is both accurate and inaccurate. Players have stood for the national anthem for a long time, just not at primetime games. In those situations, the players remained in the locker room. Using reputable fact-checking websites, it appears that the anthem is supposed to be played with all players on the field, though it doesn't specifically state if they are supposed to be standing or not. There is also supposedly a conduct document that is not in or part of the official rule book that states all players should be standing with helmet in left hand. That seems really bizarre and very much like a thing that would have been en vogue circa 1965, which is right about the time that the NFL started to exist. The national anthem isn't problematic, even if it feels outdated to some. The lack of clarification on the rules might be a bit of an issue. More so, it might be an issue worth discussing around another bit of information that is making the rounds - that the NFL received money from a branch or branches of the armed forces in relation to the display and performance of the anthem. I didn't find anything that confirms if they did receive money in exchange for making a display of the anthem for the express benefit of military recruitment, but it wouldn't surprise me at all. I have an opinion in general about the anthem - stop playing it, performing it, showing it all the time. If a tree falls in the woods, does it make a sound? If the anthem is performed and you don't show it to me on TV, am I less nationalistic? It. Doesn't. Matter. Hell, I'll even go so far as to say that the constant inundation of the song in a context completely devoid of appropriate context massively devalues the message and meaning that it is meant to convey. If I played Slayer's "Dead Skin Mask" before every single sporting event, even the best people on this planet would eventually get tired of it or completely gloss over it. If people can tune out Slayer, imagine how much more the average human's brain goes into sleep mode when the first notes of Francis Scott Key's banger drop on the PA?
I guess the real point is that if your team sucks long enough or you lose enough interest in fantasy football or you live in Wisconsin and don't care about the Packers, you are afforded a chance to step back and look at the institution of American football from the outside, or at least try to do so. If you do that, you'll notice that it's a very boring, flawed, injury-plagued spectacle of American nationalism and arrogant pride in celebrating something the rest of the world doesn't care about while a song that is way worse than any track on Slayer's "Seasons in the Abyss" blasts in your pre-diabetic ears while you slam a skunk beer and trash $10 hot dog.
by Daniel Coughlin