Can Football Really Be Bad?




Here in Green Bay, the town all but shuts down before kick-off on game day and Lambeau Field hits the revenue jackpot. Outside of the stadium which now houses over eighty thousand fans (not to mention the players, cheerleaders, staff, media and other crews), viewership of televised games reaches thirty million and beyond. All this commotion for what, you wonder? Football, of course!

But what are we emotionally investing ourselves in, really? I never questioned this until someone close to me mentioned the frivolity of the NFL. At first, I thought the idea was pure ignorance; football is a pastime, language, tribe and religion all rolled into one. It has taken personal pride-swallowing to even consider what could possibly be wrong about the organization that ranks just below Christmas on my things-I-love-most list. However, I’m giving this idea a chance, if only for a moment.

From mid-August to the beginning of February, we gather around our televisions for a four-hour marathon of what we call quality entertainment. It starts with pre-game where we watch four grown men in suits sitting at a desk talk about their opinions and laugh at each other, followed by kick-off and then the game is underway—that is, except for the intermittent commercial breaks, but they only make the game two-hours longer than the actual playing time, but who’s counting? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the blatant saturation of media throughout the game. But we don’t really have a say in this. Of course, we could not watch the game and send advertisers a message. But risk missing out on our team’s greatest touchdown of the year because we want to boycott the Arby’s commercial takeover? Do we want to live our lives in sin?

Nothing can stop our support for our team. But is it really our team? Green Bay and its unique ownership notwithstanding, where do NFL teams come from? Consider the Dallas Cowboys: a team based in Texas, with a quarterback from San Diego, a head coach from Pennsylvania and an owner from Los Angeles. What exactly are the Dallas fans rooting for? The location of the corporate headquarters?

Yet it seems like tradition to love the local team and nothing says tradition like watching overweight linemen smash into each other at full speed while our beloved quarterback prances around the backfield, pitching the ball off, collecting his paycheck equivalent to the GNP of a developing nation. The actual game play stops every six seconds and what seems to be 8:43 left of the first quarter ends up taking another forty-five minutes. Meanwhile, the wide-receiver (whose criminal record may not be spotless) just took a delayed hit and is now sprawled out in the end zone, unmoving, suffering his sixth concussion of the year that will lead to brain trauma and an early death. Good thing there are five more guys who have been riding the bench all season ready to substitute in.

To view the NFL this way makes me momentarily question the basis of my die-hard fandom. Yet, I am strangely okay with it all. Sure, the NFL might be a lucrative business with too many commercials, over-paid players and, yes, a counterintuitive name. But it’s in my blood to love football; I spent eight years cheering for it and twenty years reveling in it. I firmly believe it brings people together and creates (mostly) healthy competition.

To the people who just don’t understand spending three hours on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon watching a slow-paced game drenched in commercials, I hear you. To the people who woke up early Sunday morning, decked out in spirit wear, collected together in bars, living rooms, stadiums and parking lots, going crazy for your team, I am with you.

Unless you’re a Vikings fan. In which case I hope your team loses. Go Pack Go.

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