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Opinion: Why I’ve Quit Watching the NFL

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Nearly 11 years ago, I knew almost nothing about football. I couldn’t tell you the 32 teams. I did know how the scoring worked for the most part. I knew a few players. But my knowledge was a drop in the ocean.

Then I became a sportswriter and I swallowed the ocean. For the last decade, I learned players, franchises, coaches, assistant coaches, owners, front office personnel, offensive and defensive schemes, draft picks, pick values, salary cap, and a history of each and every NFL franchise. I became a historian of this great game and this historic league.

So why have I turned off the TV?

Well, it’s not just one thing. It’s not just the fact that Colin Kaepernick one day decided to wrap the game I loved into a political message. That’s part of it since politics has gotten so vicious now that as an analyst several months ago on Facebook, I joked that of course Kaepernick was being blackballed (albeit not via collusion) because who would sign a guy who is viewed as anti-American in what’s America’s most popular sport amongst Americans who deeply love America?

A man called me a racist because of that. Yeah…If I wanted to bombard myself in pointless unhelpful racial talks, I’d look up old Klan literature or I’d play recordings of Malcolm X while I did my chores because that’s what it feels like. I don’t need to have it on my social media accounts and especially in sports news.

However, race is just one of the straws that I’m tossing off my back now. Another is Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the National Football League, who has the P/R skills of Barney Rubble, a voice only slightly less coma inducing than Ben Stein and is so political, he can be referred to as the NFL’s proverbial “swamp” that needs to be drained.

It is unconscionable that Goodell has done the things that he’s done. I can make a laundry list, but I have a word limit, so let’s stick to the most recent. He claims to care about the players and domestic violence, but he will persecute Ezekiel Elliott, whose case would indicate a revenge plot by a vindictive ex-girlfriend, whose story the NFL’s own official investigator didn’t even believe.

Yet Ezekiel Elliott is still forced to sit out six games and (at the time) Giants kicker Josh Brown, who confessed to abusing his wife to where it damaged her psychologically, gets one game. Meanwhile, anyone who smokes a joint of marijuana and tests positive for it has to sit out four games. Does that sound equitable to anyone?

Football needs a real man and not a political puppet to be the commissioner. Until a real man is commissioner, I see this sport suffering. It’s hard to tell financially how the game has been affected because there’s “statistics” that can support both a decline and an increase in revenue or viewership or overall popularity.

But the sport is still suffering from bad PR, possible oversaturation, a decline in quality (more on that soon), and a commissioner who has no foresight or insight and the only hindsight he gets is from shoving it up there. Get rid of him and the game’s greatness can come back. I’ll volunteer for the job. I’ll do it for 5% of his salary even and I have a Bachelor’s in Communications, so there’s that.

Yet it’s not just Goodell either. The game is not the same and it’s really showing. I missed most of Super Bowl LII, but when my father showed up to my place, he said, “Turn on the game,” so I did and I got a chance to see Brandon Graham sack Tom Brady, force a fumble and the Eagles finished the job.

Later I found out that was the only sack in the game. I groaned because what made me fall in love with this beautiful game so much was watching DeMarcus Ware sack the quarterback. It was beautiful to watch defense play a factor. Not see a Super Bowl with 74 combined points, over 1,100 yards of offense, and just one fricking sack; are you kidding me?

You know how boring it is to watch old NFL games because you know what’s happened? Well, try watching them when you do know what’s gonna happen. Just as boring if you make it that easy to score, but that’s the way the game is now.

I miss watching Devin Hester return kicks and punts. He had the ability to make anything happen, so the anticipation of him returning a kick made a guy stay sitting. Now, the NFL’s changing of rules to force touchbacks and encouraging fewer punt returns has changed the 4th down to a bathroom break. Then when a blue moon shines and a return happens, the referee tosses a yellow flag, brings it back, and deflates the excitement out of the room faster than a sharpened dart to a full balloon.

Speaking of flags…that’s another thing. I semi saw this coming. Every 20 years or so, the NFL feels like it isn’t scoring enough, so they change the rules that handicap defensive players and make scoring easier, particularly through the air.

Before the 1978 passing rules, we had only one man who threw for 4,000 yards in a single season. That was Joe Willie Namath. George Blanda and Y.A. Tittle held the record for most touchdowns passing in a single season with 36.

After the rules passed, Dan Fouts threw for 4,000 yards for three consecutive years (1979-81) and Dan Marino threw for over 5,000 yards and 48 touchdowns in 1983.

The illegal contact rule of 2003 and the cracking down on secondary hits in 2008 has only led to an explosion of scoring. Before 2008, only Marino had ever touched 5,000 yards. Since 2008, there have been eight 5K seasons. Three of them in 2011 alone. Oh, and another seven were less than a hundred yards from joining the club.

As for touchdowns? Well, before 2003, only Marino, who did it twice, and Kurt Warner had ever eclipsed the 40-touchdown mark. Since 2003, six different quarterbacks have done it (Peyton Manning and Aaron Rodgers have done it twice), and there’s been nine more campaigns that have eclipsed the 36-TD mark. Before 2003? Only Brett Favre, Marino, and Warner had ever passed 36 (Favre and Marino twice each).

This isn’t football anymore. It’s a real-life version of NFL Blitz where scoring is all over the place and now the video game embedded with politics, a corrupt commissioner, no special teams, inept defense, and records that don’t mean anything because the game keeps recrafting itself to insure they are broken again and again.

Frankly…it’s not fun to watch anymore. I think coaches would say that if you’re not having fun anymore, then it’s time to quit. So I do.

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