I used to live for NFL games on Sunday. For most of the past forty years, it has been part of my very soul. If the Green Bay Packers were playing football, the family knew not to include me in anything but watching or listening to the game. I scheduled trips around the Pack.
I spent most of every Sunday watching football. The perfect Sunday was a Packer win combined with a Bear loss. Ideally, I would get to watch both games The dopamine rush was exquisite, and made Monday at work blissfully quiet. It's happened a lot in the past twenty-plus years. Packers have been fortunate with their QB picks.
Then the kneeling started, which upset me to the point of not watching many games, with the exception of the Packers. They didn't kneel. I found more to do with my time. If my schedule doesn't now permit, I record the Green Bay game and watch later, zipping through commercials.
I suppose some of my decreasing enthusiasm could be linked to the Packers wasting yet another #@&* year of the career of arguably the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Coach Mike McCarthy seems to be doing a masterful job of ensuring he's going to be coaching a different team next year, more than likely the Cleveland Browns, which will prove karma exists.
And some of my apathy comes from the Chicago Bears actually having a decent team this year. Despite a schedule that might include playing a Division III college team, they are winning for a change and most of Bear-nation is lining up for Super Bowl tickets. Is there anything more insufferable than a Bears fan during a rare winning season? It won't be long now and I expect the Super Bowl shuffle will be brought out of hibernation.
But there is more to it than that. I'm tired of "hot-dog-players," down by 24 points late in a game, making a tackle and doing a silly dance over the player he just knocked down. Or the constant pushing and shoving after most plays, mindful of school girls on a playground. After a play this year, one Packer defender slapped - open handed - an opposing player...on the face mask. Made about as much sense as pounding a fist into a brick wall. Not only was he ejected, it cost the Packers a major penalty. It was a juvenile act. The Packers did have the sense to cut the player from the team.
I despise the choreographed touchdown dances... well, except for the Lambeau Leap. You have to admit - it's cool. But, I long for the days of the great Walter Payton, who handed the ball to the referee after he scored. When Walter got tackled, he got up first, no matter how hard he got hit, and helped his tackler up. The man had more class in his little finger than 90% of the hot dogs playing today. And I don't go for that "youthful exuberance" excuse either - it's spoiled athletes.
My late father bemoaned the money in football going all the way back to the 80's when he stopped watching the game. It took awhile but I have realized he was right. The amount of money the owners and players make have crowded out the guy wanting to take his family to a game. (The drunks don't help the game much either for the family man, but that is a rant for another day.) Not only do they empty your wallet should you go to a game, in some cities they get you, even if you hate professional sports, by taxing you for the arena the game is played in.
My favorite player is probably Aaron Rogers. He was just awarded a contract for $134 million over four years. That includes the $55.5 million he received up front. Folks, that is $2.1 million per game. Nobody is worth that, and that kind of money is driving the average fan out of the arena he probably helped to pay for.
And finally, the referees are killing the game. Penalties are up year after year. The NFL toughened up the roughing-the-passer penalty this year, now on track to nearly double from last year. There is no reason any longer to have a kicking or punting game as there seemingly is a flag every time a toe touches a ball. Some referees' names are more well known than offensive linemen who have played for ten to fifteen years. Let the prima-dona's play!
Perhaps a microcosm of our nation, America's game is being ruined. And there seemingly is no way to put the genie back in the bottle.
To quote the late BB King, "...the thrill is gone."