I’ve mentioned a passion for the Green Bay Packers before, going back to 1968. It’s not easy being a Packerbacker in Illinois, but there is an upside. There’s nothing like the satisfaction (and relief) when the Pack beats the Bears, seemingly a regular occurrence. I mention this as a segue to the main topic.
Last Saturday we hosted friends for cocktails and dinner; five couples from our Clifton Central days. Most of us went to school at Central. All our kids went there, many at the same time. We’ve shared so many memorable events going back years.
Naturally, us guys were huddled in one corner, the gals in another. After improper witticisms, unflattering name calling, plus the customary bellyaching by the three farmers concerning the price of corn and beans, our conversation turned to sports. All of us are sports fans and “assistant coaches” when it comes to baseball, football, basketball or hockey. I’m the only Packer fan in the group, although the others wish they were.
Not surprisingly, we’re all of the same mind - none of us have watched an entire sporting event this year, except golf. The reason, put bluntly, we’re disgusted with pro athletes, including NASCAR.
Consider that six life-long middle-aged sports buffs are not watching sports, bizarrely for the first time in decades. Its due entirely to the politicization by young players who have little actual life experience. We have no interest in watching over-paid athletes protest or shun American traditions, nor to slander the nation’s police force.
It should be noted a trained seal can put a ball through a hoop, similar to NBA spokesmen and blowhard, LeBron James, but we don’t have to listen to the seal whine if thrown a fish. Think about the good Mr. James could do if he used his platform to promote peace, instead of further festering the rioting, of which most Americans now associate with the BLM movement. Players like Michael Jordan in basketball or Walter Payton in football, to use Chicago examples, had so much more class and better sense to bite the hand that fed them.
Middle-aged men of all colors who raised families, worked hard all their lives, taken risks, and/or have employed people don’t require life lessons from spoiled youngsters paid to play with a ball. We learned a long time ago if you obey the law, the police normally leave you alone. Comedian Chris Rock produced a video on how not to get your butt kicked by the police.
Some may be thinking, ‘what do I care if six old “rednecks” from central Illinois don’t watch sports?’ Ask yourself how many more of us are out there, also not watching sports? My bet, it’s widespread. We’re not pleased with this anarchy and don’t want it shoved down our throats.
Don’t get us wrong, we feel athletes have every right to protest. We agree and will fight for their right to protest. And if those young, affluent players see an injustice, they should get involved to overcome issues.
However, athletes protesting need to do it on their own time. Protest strongly in fact…when not scheduled to perform in a ballgame that matters to us. The games themselves are on our time - we pay the bloated salaries. We want traditions respected. Stand at attention for the National Anthem and keep mouths shut about grievances while wearing a teams’ uniform.
Or don’t. But we’re not interested in player gripes when we sit down to watch a ballgame. We’re not going to watch hissy fits on television, go to ball parks, or buy jerseys of pampered athletes. We’re also not going to pay attention to the media pandering to the players.
Athletes are probably going to have to learn this lesson the hard way, as baseball did in 1994. Wealth makes young players think they’re overly important. Right now, China’s bug is hiding America’s response, and players feel comfortable since nobody is in the stands. Wait till hardly anybody is still not in the stands after the virus is declared over, somewhere around November 5, and attendance numbers plummet. ESPN rankings have tanked, held up only by baseball. Basketball playoff viewership is down 23% from last year. Combined with no fans in attendance, this number will get the attention of team owners, particularly when they realize there’s a large section of the country that simply lost interest.
At the start of the football season next week, if Packer knees bend to the turf on the sideline, or don’t come out of the locker room for the National Anthem, then the inconceivable happens. It will be painful, but a fifty-two-year love of following the Packers will be disrupted.
I’ve already skipped the Blackhawks season. I’m currently ignoring the Cubs. I pray there’s not a football season without the Packers, but I’m bracing for the inevitable.
Well, there’s always the golf channel.