No, I'm not going to lecture you about patriotism. I'm not going to browbeat you about "social justice." It's time to stop watching the NFL for other, better reasons.
Last night, on a Thursday Night game, the Baltimore Ravens shutout the Miami Dolphins, 40-0. This comes a few days after Week Seven, in which there were three shutouts on the same day. I've never seen this in my entire life. The nice thing about the NFL, traditionally, is that it represented the very best players in the game. Thus, even teams that couldn't be considered good could generally compete because the talent level was, roughly, the same. This year, we've seen the usual failure of the Browns to field a decent team, but we've also watched teams normally capable of competing fall well into the gutter, including my hometown Indianapolis Colts (they were shutout this last weekend for the first time since the 1980s, which is amazing, considering early 1990s Colts were amongst the very worst teams ever fielded). This is boring stuff. This is Ohio State vs. Akron-level boring. I expect that sort of nonsense in the early weeks of the college game. Once college teams get into conference play, however, the games become infinitely more competitive and fascinating (for a nice example, catch a replay of last night's Oregon State v. Stanford game).
Bad play is not enough of a reason to stop watching NFL football, however. It has been acknowledged that NFL referees have descended to depths of incompetence astonishing even for...NFL referees. As a Colts fan, I endured many seasons of watching NFL referees decide games against the Colts on blatantly bad calls. In Indy, we recognized this as payback for "stealing" Baltimore's team. The refs were old dogs from the NFL's glory days, the 1960s and 1970s. For an excellent example of what I'm talking about, find a copy of the 1996 contest between the Colts and the hapless San Diego Chargers. You will witness cosmic levels of incompetence as you watch the referees hand the game to the Chargers. Instant Replay was supposed to 'correct' the many mistakes made by the officials. It's done nothing but add to the downtime in the game (which defeats the purpose of putting a ball control offense on the field) and allow referees to make the same bad decision twice.
The real reason, however, NFL football has to go is, of course, the issue of CTE. CTE is not a conspiracy theory. Research the science and you will see it's a legitimate condition and it explains the violent, erratic behavior of football players during and after their careers in the NFL. The unfortunate fact of the matter is: Professional football cannot be played the way it's SUPPOSED to be played AND maintain the safety of the players. People watch professional football to see grown men who have turned themselves into weapons attempt to destroy each other. Yes, it goes back to Rome, and yes, it satisfies some deep, human need to witness brutal violence in a safe environment (safe for the audience, that is). I'm no mamby-pamby "SJW," I'm not here to ruin anyone's good time. The simple fact of the matter is, the human brain cannot be protected in a way that preserves the purity of the sport. I suspect our global, corporate slave masters are aware of this, hence, the obvious push for Americans to suddenly have an urge to watch soccer, the way the rest of the world does. But we can resist this. We have a sport here that's exciting in its own way and, for the most part, doesn't ask its participants to sacrifice their mental health for a paycheck.
That sport is called baseball. We used to call it America's Game. Football took over as our military-industrial complex became our primary export and the need to glorify violence as part of the American character became necessary. But We the People are better than that. Anyone who watched Game 2 of this year's World Series is aware that baseball is capable of providing more breathtaking suspense than even the best football games.
Football is very important to me. When I sobered up in the end of 1996, I had developed an obsession with football that replaced my previous, unhealthy obsessions. It got me through the darkest years of my life. Training myself to stop watching it will be difficult. I cannot, however, in good conscience, derive entertainment watching young men sacrifice their future mental health (current, in some cases), no matter how much they're paid in return for it. It will be just as difficult for the rest of the country to leave the sport. But we don't really have a choice. If we are to become a nation that values humans over profit, we must abandon this barbaric sport.
Alec Cizak is a writer and filmmaker. His work has appeared in several journals and anthologies. His most recent novel, Breaking Glass, is available from ABC Group Documentation. He is the editor of the fiction journal, Pulp Modern.
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