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The Year the NFL Became Unwatchable

I wanted to write this post a few weeks ago, saying how this was the year I'd stop watching football. But I knew that deep down, I'd want to check out opening weekend, at least to see if my team was even going to be worth watching.

And then a football player hit a woman and it was on camera and it was a big deal. 

Add that to the fact that this is a league whose players - workers - retire with debilitating mental and physical injuries with very little compensation or care. 

And that this sport's violence reverberate throughout society.

Even in a year where the first openly gay player was drafted, the league still seems to be anti-gay.

Oh, and the "company" is a nonprofit entity that usually makes bad deals with cities and skirts taxes oh so cleverly. 

With so much violence, negligence, anger, phobia, and ruthlessness, why watch? Why support? Why give money and attention to something so unworthy of either?

The NFL has become large, taking over as America's pastime, whether that's an official nickname or not. It's hard to ignore. The company puts a great product out there, trying to attract attention and dollars with the best of them. 

But I can't watch it anymore. I can't watch something whose players are disciplined only when there's video tape. I can't watch something that neglects people who serve in its trenches with no safety net once they're done while teasing college players that if they're good (and incredibly lucky), they, too, can be millionaires. 

When I was dating my wife, she read a book, The Stronger Women Get, the More Men Love Football. This was more than a decade ago, and I'm sure the eye-opening stats are only stronger. Still, I wasn't deterred. After all, my Titans were really good back then.

I'll miss it, for sure. But I'll get 20+ Sunday afternoons back, parts of the week that I don't have to plan around, plunked in front of a TV while I ignore what else is going on. Fewer commercials that perpetuate a multitude of stereotypes. 

Then, I'm reminded (courtesy of Lena Dunham), that there really isn't all that much to miss:

I'm sure the NFL won't miss me. In a few week's time, there will be another scandal, not just for the NFL, but for our collective attention. The game will march on and probably not be any worse for wear.

And if the NFL were to disappear, domestic violence doesn't go away overnight. Neither does homophobia, workers' rights, or any of the other blights on this gridiron landscape. But at least we don't have one of our most viewed and funded institutions continuing to pile negatives upon negatives. 

Enough is enough. It's unwatchable. When I became a dad, I could no longer stomach scenes in movies or news reports where a child is harmed. I'd changed and needed to make a change because of it. So it goes with football.

I'm at a place in my life where time seems more precious than ever, and where what we trade our time for seems to say so much about our values. So why spend it this way?

Just so that the end of a season, I've watched copious amounts of football provided to me by a brand that seems to get it wrong on so many things? There's nothing for me to do here but to hang it up and walk off the field, spending time, money, passion, and attention on things that give life rather than warp it and provide support rather than dodge it. 

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