Well it’s almost the end of another professional football season. I always complain about not having enough time to read, write and pursue other hobbies, yet I continue to waste many hours watching professional football. I was able to somewhat reduce my football time this past season because of a rash of terrible match-ups which I had little desire to watch. Another factor that reduced my viewing is simply that the NFL’s cachet has been significantly dimmed and tarnished. Bad publicity from errant players, a general overload of games – Sunday, Monday and now Thursday, hundreds of commercials on telecasts and way too many video replays, have caused ratings to plummet. And in addition, I offer the following additional negatives that have reduced my viewing.
- The NFL has become a cash cow for too many already filthy rich team owners. The league and its owners enjoy sticking it to the taxpayers by financing palatial stadiums through local taxes instead of from their own deep pockets.
- And NFL telecasters Fox, NBC, CBS and ESPN, enough shots of these obscenely wealthy owners and their families, snug in their luxury boxes, rejoicing or commiserating about a score. Enough already – I and millions of other viewers don’t care!
- It’s incompetently run by Roger Goodell, an overpaid, awkward and strikingly unintelligent man who got his start in the NFL not through any particular talent or training but reportedly getting the inside track on the job as longtime commissioner Pete Rozelle’s driver. His uneven application of disciplinary measures in the league are disgraceful, the latest being the “deflategate” affair.
- The NFL refuses to properly acknowledge permanent physical damage to players: a “use and discard” mentality dominates. Its recent settlement with the Players Union is too little too late. And their recent commercials on football safety and concussion research ring empty, dishonest and self serving.
- I detest the distasteful, militarized and Nazi-like ultrapatriotic pre-game nonsense which characterizes the modern day NFL. And can you believe – the US military and taxpayers were paying the NFL for all this hoopla. The same goes for the hollow “salute to service” and “support our troops” month with the camouflage caps, towels and military style jackets and other paraphernalia. This rang especially false during the NFL’s tax-exempt years, only recently ended.
- And, NFL, give me a break and cut out all the pink stuff in the your gaudy and goofy effort to support the fight against breast cancer. Spare us football fans all the pink towels, shoes, gloves, socks, caps and the rest and quietly, unobtrusively and honorably do the right thing and give all the money it costs directly to the fight against breast cancer.
- I detest the female sideline reporters who do little more than interview coaches to obtain profundities like “well, we have to tackle better” or ”we need to put more pressure on the quarterback” and report on injuries, the former totally useless and the latter much more easily and appropriately accomplished by feeding the same information to the play-by-play and color announcers. Their presence is perhaps an attempt to get more women to watch the games, but for every woman that loves Sunday Night Football’s Michele Tafoya, I’ll guarantee that there are a dozen men who can’t stand her and skip over her pointless reports.
- And. NFL, please cease the Roman numeral designation of Super Bowls. It’s terribly confusing, it’s not at all distinctive or majestic and it makes recalling specific games almost impossible. It would make much more sense to aid memory by simply naming the event by the year it was played in common old Hindu-Arabic numerals. But I just saw a reference today to the upcoming 2017 Super Bowl game as “Super Bowl LI”. Give me a break.
But nevertheless and unfortunately, I do still enjoy watching NFL games very much and that pleasure is animated as much by my dislike and disdain for certain teams as my loyal and enthusiastic support of others. Here’s my hierarchy of preferences:
- I am a New England Patriots fan through and through. No matter which team they play, I’m for the Pats.
- Except when they play my other favorite team, the Arizona Cardinals. If they play the Cardinals, I can be totally neutral and sit back and enjoy the game. And I have enjoyed watching the Atlanta Falcons so much this year that I might be somewhat neutral in this year’s upcoming Super Bowl.
- I loath and abhor the Dallas Cowboys. No matter whom they play, I am for the other team.
- I despise the Denver Broncos – whomever they play, I’m for the other team – unless they are playing Dallas. Then I’m a Bronco fan – give me something orange to wave or wear – Go Broncos!
- I also detest the Green Bay Packers. No matter whom they play, I’m for the other team – unless they are playing Dallas or Denver, in which case, I’m for Green Bay. Needless to say, I was thoroughly pleased at the Packers’ playoff win over the Cowboys.
- I also can’t stand the Pittsburgh Steelers. No matter whom they play, I’m for the other team, unless they play Denver, Green Bay or Dallas, in which case, I become a rabid Steelers fan.
- I also dislike the Seattle Seahawks. I always root for them to lose unless they are playing Dallas, Denver, Green Bay or Pittsburgh. I really enjoyed their 2014 Super Bowl demolition of Denver.
- That’s it. I have a strictly neutral opinion of all other teams – unless they are playing New England or Arizona (I’d always favor the Pats or the Cardinals) or if they are playing Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, Pittsburgh or Seattle (in which case I’d always favor the other team).
Why have I developed this complex hierarchy of preferences? I can’t really figure it out. I do have a natural sympathy for the underdog but conveniently discard it where New England is concerned. However, before Bill Belichick became the New England coach, New England was often at the bottom of the heap, plus I lived in the Boston area for 11 years so I must have developed my affection for the team then.
I also used to enjoy watching and cheering for the teams of the upstart American Football League and their exciting wide open offenses and outrageously high scoring games and have usually supported them when they competed against the old NFL teams. I really enjoyed New England (actually the Boston Patriots back then) back in the days of Babe Parilli and Gino Capeletti, the Jets in the days of John Huarte, Joe Namath, and Sherman Plunkett, the Oakland Raiders of Kenny Stabler and Fred Beletnikoff fame, and the San Diego Chargers with their exciting John Hadł and Lance Alworth passing-receiving tandem. I also will never forget the spectacular achievements and amazing longevity of NFL reject George Blanda – quarterback, field goal kicker and general all-round handyman mainly for the Houston Oilers, his scoring records and his phenomenal 26 season career in the NFL and AFLAnd with regard to my avid support of the Arizona Cardinals – this team paid its dues while being on the bottom for a long time, suffering from the parsimony of its owner Bill Bidwill. And I still fondly remember the Cardinals in their St. Louis days, with their nonpareil passing quarterback Jim Hart throwing the ball to Mel Gray and Jackie Smith. Also, I’m a bit of a Redskins fan as well (unless they are playing the Patriots or Cardinals) because of fond memories of some of their notables, like paunchy Sonny Jurgensen, who could sling passes downfield with the best, and more recently the indomitable and durable John Riggins plowing his way downfield shedding defensive linemen.
But why the extreme dislike of Dallas, Denver, Green Bay, Pittsburg and Seattle? With my natural affinity for the underdog, I detested each of these teams during their periods of great success. I hated the Cowboys’ dominance back in the days of coach Tom Landry and quarterback Robert Staubach and “world’s fastest human” pass receiver Bob Hayes. And I disliked them even more for inexplicably being labeled “America’s Team”. Also presently they are owned by the most detestable owner in professional football, Jerry Jones. In the same way, my intense dislike of the Pittsburgh Steelers began back in the “Steel Curtain” days of coach Chuck Noll and the team’s steady and tiresome success. My disdain for the Packers also began growing back in the days of coach Vince Lombardi and his “winning is everything” mentality. I was sorely disappointed by Green Bay’s victories over Oakland and Kansas City in the first AFL vs NFL Super Bowls and was elated at the New York Jets’ triumph over the Baltimore Colts in the third and last of these inter-league Super Bowls. And in the case of Denver, I have a real problem with their hordes of orange-clad, rabid, arrogant and unruly fans. But….I was really happy when the John Elway-led Broncos thrashed the Green Bay Packers for their first Super Bowl win. And of course, the Seattle Seahawks, with their excitable, fidgety, gum-chewing coach and cocky quarterback always standing in the way of my Cardinals, explains their inclusion on my blacklist.
I also was a New York Giants fan way back when I was a teenager, enjoying Y. A. Tittle’s passes to Del Shofner, Frank Gifford’s running and the exploits of the “Roosevelts” Grier and Brown on the defensive and offensive lines. But this lingering affection was eroded by their Super Bowl victory over the much more deserving Buffalo Bills with their great quarterback Jim Kelly and coach Marv Levy, and then totally obliterated by their fluke Super Bowl win over my beloved Arizona Cardinals.
So considering this year’s playoffs, I spent a miserable “wild card” weekend when Green Bay beat the Giants, Seattle won against the Lions, Pittsburgh prevailed over Miami and Houston beat Oakland. But I had a much better playoff weekend the following week when Seattle lost to the Falcons, the Patriots beat Houston, Pittsburgh sadly eliminated Kansas City and (thank God) Green Bay prevailed over the Cowboys.
And of course my championship weekend was ideal with my Patriots rolling over a hapless Steelers team to again become AFC champions and the Atlanta Falcons blowing away the overmatched Green Bay Packers to win the NFC championship. Now all we need is an exciting, competitive and high-scoring 2017 (please not LI!) Super Bowl where the Patriots narrowly win over the Falcons and a shaky, bumbling, and embarrassed Roger Goodell has to present the trophy to his “deflategate” victims Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. But if the Falcons win, they will undoubtedly have deserved it and I’ll be fine with that.
Wait a second…Tom Brady and Donald Trump are friends and call each other? Pats owner Robert Kraft attended Trump’s pre-inauguration dinner….and they call each other too? A Falcons win looks better and better. I think I’ll just sit back, grab another slice of pizza and another cold one, and enjoy the game.