Hello, friends and foes. I guess we’re back and stuff. I guess that’s good. I guess I’ll write something.
I’ve long been a proponent of the NFL. Huge fan. Football’s probably my favorite sport to watch, at least if my favorite baseball team isn’t involved. The quality of play in the NFL is superior to college in just about every way. If I’m watching top teams in the NFL play, I actually get to see quarterbacks who can complete passes more than 10 yards down the field and defensive backs who know how to tackle. The NFL doesn’t have any of this Ricky Stanzi chuck and duck offense, and NFL teams that aren’t the Bills don’t play that Oregon-style bullfighter defense.
All that said, I’m becoming more and more detached from the NFL, to the point where I’m almost indifferent to the entire league and can’t be bothered to follow the majority of games. I know this puts me in the minority of breathing American humans, considering the Jags-Titans shitfest on Monday night outdrew a fucking ALCS game involving Cliff Lee and the New York Yankees, but hey, them’s the breaks.
And just so we’re clear: yes, the Bills sucking for the past decade and continuing to suck in the present and foreseeable future doesn’t help, but Buffalo’s failures haven’t deterred my NFL love before. I used to watch just about every NFL game shown on television and follow the rest online while they were being played. I’d go to a bar just about every Sunday and sit there most of the day. I’d read just about everything I could find on the NFL. I was as big of an NFL super-nerd that existed. Now, I may have the game on at my house, but I typically mute the television and find other stuff to do.
Why am I starting to not care about the NFL now? Let’s count the reasons.
Not Acceptable: “Oversaturation”
I’ve heard the argument made that the NFL is no longer interesting due to the excessive amount of media coverage. This is bullshit. Do you not like hearing Trent Dilfer and Mark Schlereth argue about who will win the #6 seed in the AFC? Then don’t watch Sportscenter or NFL Live. Both shows blow. There. Problem solved.
Acceptable: Attending NFL Games Sucks
This doesn’t go towards my lack of interest in watching a game on television, but it needs to be said: attending an NFL game is a waste of fucking time and money. I’m going to three games in three different stadiums this year. I’ve already gone to a game in Lambeau. Lambeau is supposed to be the best NFL stadium to watch a game. Lambeau, like just about every other NFL stadium, can’t even compare to any big college stadium. The place is a fucking church 90% of the game. I was thoroughly unimpressed, and not just because of the goddamn Packer fans.
By and large, the stadiums are sterile monoliths and have the ambiance of a library. The seats are so far back from the field, unlike top college stadiums where the fans are on top of the players. The 19,531 commercial breaks during a game are fucking INFURIATING when you’re actually attending and have to wait 3 minutes in between a touchdown and kickoff, then another 3 minutes after the kickoff for the offense to take the field, and all you get to do is watch a gaga of shitty commercials on the jumbotron and check your phone for fantasy football updates and anger-inducing facebook notifications about some dickbag you went to high school with asking you to be a fan of his favorite local clothing company.
Right now, for the low, low price of a $75 ticket and $20 in parking and whatever you want to pay to stuff your face at the stadium, you get to sit in a shitty atmosphere, on the top of a fucking mountain, wait through a gadzillion mind-numbing commercial breaks, and ultimately watch a game that’s bound to disappoint you. Thanks, but I’ll spend my money elsewhere.
Acceptable: The NFL’s TV Coverage Sucks
Hey, speaking of interminable commercial breaks, you know what else sucks? The NFL’s television coverage. The announcers aren't the biggest problem, because other sports have their share of shitty announcers too (looking at you, Tim McCarver!). What sucks is the number of games shown and the access to the actual good games that most people want to watch.
Like you, I typically get five games a week (Washington at Chicago this week! My lucky day!) Most of the weekend, one game is on television at a time, meaning if that game sucks, I’m shit out of luck. And thanks to the NFL’s regional coverage, I’m bound to get at least one game involving the Bears or Lions, which, as you might expect, will both suck and blow. Over half the time, if the best game of the week isn’t a Sunday night or Monday night game, I don’t get to see it, unless I want to go to a bar or stream the game online through a shitty internet connection, which I sometimes do, or pay hundreds of dollars for Directv and NFL Sunday Ticket, which I most certainly don’t ever do.
Compare this with college football, where I can usually watch over 15 different games in a given week, and at least a few of them will involve the top teams playing. Look at this weekend: college football’s powerbrokers and television executives shift games in order to ensure that LSU-Auburn and Oklahoma-Missouri, the two best games of the week, are on national television. Will those games be good? I don’t know. But I do know that I’m excited for them, and that if they suck, I can always switch over to the three or four other games playing at the same time and watch one of those games instead. And the more games available, the greater the chance I have to watch an entertaining game. This is a good thing. If college football adopted the NFL’s television policy, I’d probably be stuck every week watching the Gophers and one other Big 10 game while hoping to get regional coverage of an SEC showdown every other week. And then I'd hate college football television coverage too.
Not Acceptable: Poor Quarterback Play
Guess what? The NFL has always had a handful of shitty quarterbacks, like Ryan Fitzawesome and Matt Moore and whoever is starting for the Jags or Raiders now. You don’t like watching shitty QB play? Then don’t watch those games. This is easier said than done, thanks to the NFL’s television coverage policy, but it’s doable.
Acceptable: The NFL Treats Their Players Like Shit
This will make me sound like some douchewad who shops at Whole Foods, but I'm really, actually bothered by the NFL’s concussion policy. Yeah, heir Goodell unleashed a new disciplinary policy this week, their new policy on “dangerous hits” is just as vague as their old one and ultimately will probably won’t do much good. I understand that’s legislating kill shots out of the game is difficult, and that too much legislation will ultimately take away from the play on the field. But that doesn’t mean the NFL should follow Matt fucking Millen’s sage advice and just ignore the danger.
I’m bothered by the idea that these guys on the field now will, in 20 years, be a drooling mess who can’t remember the names of their kids. Broken arms and legs happen. Torn knee ligaments happens. That stuff sucks, but, to me, that’s part of the game and not nearly the same as a brain injury, and those non-brain injuries are more of an acceptable risk. People can get by having to forego golf and other leisure activities later in life. That happens, and that's an acceptable risk for being paid hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars to play football. Brain injuries are an entirely different matter. You can’t function without a brain, champ, unless you’re coaching LSU.
I understand the “players assume the risk and are partially compensated for the risk” argument, but there aren’t guaranteed contracts in the NFL, so let’s not go too far in saying that players are fully compensated for the risks they’re taking. I honestly don’t know the solution to this problem, outside of what is probably an impractical “better helmets that completely prevent concussions” suggestion that will come along as soon as time travel arrives. I just know that it’s an issue that makes me uncomfortable when I’m watching a game and see DeSean Jackson look like he’s dead on the field.
And this is before getting the lack of guaranteed contracts, the lack of benefits for retired players, and the No Fun League ban on celebrations and any pieces of flair on uniforms.
Not Acceptable: The NFL Is Full Of Thugs And Criminals
Oh, you mean black people? That’s what you really mean when you say thugs, right? BE HONEST, BARSTOOL SPORTS WRITER.
Guess what: every sports league has players who skirt the laws of our nation for their personal enjoyment. What’s that? The legal indiscretions of athletes turns you off to all sports? Well, good for you. All of the other entertainment industries are so clean and full of upstanding, law-abiding citizens that I can’t blame you.
Acceptable: The Game Is Stale
A large part of why I enjoy college football is the variation in styles of play. I can go from watching Denard Robinson and Taylor Martinez run all over opposing defenses in one game, then switch over to watching Kellen Moore throw all over opposing defenses the next game, then switch to watching Alabama pound their opponent into submission the next game, then cap it all off by watching Florida execute their midget-trying-to-hump-a-doorknob offense in the nightcap. There’s a wide range of offensive styles in college football. Bored with watching a ground and pound game? Watch Oregon. Bored with watching Jacory Harris throw deep and into triple coverage every other play? Watch Cam Newton’s parade of all-around excellence.
In the NFL, every team essentially runs the same type of offense. There's very little innovation. Teams can switch coordinators, but you know what you’re getting: QB under center on the early downs, some running with zone concepts, maybe some West Coast concepts on certain teams, and then shotgun on third down with largely the same route combinations. Sure, there’s a bit of variation in there – Peyton Manning runs a different offense than Ben Roethlisberger – but the variation is slim. Offensive gameplans are essentially the same low risk/low reward proposition across the board. They keep coaches employed, but there’s no fun to them. And that’s on the good teams, of which there are maybe 10 in any given year. Try sitting through a Bills-Bears game when that comes on your regional coverage. You’ll be slowly sticking your face through a sheet of glass by the second quarter.
This isn’t to say that I’m completely abandoning the NFL. I’m not. But the NFL is quickly becoming whocaresville outside of the playoffs, just like the NBA. Still, I’m also not throwing myself head-first into college football, because the BCS continually fucks up just about everything related to college football for me. At least, everything that’s not the seedy underbelly of recruiting, grayshirting, or basically anything that Nick Saban and Lane Kiffin are responsible for. Oh, and any sport where a genius like Les Miles can inevitably win another national championship with a recipe of 3 CUPS BALLS + ½ TABLESPOON FUCK IT + 2 QUARTS FREAKISH ATHLETES ON DEFENSE + DASH OF TURMERIC + ONE WHOLE PATRICK PETERSEN is not really for me, even if it is entertaining to watch.
Anyway, back on point: any championship system telling a team that if they go undefeated they still have no shot at a championship is so beyond fucked that it’s probably not even worth following closely unless my favorite team is involved in the championship race. If you were starting a sports league from scratch, in what world would you design a championship the way the BCS is designed? You’d have a playoff system in your fictional sports league, as any rational person would.
If Oregon, Auburn, and Oklahoma all finish the year undefeated and one of them is denied a chance to play for the National Title, as I hope happens, maybe the BCS will finally die, as it should have years ago, because it’s ridiculously unjust to tell any of those three teams they didn’t do enough to get to the title game when they play in a major conference and beat everyone on their entire schedule (Boise St. can go fuck themselves. They play three games a year against legitimate opponents, and this year one of those legitimate opponents is 3-3 and the other lost to James Madison). See: video below for comical perspective.
When the BCS finally dies and college football moves to a reasonable playoff system involving 8 or 16 teams, I’ll probably wean myself off from the NFL outside of fantasy football and the playoffs. So for me, the NFL’s on the clock to fix the problems with their game. By 2045, when the NCAA finally implements a sensible playoff system, I’ll finally be able to follow a sport that I fully care about again.