Uh oh—look who woke up in my place today: Mr. Crankypants. Not good! And now that Mr. Crankypants is into his second cuppa, he’s feeling the need to do a little spleen venting. Maybe it’s the rain that has me all agitated—we’ve been getting pounded out here on the left coast for days now (we need it; it ain’t the rain). Or maybe it’s the fact that Mr. Crankypants came into this past weekend all fired up to watch the first round of the NFL playoffs…and was promptly rewarded with four—count ‘em—blow outs. Seriously, the average margin of victory this past weekend was over 16 points. Only one game had any degree of competition, and that was blown up at the end of the first half when Aaron Rodgers pulled another rabbit and heaved his now trademark bomb to the endzone which of course was caught by his teammate. Nice of you to bother to come out for the second half, New York. Though, the point tally being 24-7 in favor of Green Bay that half, you really didn’t even do that.
Yep, Mr. Crankypants ain’t happy with the NFL and he’s going to take some time this morning to let you know about it. The NFL. America’s sport. Most watched sport in the land. Our national religion. God, I hate the NFL!
Not that I hate the sport, mind you. I love the sport. Its technicality, its strategies, the almost ballet quality of the more beautiful moves of its players, the awesomeness of its physicality. Who doesn’t love football? Football is GREAT! The NFL, however, is a fucking tragedy. Where do I begin?
What a dumb question, since the answer is obviously the owners’ boxes. Does a cabal of greedier bastards exist in America, I ask you. They basically hold hostage any community in which they deign to place their teams (and of course are not reluctant one iota to threaten to or in fact move the team to the next woe begotten town if their insatiable appetite for MORE MONEY isn’t fed, and by the truckload). They demand that the stadium be paid for by you and I, but that practically every penny of profit sucked from the pockets of the schmucks there in attendance goes into their pockets. Not a good enough stadium (read, not the right kind of amenities to wrest maximum dollars)? They throw a tantrum and demand we build them a new one or they’re going to take their ball and go home (to some new home up the road, of course).
I remember when Daniel Snyder bought the Washington Redskins and one of his first moves was to begin charging people to attend their preseason practices. For many fans this is their only chance to get anywhere near up close to the players they adore; for some, who can’t afford ticket prices, it’s the only chance to see their heroes in person at all. Such an epic tool move, and now it’s pretty much standard practice across the teams. Nothing pleases me more than the fact that the Redskins have come nowhere near the Super Bowl under Snyder’s reign, going on 17 years now.
The cost of tickets to games, that they make you pay for the disgustingly inferior product of preseason games (they make you pay for these, if you’re a season ticket holder), the prices charged for anything purchased at the stadium—it’s all just unbridled greed. And you can’t tell me every owner is passionately devoted to winning. The Browns, the Jets, the Dolphins, the Chargers, the Rams—these programs suck and have sucked for years now. I doubt their ownership really cares, however, since the coins they keep a’rollin’ in.
The whole coverup thing about the long term implications of concussions pretty much put the NFL owners in the same moral boat as the tobacco company owners. And they got off with a hand slap.
Perhaps the most disgusting annual display of their greed is their much vaunted nod to breast cancer awareness. Suddenly everyone—players, coaches—is decked out in a pink version of their uniforms and hats, all of which can be purchased, of course, by you, sympathetic fan, the proceeds going to breast cancer research, right? Well, sort of right, as in 10% right. That’s how much of the profit from all of that shit actually goes to breast cancer research—10%. The rest? Little Johnny Owner, Jr. gets another pony, I suppose. Ten…flipping…percent.
And did you know that in many instances our patriotic owners charge the US military for the privilege of having their color guards out there on the field? Have you no sense of decency, sirs….
Oh, and if enough of you don’t show up to the stadium to buy $9 beers? I’m not going to let anyone in the community watch the game on tv. What, do you people think the Lear jet is just going to grow its own new throw pillows??
As for the players…
When was the last time you congratulated yourself with an ostentatious dance for getting a report in on time, or teaching a good class, or performing a successful knee surgery? In the NFL, players stop time to self-aggrandize pretty much after any and everything they do (all of which amounts, if I’m not mistaken, to them doing their damn jobs). Score a touchdown, of course, but now it’s get a first down (dance: check), catch a pass (check), tackle a guy (check). How long can it be before they start pointing at their name on the backs of their jerseys for having successfully put their helmets on? There’s just no humility in the sport anymore, and precious little sense for how utterly team it was that you were even able to catch the pass in the end zone. Anytime a receiver runs away from his teammates, the better to be free standing when he moon walks for the cameras, I want one of his players (preferably a lineman) to just cross block his ass into the stands.
And here’s to offensive linemen, the true gentlemen of the game. They have to have the worst—and, after the quarterback, most important—job on the field, they have the shortest careers in the game (meaning they get physically destroyed all the time), and all’s they do is show up and put themselves through the weekly meat grinder, week after week. None of my complaints pertain to offensive linemen.
As for the state of the game…
As much as there very much is something deeply, primitively satisfying about the brutality in football, the tragic truth is, in no other sport can you flat out count on the quality of the game declining steadily over the season, as player after player gets hurt. I know there’s not a lot that can be done about this, given the ridiculous size, shape and speed of these guys anymore, but it does make for an increasingly dissatisfying fan experience at the exact time you would expect to see the BEST performances. The Oakland Raiders are exhibit A of this this season. They were an awesome team, very much a Super Bowl contender—until David Carr, their quarterback, broke his fibula in the final (inconsequential) game of the season, that is. One and done in the playoffs.
Altogether, I think the NFL sucks for how utterly quarterback dependent the quality of their sport is. Baseball may come in a close second in this regard where pitching is concerned. But in the NFL, if you don’t have a good quarterback, you absolutely need a defense of the century to stay anywhere near contention (though when that happens—the Ravens in ’01, Denver last year—it is a treat to watch). And the sad truth is there are just not that many great quarterbacks out there.
I’ll stop there, though the list can go on and on (off field behavior, Roger Goodell, shitty refereeing, Thursday Night Football, lack of black coaches, etc). And I know I’m just bitching into a wind tunnel here—the romance of football will always be there, the pull of Fantasy Football having drawn fans that much further into the game. We’re just being hoodwinked out the wazoo given the dreary state of the modern NFL, y’ask me.
Then again, we Americans seem pretty open to a good hoodwinking these days.