I have been a football fan (short for fanatic) since childhood. I remember watching a Steelers game with my grandfather. At the time, they were the cellar-dwellers in the National Football League. S. O. S. meant the same old Steelers. Then they became a powerhouse. They won 6 championships. That’s more than any other team. My enthusiasm for the NFL was off the charts. But now, not so much.
It has nothing to do with the plight of my favorite team. But the enthusiasm and passion I once had are gone. There are three reasons for this decline.
The first reason is money. The NFL has become a huge business. It is essentially a group of millionaires playing for a group of billionaires. Television money rules the game. The network tells teams when to have delays in the game for commercials.
The owners often times force taxpayers to pay for new stadiums with the threat of moving the team to another city. Players demand huge salaries while the price of tickets locks many out of attending games.
Neither the players or the owners have any real loyalty to the cities or the fans they represent. Players have become spoiled since childhood and now feel entitled.
Part of the decline of the Roman Empire was the fascination with gladiatorial battles. People loved to gather to watch men fight bloody battles ending in serious injury and sometimes, even death. Now people watch a sport that does the same thing.
I know these men have signed up to play in a game that has known, serious, life altering injuries. But they cannot understand the devastation that goes along with multiple concussions and broken backs and knees that will not work. Many former players pay a terrible price for their time in the NFL. It gets harder and harder for me to watch this human car crash dozens of times a game.
Some of the players TRY to inflict debilitating damage on the other players. But even those who stay within the rules are causing great harm to the bodies of their opponents and to themselves.
The game has become too important to too many people. It causes a strain on friendships and even disrupts family relationships. We have lost sight of the fact that it is a game. It is entertainment.
It has taken precedence over more more important activities. One church was having a Sunday night Bible Study. When one member saw that it would be on the first Sunday in February, they expressed anger at the pastor saying, “Are you crazy? That’s the Super Bowl!”
I remember watching a game the Sunday after the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. Someone said, “I hope the Steelers win.” I said, It’s hard to think it matters after this week.”
It is a statistical fact that the night of the Super Bowl has a higher number of calls for domestic abuse than any other night of the year. The rage that is seen in the game carries over into unhealthy reactions for the fans. How can this be? How can some allow this entertainment to have such sway over them?
In the movie Concussion, the actor playing Cyril Wecht says, “You can’t fight the NFL. They own a day of the week. It’s the same day the church used to own.Now the NFL owns it.” That’s not much of an exaggeration. Pro Football now resembles our national religion. Somehow along the way, this “game” has taken a position on our priority lists that is far too high. I know a family that was struggling financially. But they bought tickets to the Super Bowl, paid an inflated price for a hotel, and flew to that city for the week-end. The rationale for this debt-inducing event was, “Hey, it’s the Super Bowl.”
I think it is time to re-evaluate our priorities. It’s time to make the decision that the NFL will not rule our lives. To be honest, I still watch the games and cheer for the home town team. But the passion is gone. It has become for me, entertainment. That is what it was meant to be.