Trouble in Footballism- The Progressive- 2/1/14

Full disclosure: I come from a football family. My dad was able to afford college thanks to a full football scholarship.
There my mild-mannered father was known as “Stone-Crusher.” My two older brothers played football from Pop Warner to many a high school Friday Night Lights.
During the O. J. Simpson saga, I lost all interest in professional football. In a connubial irony, my otherwise peaceable partner is a rabid, fact-filled, full-throated, foul-mouthed football fanatic. I always hope the children across the hall are not waiting for the elevator outside our door after a blown coverage. Meanwhile, I do the Sunday crossword puzzle, or write this column.
It has not been a good decade in Footballistan. More sports writers are revealing the plantation mentality of college sports, the exploitation of young players, the TV deal-making, the NCAA company towns. (On Saturday game day in Aggieland, 180,000 Texas A&M fans funnel into Kyle Stadium with its new 3,954 square foot jumbo screen, while the rest of College Station has an all day tailgate party, and a cloud of barbecue smog triggers air quality alerts.)
Just as the suspension ended for the New Orleans Saints’ coach who paid bounties to his players for injuring other players came news of the bullying of the Miami Dolphins’ Jonathan Martin by Richie Incognito. The man-splaining justifications of the football mindset reached new lows. Five former players from the Kansas City Chiefs sued the NFL for not fully informing them of the dangers of head injuries. Manslaughter, domestic violence, racist team names, and head-injury-induced suicide stories regularly jump the sports section into the main news.
Yet six to ten million people watch football religiously every Sunday. Still unsatisfied, the NFL has begun vigorously marketing pro football internationally. It may be a tough sell. On average, the football is in play for only thirteen minutes of an entire three-hour game, while futbol fans can watch ninety minutes of the soccer ball in play complete with fabulous footwork, passing, and lithe athleticism.
The pace of the American game, with its team, commercial, referee and injury time outs, is not helped by the inanity of all the ex-coach, ex-player commentators.
“The team with the most points will win this one.” That’s right, Dan.
“They have got to catch the ball.” Duh.
“Euw, that’s got to hurt. Let’s see it again.” Oh for God’s sake! Mute!
That’s me, the foul-mouthed Mystery Football Theater silhouette commenting from the couch.
To retain wavering fans like my dear partner, who is questioning her own continued complicity in football’s mayhem, the NFL now offers the Red Zone. The commercial-free channel is like crack. Fans gladly pay for seven dizzying hours of whip-around coverage of as many as eight simultaneously played games, and rewinds of key plays in the Red Zone, that area from the twenty yard line to the goal line. The team colors shift kaleidoscopically as the split-screen two-minute warning insanity is calmly hosted by Scott Hanson, who gives new meaning to sangfroid. You’d want him as your air traffic controller at O’Hare on a blustery day before Thanksgiving.
The Super Bowl High Holidays approach. New York City will host. The Giants and the Jets have sent RSVPs that they will not attend.
I’m in charge of party snacks and chili.
After, the dear partner will sink into a few weeks of restless depression. I will not notice. I will be getting my Syracuse University Orange on for the annual heartbreak of March Madness. u

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