Tomorrow, the National Football League season starts with a rematch of last year’s Super Bowl between the Carolina Panthers and the defending champion Denver Broncos. Much of the sports world will be watching this game, but not me. I have reservations to a restaurant that does not have a television and will be spending that evening with my wife, talking about anything else but the NFL.
I stopped watching the NFL last year. I’m not officially boycotting the sport, just not going out of my way to watch or participate in any pro football activities.
Last year, one 49ers blogger wrote a farewell letter on the community website, which you can read here. Instead of comment publicly, I wrote him the following email:
Re: Wes bids farewell to NN (Niners Nation)
My name is Jeff, and I read you final post on Niner’s Nation. I’ve had a couple of days to sit on it and decided to reach out to you personally instead of posting a public comment.
Here’s my quick bio: I grew up in the SF Bay Area and lived through all the Super Bowl years – I was a college freshman when they won in 1995. Since then, I followed the Niners and the NFL very closely in my adult years, including over a decade of fantasy football.
But ever since the topics of concussions and CTE in football started to surface in the media, I started to sour on American football in general, both professional and college. As more information starts to come out about the effect of head trauma in current and former players, I’ve decided to stop following the NFL so closely. I’ve stopped playing fantasy football, I’ve stopped going out of my way to watch football games, and do not spend very much money on NFL-related products or services. In all good conscience, I cannot indulge in such a brutal sport.
(For full disclosure, I am also a lifelong San Francisco Giants fan, having season tickets from 1998-2005. But when Barry Bonds was tied to BALCO and PEDs, I got rid of all my Bonds clothing and souvenirs. Even though many other baseball players took (and still take) PEDs, I can’t root for Bonds or what he stood for in light of all the evidence against him).
In your last NN post, you mentioned studying Greek military history and mentioned the “Shield.” When you first referred to that, I thought you were going to mention the fact that ancient soldiers were often carried off the battlefield on their shields when they died. It is my belief that given the state of the NFL as well as the improving quality of nutrition, medicine and (allegedly) improved PED use, there will be a time when an NFL player will die due to injuries sustained on the field of play. It has already happened on the amateur level, and I can foresee this happening at the pro level. Players are getting bigger, stronger and faster at a greater rate that the rules and equipment can protect players. As far as we can see, the NFL does not seem to care about its players, past or present. As long as the public continues to hand over it’s hard earned cash to the NFL, they have no reason to make any changes.
The only way the NFL will change its ways is if the US Government intervenes. Unfortunately, the only way that occurs is if the worst happens, as our government is very poor at being proactive in any situation.
I am also disgusted by the increasing number of off-field incidents that are occurring. While all sports have their “bad guys,” it seems like NFL players are more likely to commit violent crimes than other athletes. I know this is a question that goes beyond just the sport of football, but the way our culture seems to dismiss this behavior for elite athletes is also abhorrent.
Wes, I applaud you for your stance, even though it is an unpopular one. I am in a similar place, where I detest the NFL and what it stands for, but can’t completely get away from it. I still watch 49ers and Raiders games, still talk about it with my friends, still read up about the NFL on all the sports websites. I am not attending games (have you seen the prices of tickets to Levi Stadium?!?), nor am I spending money to watch games (not getting Sunday Ticket or Red Zone).
Anyway, I hope you find encouragement in this note. Feel free to respond if you have the time. I enjoy talking about the deeper side of sports.
Wes was kind enough to send me a reply, which I will respectfully keep private. But as of today, he has not written any new posts on Niners Nation since his goodbye, so my assumption is that he has not returned to his previous level of fandom.
In years past, I used to love the NFL, having chosen it over family in my youth. I often hosted Super Bowl parties, and spent several fall seasons playing fantasy football. But today, I pay more attention to the baseball playoffs and off-season from September through January, as well as follow NBA basketball more closely. I did make an exception for the Super Bowl, which was held in the San Francisco Bay Area last February. I attended Super Bowl City for one day, just to see what all the fuss was about. One day was enough, though. I soon retreated home, leaving the crowds behind.
I didn’t miss the NFL that much last year. I watched bits and pieces of a few games, either at a sports bar or a friend’s house. But I didn’t watch games at home, and I don’t imagine doing so this year, either. I doubt the NFL will do much in the future to protect it’s players, not with the money pouring in like Niagara Falls. I won’t miss the NFL, and it won’t miss me, either.