The worst part about the Colin Kaepernick protest situation isn’t the flagrant hypocrisy, colorism, or the stifling of freedom of speech. It’s something a little more matter of fact. Something that I wasn’t truly aware of until this situation garnered mainstream media attention. Apparently, Colin is not a great football player anymore. Who knew? In 2013, Colin was representing the Nupes well and competing against the Baltimore Ravens in the Super Bowl. In 2016, Colin is representing the Nupes well and competing with J.Cole for the 47th annual Murray’s Pomade Wokest hair award. Now, I’m sure Colin’s play hasn’t been immaculate but there’s no way a man who did this can be one protest away from irrelevancy. But, I don’t blame Colin. I blame the NFL, because it’s trash too, and if it continues on this path, I may have to take a knee.
Cam Newton, in the midst of a masterful heel turn against Black America, leads the Carolina Panthers against boring ass Super Bowl Champion Denver Broncos to kick off the 2016 season tonight and I simply can not will myself to care. I say this with a heavy heart, because there was once a time when Madden graced me with a knowledge so intimate of NFL rosters and playbooks that I couldn’t imagine turning away from my golden colt. But I’m stepping outside the warm comfort of devout adherence and settling into a life as an NFL agnostic. The NFL is like eating crawfish. You have to wade through too many discarded bodies, and maybe a little shit to get to the content.
First, and foremost, the NFL’s inability to take a stance on violence in the game is ruining the league. But it's also stuck between a rock and a hard place. Football itself is a barbaric game that has made an effort to become safer over the years. But the problem isn’t the actual gameplay violence but the cultural violence, the lionization of the league. Football is a gladiator sport, not an actual gladiator competition. It’s only a game, but the culture around the game is imbued with too many grandiose concepts like nationalism, honor, and humility — all fabrications invented to mask the scent of CTE and the ATM Jerry Jones keeps tucked behind his fangs — which are imposed upon the players and fans.
The league's moralism has leaked into policies which have ultimately hurt its product. There aren’t too many ways you can sanction 22 dudes bashing their heads into each other and you don't come across as a hypocrite. Even with multiple suicides and a bad Nigerian accent bringing attention to concussions, I doubt there will be a Netflix doc on how many people have torn their ACLs by just having a fat guy fall on them. Nevertheless, NBC still has the nerve to trot out kind pinto bean Tony Dungy to pull on our heartstrings. Straddling the fence into faux morality degrades the quality of the game and a fan’s ability to remain interested because, in reality, if the players don’t matter to the league, how can there be morality?
Everyone’s heard of the stat about the average length of an NFL career being short. Especially, running backs. But it’s getting worse. The league is getting younger and younger because no one wants to pay veteran contracts. Plus, even the players know that’s it's just not worth it. In recent years all-time greats like Calvin Johnson, Patrick Willis, and Marshawn “Beast Mode” Lynch retired prematurely. An NFL pension must include Atlantic City weekend Suites at the Tropicana and $500 in free slot play in lieu of dental and vision coverage. If the quality players don’t want to stick around why should I? To enjoy players not break records? And not win Superbowls? In addition to the medical discardure of players, these inane moral clauses are enforced poorly as well, which ultimately hurts the players. Josh Gordon and Le’Veon Bell have been suspended longer than I’ve known either of their names or realized why I should care about them.
The media has also alley-ooped the NFL a couple of wadded up tissues to slam into the trash bin. Unlike other major American team sports, the NFL is completely domestic, so there are no foreign leagues to watch, or international competitions, or even amateur competitions like the Drew League to keep your beak wet during the offseason. So we’re forced to neverending media coverage of nothing. When ESPN had a stranglehold on sports fans’ attention through the 2000s it was easier to get actual information through the entertainment because they had you captive like a Virgin America pre flight safety video. Sadly, cable cutting has forced many sports media enterprises into sensationalism but unlike the NBA, NFL offseason drama is nearly entirely about irrelevant basura. Especially basura that pits the player vs the policies of the omniscient and all-powerful shield in some fashion. This “entertainment” choice was born when Terrell Owens did sit ups in driveway during his free agent negotiations, but it’s quickly moved away from anything to do with actual player transactions. From Brett Favre’s dick pics, to Tim Tebow, to Brady and Kaepernick. The NFL offseason story is moving further and further away from the game. Unless it can be swept under the rug, like Ray Rice. If it’s any consolation, the NFL did manage to snag a best miniseries Emmy nom alongside the People vs OJ Simpson when the feds finally caught Teflon Tom with the RICO in the series finale of “Deflategate.”
This accelerated revolving door of players has left me a bit melancholic. The machine is bolder and less concerned about how it’s policies appear. The overall decline in quality has left me with one final option that I’m not sure I’m willing to accept: "Casual fandom" aka "total divestment from actually knowing what you’re talking about" aka "being a Cowboys fan." Ultimately, the NFL wants casual fans more than Drake wants Rihanna's last name. People who don’t know what slant routes are, and will buy $7 nachos instead of jamming little Debbie cakes in their coat pockets because they have “low blood sugar.” People who will cheer for a team just because they’re red or blue because it’s easier replace a template than genuine craftsmanship. But, I’d rather cheer for a bloodsport than half-hearted moralizing masquerading as the true essence of Americana. Save me some flats at the Super Bowl party. I'll be in the back with a Kaepernick jersey.