Sunday, January 23, 2005


Why I'm not watching the NFL playoffs

I realize you don't really are about this. I have a hunch that most of you aren't sports fans, and the few that are, well you're watching the NFL playoffs. But I used to love watching football, and today I couldn't even tell you who's playing. Shouldn't the marketing people want to know how they lost me?

1. Traditionalism. One of the things that hooks sports fans from year to year is the sense of tradition and continuity -- the feeling that you can make comparisons across time, and that you're witnessing an unfolding story. The NFL is insufficiently traditional about things that I think matter -- team locations and divisional alignments -- and anal retentive about traditions that are silly (using roman numerals to humber Super Bowls). The NFL has been too lax about franchise moves (compared to baseball). I hate that storied franchises like the Cleveland Browns and the Baltimore Colts changed cities. Who gets to put Jim Brown in their museum -- the new Cleveland Browns, or the Baltimore Ravens? And is Johnny Unitas part of the Indianapolis Colts lore? And of course, divisional realignment every few years makes your head spin.

2. Owners. I've always said, you know you're in trouble as a fan if you know the name of the team owner. Obnoxious team owners are a problem in every sport, but somehow in football it seems worse. Maybe it's just because my favorite team has traditionally been the Washington Redskins. It's particularly revolting when the TV cameras and sportscasters lavish attention on the owners. Who cares how the owner feels about the QBs third interception of the game?

3. Violence. Football has always been a violent game, but after Rob Huizenga's book about NFL injuries, and some follow-up news reports about how common it was for football players to be crippled for life and how much shorter their life expectancies are than average, I started to feel like I was watching gladiatorial blood sports. Throw in steroids, and think about how much bigger today's players are than they were 40 or even 20 years ago. Took some of the joy out of it for me. The physical maltreatment of football players is a scandal, but the story did not have legs and is forgotten in an orgy of cognitive dissonance, kind of like Bush administration scandals.

4. Production values. I never got over when the networks switched their musical broadcast themes away from military marching band music to whatever syntho-pop crap they have used since the beginning of Monday night football. So maybe that's traditionalism run amok. But you have to admit that the games are packaged like a cross between a cheesy Vegas stage show and a commercial for a mid-1990s Play Station action game. And there are so many commercials!

5. Irritating color commentators. I think John Madden is (or at least was, in his day) arguably the best color commentator on television, in any sport (my other nominee is baseball's Tim McCarver). What I hate is that every retired player who goes to broadcasting school is apparently taught to do a bad Madden impersonation -- high-pitched, amped up voice, and that trademark cutting short his own sentences with a muted gasp, as if they're all suffering from shortness of breath.

6. Playoff structure. Now that they have four divisions, they should get rid of the wild card teams. You now have a pair of neat 4-team tournaments, just like you did after the original NFL-AFL merger. Wild card slots make winning the division -- and thereby, intradivision rivalries -- less meaningful, and make it more likely that wild card teams with 8-8 records will qualify for the playoffs. Under the current alignment, the wild card system necessitates the first round playoff bye, which was always at best a necessary evil. The main virtue of a wild card team is either to keep more teams in the running until the last day, but with four divisions in each league, there will be enough of that.

7. No team I like is in it. I root for the Redskins and the Green Bay Packers these days. Neither of them is in it. Still, I often watch baseball playoffs when my team isn't in it.

8. Life is too short to spend at least three prime weekend hours vegging in front of the TV. Go out and do something!

Comments: Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]