Imbolc Imbolc Moon
So the Eagles won. My disassociation from the NFL is almost complete though the Vikes sudden run through the playoffs had me reading the sports pages. No, I’ve not gone off football because of player’s kneeling. Hardly. It would be a reason to watch for me. At least the moments before the kickoff. No, I’ve not gone off football because it’s violent with one caveat which I’ll mention in a moment.
No, though it would be understandable, I’ve not gone off football due to 40 years of frustration with the Minnesota Vikings. I remember the guy who died with the long beard. He said he wouldn’t cut his beard until the Vikings won a Superbowl. It would still be growing.
The real reason I got off football was the expense of cable T.V. We cut the cord in 2012 and along with it broadcast television stations. That meant it was no longer possible to turn on the TV, flop down on the couch with a bowl of chips, and give away two to three hours of my life to silly commercials and over analyzed plays.
Moving to Colorado two years later reinforced the effect. Bronco’s territory. The Bronco’s fan is similar in nature to the Packer fan. Lots of Broncos on rear windshields. Bronco flags. Bronco billboards. Just too damned serious for me. Not to mention that the Broncos were not the Vikings. No 40 years of memories. Yes, frustrating memories, but still.
I’ve had flirtations with returning. Kate and I went to the Brook Forest Inn a couple of years ago to watch the Vikes and the Broncos play. My inner purple and gold cheerleader still got me out of my seat from time to time. Yes, the fan lives inside me.
But. Back to that caveat about violence. Like a lot of guys and not a few women I enjoyed seeing muscular titans crashing into each other, moving each other around, a primal dance reminding us of our origins as a species often at war with itself. Yes, in a mild way, gladitorial. However. When the first news about chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE came out, I winced. Yes, big chess pieces throwing themselves around in organized, balletic ways entertained me. But at the cost of player’s cognitive capacity?
The average football player lasts only 3.3 to 6 years in the NFL. Of course, that’s after a long period of apprenticeship in Pop Warner leagues, high school and college, an apprenticeship where the collisions keep on coming. And even for those whose career lasts 10-12 years, those whose skills allow them to start regularly for five seasons will tend to play this long, by the late 30s everybody’s career is over. Yes, Favre and Brady, but exceptions at the most protected position.
So cutting the cord made watching football more difficult. Moving to Colorado reduced the place-based loyalty I had. CTE made me think about my eagerness to watch, to cheer, to sit through the commercials and replays because that eagerness meant lending my eyeballs to the statistics that made advertising such a lucrative source of income for the NFL. That lucrative income meant football salaries could be high, high enough to make the decision to play on in spite of possible CTE inevitable for many. This is collusion with a complex web of reinforcing factors: competition, regional loyalty, incredible athletic performances, television, advertising revenues, fan based engagement like fantasy football and memorabilia purchases.
It’s CTE that made me finally say no. In spite of my many years as a fan, in spite of my still existing loyalty to the Vikings, in spite of my Y chromosome, I’m not going back.