There are reasons I still pay attention to the NFL, even though I do sort of envy the people who can just drop it on principle. As a typical American I do have diehard loyalty to my team (the Kansas City Chiefs), and I do love me some fantasy football.
The fact is I don’t write very much about football, neither college nor the pros, because I don’t really know anything about it. In baseball I can see what a guy is earning annually, and how he is performing on the field, and make a semi-accurate value judgement on if he is a good or below-average player. The math is pretty clear on this. In football I really have no idea how the contracts work — other than the money not being guaranteed — and I can’t tell you why player X is a better value than player Y.
Yes, I can explain to you the difference between a West Coast Offense and a Spread Offense, or a Pistol Formation vs. an I Formation. I can tell you the difference between a 4-3 scheme and a 3-4 scheme, or zone coverage vs. man-to-man. These are obvious to anyone who has played Madden at some point in their life.
But since I don’t understand the economics, and since I can’t project players with any real accuracy the same way I can in MLB, I don’t try to be that guy on my blog. I genuinely aim to be a know-it-all about as many things as possible, but there is a reason I generally limit what I write about to baseball, politics and gambling.
Point is, I still watch football. The only times I generally talk about football, however, are in a negative light. Over the last few years there have been three main bullet points I have focused on:
- CTE, and the fact that the NFL doesn’t really give a shit about player safety.
- Domestic violence, and the fact that the NFL doesn’t really give a shit about players who beat their wives or children.
- The blackball of Colin Kaepernick for protesting cops killing unarmed black kids.
Any one of these topics is worthy of a boycott. But if you look at everything the NFL does through the prism of capitalism, and making money at any cost, they all make too much sense.
Money answers the social justice question, and if the league gives a damn about the plight of everyday black kids. Money answers if they care about women or not, because they are still profiting off the sales of pink jerseys while employing countless domestic abusers. Money answers why they don’t care about the longterm safety of their own players.
I reconcile these things, even as one of the best players on my favorite team — Tyreek Hill — nearly choked his pregnant girlfriend to death when he was in college. That really happened, and yet I still cheer for him since he helps the Chiefs win football games. I do so with the rationale that every other NFL team has at least one scumbag of their own. It’s sad, but true.
I watch the NFL in spite of everything I hate about it. And, strangely, I’ve probably paid more attention to it over the last 12 months because it has justifiably been under attack. Maybe I’m sick — but there is something about watching the super wealthy sweat, and the absurdly rich institution of the NFL get tangled in its own web, that makes me happy.
After the Chiefs throttled the Patriots 42-27 on Thursday night, I went on FiveThirtyEight — you know, those guys who were so good at predicting the general election last November — and made my picks against their algorithm. The results turned out better than I was expecting:
The last time I finished 99% better than the field was when I used to take those standardized math tests in elementary school. I remember three years in a row — from 4th grade through 6th — I got a scholarship from Johns Hopkins University for scoring in the 97th percentile or better. That was cool.
Week One was not typical in that regard; I doubt very much I will score this well in the next 16 weeks. It just happened that I hit a perfect 6-for-6 in games I put a 100% confidence on, and the only games I lost — Cincinnati and Houston — I put a lower confidence in than did FiveThirtyEight. Now if only I could do the same thing with the stock market.
So what does any of this mean? I don’t know, exactly. Maybe I am hate-watching the NFL and it’s making me a more informed football person. Maybe a wedge doesn’t truly exist that would pull me far enough away from my favorite sports teams to make much of a difference. I can bitch about the NFL until the cows come home, but if my eyes are still glued to the games, and to my fantasy football app, then who is the dummy in this situation?
The NFL is not going to exist in 30 years, and professional sports will be a better place when that happens. For the time being, though, even with the longterm brain damage and domestic violence and blackballing of Colin Kaepernick, I’m still here. At least I pay attention to what really matters. That has to count for something, right?