The professional football season is more than half over. Some of the usual teams are at the top of their divisions, such as the New England Patriots and some are surprisingly good this year such as the Carolina Panthers. My favorite team, the Minnesota Vikings, are tied for the lead in the NFC North with the Green Bay Packers.
Especially with that last fact, one would think that I would be trying to watch as much of the sport as I could and cheer on the Vikings. That is not the case. While my love of professional football has been waning for some time now, this season seems to be even more profound, as I have not watched an entire game yet this season, nor have I had much desire to do so.
Take yesterday, November 8. Living in the Hudson Valley region of New York, I live in the market area for the two teams representing the New York City metropolitan region, the Jets and Giants. Because my television provider also has a station from Albany, I also can watch the Buffalo Bills (the only true New York team some say) if I want to do that. Or, a local establishment with NFL Sunday Ticket is within walking distance for me, so I could venture down there to watch the Vikings if I so desired. But with all these options, plus the later game between the Indianapolis Colts and the Denver Broncos, I chose not to watch a single down.
Instead, I finished a book I was reading on Hall of Fame linebacker Junior Seau, who was diagnosed with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and subsequently committed suicide. Then I wrote a of the book. The weather was sunny and crisp, a beautiful fall day. Instead of spending it inside watching a game that is under more scrutiny for the health of players like Seau, I decided to play 18 holes of golf. When that was done and I came back home, I did watch sports - but hockey as there were several games to choose from, settling on the match between the Vancouver Canucks and the New Jersey Devils.
Some may ask what's wrong with me - after all, the NFL is the most popular league and football is by far the most popular spectator sport. I used to spend every Sunday watching football from kickoff of the first game to the end of the Sunday night game. Even as late as 2012, when Adrian Petersen of the Vikings came within nine yards of breaking the all time rushing record. But something happened after that. Yes, there is all the negative publicity that the NFL has received. Domestic abuse, child abuse, concussions, former players suing the league for insufficient medical care after football - they all are reasons people may stay away.
But yet, that is not the full explanation. Just watching the games is not fun any longer. It isn't good entertainment to see so many penalties called. Notice the reaction of a wide receiver who does not catch a pass thrown in his area - he is always looking for a penalty to be called on the defender. Rule changes occur every year to benefit the offense. Fantasy football has made "fans" really cheer only for a certain player, not a team any longer. None of these things alone would make me give up the game entirely. I don't think that will happen - I do believe that at some point this season, even if not until the playoffs, I will be tuning in. But a funny thing happened this year - I have discovered that there is a whole new world to be explored on Sunday afternoons in the autumn. And frankly, I couldn't be happier.