By nature, I am a passionate person. That passion has led, over 57 years, to strong attachments to hobbies, pastimes and leisure activities that I made time for in a schedule that always has more to put in it than time to hold it all and an equally limited pool of discretionary spending funds.
For the last 15 years, my love of NFL football has led to weekly gatherings in my home with family and friends to watch the new Tennessee team, the Tennessee Titans. I have spent untold hours rooting, cheering and crying over the success and failure of my team. Prior to the Titans’ arrival, I was a hardcore Raiders fan and had been since the early 70s with the same commitment.
However, I have been disturbed over the last few seasons of NFL football. I have watched as players were fined and penalized for playing the way they had been taught to play and had been encouraged to play for decades in their career. Suddenly, a corporate bureaucrat makes a decision and what last year was hardnosed football becomes a penalty with serious import to the outcome of games.
I have complained privately and griped my way through several seasons as a very dissatisfied customer of the product into which the NFL commissioner’s office has twisted professional football. Always my love for the game and my team has brought me back from off the ledge.
But not today.
In the fourth quarter, and winning against the Kansas City Chiefs, the Titans held their talented opponents on a crucial drive. On a must convert 3rd down, KC QB Alex Smith ran the ball and was knocked out of bounds short of the 1st down. On what should have been the ensuing 4th and 1 the Chiefs would likely have punted and the Titans would have the ball back, with the lead and the ability to win or lose on their skill.
What happened, however, was that Moise Foukou, the Titans linebacker who knocked Smith out of bounds was flagged for hitting Smith after he ran out of bounds. The unnecessary roughness call gave the Chiefs 15 more yards and an automatic 1st down. They went on to score and scored again after an interception as the Titans tried unsuccessfully to catch back up.
The call was SO bad that one of the game’s TV announcers kept running the replay over and over again showing that Foukou had left his feet while Smith was on the field of play and that there was no foul. Except there was …
The Titans lost. Not because they were outplayed. But because they were not allowed to play football. What remains of the NFL clearly closely resembles the game of football I knew and loved. But it is no longer a delight and a contest. It is merely a few steps away from a lingerie league.
Fittingly, today the NFL was playing to raise awareness of breast cancer. All the accents were pink … including the official’s flags and even the flashing TV graphic indicating a penalty had been called. It’s official. The NFL is now formally awash in estrogen …
Right now, my family and friends are in the other room watching Denver and Dallas. Normally I would be there. Instead, I’m here. And this is where you might find me next Sunday afternoon. Or maybe I’ll wash the car or cut the grass or do anything other than watch men struggle mightily to play a man’s game while hampered by the sentiments of other men who do not love or understand the game.
Roger Goodell has ruined the NFL. He claimed, earlier this week, that the NFL was safer and more exciting than ever. He is entitled to his opinion. Mine is different.
Change happens slowly in things like this. A fan like me leaves and never comes back. Then a few more do and a few more. Pretty soon the NFL fools itself into believing they are still as popular as they used to be because they make as much money then as they do today by charging half as many fans twice as much for a product that isn’t worth a tenth of what it used to be.
It will hurt to see that day come. When it does, remember Roger Goodell, the man who destroyed a phenomenal product and game.
But remember, you won’t be able to tell him then just like you can’t now. He has no email address to which you can write. He obviously will not take your call. You can mail him a letter but he won’t read it – assuming he ever knows it existed. He’s Roger Goodell and he knows best. What you want … more to the point, what I want, means nothing …
/rant off …