No Fan Left: Why I Gave Up the NFL

by: Paul Gutkowski


This is how I approach a debate or an argument: I almost always avoid certainty and I rarely speak in absolutes. I seek to remain flexible in my thinking and strive to empathize and understand every point of view. In my experience, folks who hold onto ideas with a death like grip usually end up living fairly irrational lives. The more we, as humans believe something should be the more jammed up we get when we find out it isn’t. I say all this because the following is not a call to arms. It is not a treatise on why the world would be a better place if we all stopped supporting the National Football League, although I do believe this to be true. What does follow is simply my reasoning for giving up on the NFL. If you are moved to take back your Sundays, well, that’s just fine. If you think I am an asshole, that’s okay too. Much like the final score of any NFL football game ever again, I don’t give a damn.

No Fun League

This term often relates to fans’ disappointment with the NFL’s over-regulation of aggressive tackling techniques in the hopes of protecting the long-term health of its players (more on this later). But you know what else is no fun? A TV broadcast of the average NFL football game. Any idea how much of a four hour broadcast is actually game action? Eleven minutes. Eleven-fucking-minutes. The remainder of the broadcast is comprised of stodgy, old white men talking, replays of said eleven minutes of action, and commercials. Literally hundreds of commercials. Is this fun? Is this entertaining? We are being marketed to all day long and I’ll be damned if I’m going to give Cialis for daily use or Bud Light any more of my time.

The lack of actual action during a game isn’t my only beef, for the action you do get lacks style and grace. The start-stop cadence of an NFL game is deficient in what Clyde Frazier would call “fluidity.”  If I’m going to dedicate time to watching a sporting event, I want to it be aesthetically pleasing to the eye. That’s why the NBA and English Premier League get so much burn in my house. If the NBA is like Miles Davis and international futbol is like Mozart or Bach, then the NFL is like Creed.

It’s the Sport of Kings, Better than Diamond Rings…….Futbol

There has been an absolute correlation between my decrease in NFL fandom and my ever-growing love for European Club Futbol. Like those trying to kick a nasty habit, one must find something to fill the void of the displaced vice. The EPL has been my nicotine patch, my transcendental meditation. I have heard all the bullshit clichés about soccer and how boring it is and “Oh-my-god, all they do is flop around.” If you believe that shit you have not opened your heart and mind to the sport. Americans specialize in fearing what we don’t understand and soccer is just another example of our collective xenophobia. People have been talking about soccer’s momentum in this country for over twenty years now, but frankly, I’m not terribly concerned with its cultural relevance. What I do care about is my access to the sport and I can fortunately say that its never been better. Every Saturday and Sunday you can catch matches from all of the major European League’s on premium cable or by streaming online. As I mentioned, I’m partial to the English Premier League (COME ON YOU SPURS!!), which means that I can watch a full game (that’s about seventy minutes of game action in a broadcast, BTW) before most folks finish their morning paper. No longer do I spend my Sundays as a slave to to the NFL MARKETING-INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX!

I’m Taking My Ball and Going Home

As children, this response to a seemingly unfair situation always drew the ire of everyone involved, including yours truly.  But as an adult, and as a consumer (no matter how icky it makes us feel, we are all consumers), we have the right to avoid shitty products and/or shifty companies. My contention is that the NFL is both. I have already discussed what a boring time-suck an NFL contest is, so lets focus on the league itself.  Did you know the NFL enjoys tax-exempt status based on a 1966 tax law that was the result of backroom dealings between a Louisiana Senator and former league commissioner, Pete Rozelle ((The league was guaranteed tax exempt status if it promised to bring the next expansion team to New Orleans .))? So a league whose annual revenue is well over $330 million clams and whose commissioner makes a cool $44 million annually, does not pay a lick of taxes. The NFL is not the only league to enjoy this status, but it is by far the largest. Neither the NBA or MLB choose to operate with this non-profit status ((The MLB gave-up its tax exempt status in 2007 citing no benefits to its bottom line.))

Having spent the last fifteen years working in the world of small non-profits, the idea of the NFL operating as a non-profit blows my fucking mind. While its naïve to think all non-profits actually help people, it rattles my brain to think of a money printing machine like the NFL not paying their share. Especially as they treat their employees like hammered shit. I’m not going to go into the concussion debacle ((I would recommend the recent Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel episode that linked violent behavior to football related brain injuries)) or the fact that most NFL players die broke – all that has been heavily documented. What I will say is that I am done! No longer will I be “donating” to a business that exploits its workers while enabling misogynists and date-rapers.

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