Finally Calling It Quits on the NFL

A huge corporate fight between Disney and Charter Communication that has excised ESPN from some cable packages is the final straw for one long-time football fan, who is choosing instead to follow his local high school team.

AP
The Green Bay Packers head coach, Vince Lombardi, on the sidelines during a playoff game against the Baltimore Colts, at Green Bay, Wisconsin, December 26, 1965. AP

Between the NFL’s astronomic salaries, the players’ extravagant lifestyles, the dispensing with the national anthem, and the increasing bad behavior, it’s getting harder and harder to watch, much less care who wins. Now, add that even if I wanted to watch, I’d probably have to pay extra.

A huge corporate fight between Disney and Charter Communications has excised ESPN from my cable package, furthering the business trend that forces viewers to subscribe to various pay-per-view networks if they want to see their favorite teams.

It took all of this for me to finally call it quits. That’s because the NFL is an important part of my childhood, the one place I bonded with my father, and where we witnessed a legendary band of athletes that, in my mind, were no less glorious than the great Ulysses. 

The Green Bay Packers were our team, and I began watching games every Sunday with my father when I was 9 years old. This was the Lombardi era, and we seemed to win all the championships while I was growing up. More than that, those Sunday afternoons in the den with my dad are an important part of my memory of him.

Perhaps most astounding, those great players lived like everyone else. They had to take jobs in the off-season to supplement their salaries. Their homes, when we saw photos of them, which was rare, looked no different than our own. Mansions? Luxury cars? Private jets? Not part of that world.

Today, the top players have contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars, with the median wage at $860,000. This year, the NFL brokered $130 billion in new media deals. You read that right … billions, not millions. Who can relate to those numbers?

But this past week, I stumbled on an alternative. My hometown team, the West Bend Suns, played another high school squad, the Orioles from nearby Hartford, and the game was absolutely free on YouTube. Even more shocking, if you wanted to see it in person at the high school stadium, you could just walk up and buy a ticket for $6 ($4 for students). 

There were some differences from the pros. Everyone stood for the national anthem, and most removed their hats. When the teams scored, there were no silly dances to rub it in their opponents’ faces. There was something else you see less and less in the pros — good sportsmanship.

Granted, the field work and the plays are not nearly as polished as those in the NFL. That’s because these players are all teenagers and have to spend most of their days learning history, math, science, and language. After practice, there is also homework. Yet I saw some potential talent there, and more than that, I was reminded of why I liked watching football in the first place.

My suggestion? Take a look at your local high school team. It may remind you of why we watch sports in the first place. If you’re wondering, the Suns lost a squeaker to the Orioles, 37-29, but there’s still a lot of season left to play.


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