Don't get sucked in to lockout hysteria

Published May. 19, 2011 1:00 a.m. EDT

Lockout hysteria. I get it. Media outlets, including this one, have billions of dollars tied to America’s national pastime, the NFL. Individual media brands such as Peter King and Mike Florio have thousands, if not millions, of dollars tied to America’s national pastime, the NFL.

I get lockout hysteria. I just don’t agree with it.

Professional football isn’t too big to fail. In fact, it might be a good thing if the NFL suffered a comeuppance, a retreat to a more appropriate place in the American fabric.

I’m like every other stereotypical red-blooded American man. I love football. I worship at the NFL’s throne most fall Sundays and Mondays. My passion for the game even goes a little bit deeper. Without football, I wouldn’t be a sportswriter and have the privilege of engaging you on various sports-related topics for a comfortable living.


A football scholarship paid for my education at Ball State University. My perspective on life was partially shaped by my experience as a high school and college football player. Football gave me an identity and the confidence to say what I think without fear.

That doesn’t make football superior to playing in the band, or countless other life experiences that help us evolve.

The difference is television networks haven’t figured out a way to mass-market band competitions into a highly rated TV force. The leaders of lockout hysteria — and there are many — justify their calls for congressional involvement and sky-is-falling nonsense by pointing to the NFL’s ratings. Nineteen of the 20 top-rated TV shows in the fall of 2010 were NFL games.

People watch, therefore the NFL is really, really important.

You can make the same argument about porn.

And, just like porn, the people consuming and participating in football have little knowledge of its harmful side effects. We’re just now comprehending the damage football does to the brain and the quality of life of its combatants. It will take even more time for people to abandon the myth that football promotes or supports values young people should emulate.

For now, especially in the middle of this “devastating” lockout, let’s pretend football represents the best of America. Let’s not consider it reflects what is wrong with us.

We’re recklessly violent. We’re not ashamed of our violent nature. We celebrate it, glorify it and ignore its consequences. Remember, I’m not anti-football. I’m just pro accepting the game for what it is. It’s sports porn. It’s a three-hour snuff film played and consumed by men who mostly haven’t intellectually evolved past adolescence.

If the NFL is our cultural benchmark, we’re not evolving.

That’s why I abhor the NFL marketing technique of wrapping the game in the American flag and partnering it with our military. The lockout-hysteria crowd actually argued at one point this offseason that its critical games be played on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11. The hysteria grew even louder after our Navy SEALS killed Osama bin Laden.

It’s great that football players visit and entertain our troops overseas. Let the NFL put its money where its marketing is. Congress should tax the league for selling faux patriotism and use the revenue to support our wounded veterans. I’m serious.

Pro sports leagues are getting more out of their partnership with the American military than our armed services are getting in terms of favorable marketing. Working-class sports fans think it’s more patriotic to drop $10,000 on season tickets and stand upright during the national anthem 10 times a year than to drop the same cash on their children’s education.

Again, I love football. It’s the sport I enjoy writing and talking about the most. Football is at the foundation of my media platform.

I can make do without it. And so can everyone else.

We survived MLB, NBA and NHL work stoppages. Yep, the stoppages hurt those leagues’ television power. So what?

Baseball used to be America’s pastime, and the 1994 players strike ended the charade that baseball was more popular than football. The strike also escalated baseball’s steroids race as Bud Selig and baseball-hysterical sportswriters looked the other way as Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa “saved” the game.

As journalists, we shouldn’t have a vested interest in the health of a league. There’s no reason for us to get all emotional about how Tom Brady and Jerry Jones decide to divvy up $9 billion. If they screw it up, they’ll fix it or something else will replace it.

And save me the too-big-to-fail rhetoric. That arrogance is why NFL owners charge taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to build new football stadiums every 20 years.