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Done with Professional Football

Until recently, if someone asked what I thought about professional football, I'd have said that I wasn't interested in watching or participating in it. This season my opinion has changed, subtlety at least. I've gone from not caring much about professional football to really starting to dislike it.

(from Clinton Crumpler on Flickr)

I read about the concussion scandal several years ago when the article first appeared in GQ. Even after Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it about the same time, I filed the story away in my brain and forgot about it for a while. It wasn't until Frontline produced a two-hour documentary on the topic that it really started to become clear just how shady the NFL has been acting throughout all of this.

But let's say I could get past the concussion scandal, or the fact that the "nonprofit" NFL swindles taxpayers out of millions, or the childishness of far too many adult men (players). What I can't get past is the fact that my hometown team is owned by one of the most unlikable businessman in all of sports.

I haven't cared for Dan Snyder since he sued the City Paper a few years ago over hurt feelings. But the way he's handled the name change fiasco has almost been too painful to watch. You know he's fighting a battle that inevitably he's going to lose (how quickly it happens is the real debate), but his resolve in the meantime makes him about the last person I'd ever want to give my hard-earned money to. And so I will never attend an NFL game for his team, or buy merchandise, or give them the TV ratings.

That's not to say I don't like professional sports. Or that other sports don't have issues. I'm a baseball fan, but it was notably less fun being a baseball fan during the steroid scandal than it was before, or after. Professional football seems to be going through a similar point in their history. The question is whether or not they'll try to fix what's gone wrong or just continue to deny that any problem exists.

At the end of the day, I don't feel bad about disliking football. It's not like a local business that's going to fail because they don't have enough sales. There are plenty of fans and the sport makes plenty of money. Perhaps the most incredible statistic is one that was mentioned during the Frontline documentary:  the amount of money spent on a single Sunday Night Football game is roughly equivalent to the entire budget of a Harry Potter movie. When you think about it like that, the amount of money out there in football is mind-blowing. And that's to say nothing about the Super Bowl.

Being a fan of football easy, so I get why it's so popular. Easy in the sense that there are only 16 games in the regular season, that's 146 fewer games than in the MLB regular season; and most of those games will conveniently be played on Sunday afternoons. You'd have to spend the equivalent of over 20 days if you wanted to watch every game of a baseball team in a season. That's 10x more than an NFL team. But it's also brutally expensive if you want to be anything other than an armchair quarterback. NFL tickets can run into the hundreds of dollars for "cheap" seats, and then you have to be willing  to put up with the atmosphere at the games.

So yes, I'm done with professional football. Maybe I'll even take advantage of Super Bowl Sunday to get a reservation at a hot new restaurant.

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