It's rather taken for granted that the NFL isn't merely regarded as something that people want to watch, in spite of all its myriad problems and issues (and with Michael Sam having been cut from the Cowboys' practice squad today, go ahead and add that). It is regarded, rather, as something people have to watch. They have no choice but to watch or else they'll miss out, and not be part of the one conversation everyone will be having the next day, and you don't want that, do you? So you better watch.
No matter what.
And I see that in my life. I've stopped watching college football, but as Wisconsin is heavily, heavily behind the Badgers, people just start talking about the game to me at work even after having told them several times that I don't watch anymore. They still, even after having that explicitly explained to them, just assume that I've seen the Badger game anyway. Because what Wisconsinite isn't watching the Badgers? That's just silly. The Packers are no different, and as I not only root for the Packers but have bought a share of stock (for my dad), I CAN be expected to have seen the game. Or listened to it on the radio, at least, because there is one at work and it always gets tuned to Packer and Badger games (and the Brewers, when possible).
But a funny thing happened this season. My hours at work this year shifted to the least hospitable possible for a football fan. I start at 11 AM, before the noontime kickoff of the early games, and get out at 8 PM, around the second quarter of any night games. Furthermore, my off days are Tuesday and Wednesday, the two days of the week when there is no football anywhere. No high school, no college, no pro. It is now going into Week 9, and I have not seen a single day game this season. I have not seen any game this season played out start-to-finish. I have not, because work says so. You'd think I'd be going crazy right now. I'm missing out on all the football, after all.
That doesn't seem to be happening so far, though. I haven't been making any real sort of outsized effort to take in football this season. Not highlights, not even really the game portions I am able to see (unless the Packers happen to be involved). I am very nearly at a cold-turkey state. And I'm okay with that. I am fine with largely skipping a season and, in the meantime, taking the time to reassess where, precisely, football stands with me. With the actual games, and the perpetual hype attached to them, out of the picture, I can see the scandals, the misplaced priorities, the inherent violence of the sport, and ask myself, really ask myself, how much I want to still associate myself with it all. How much the games, as games, really truly mean to me when I take a step back from them.
And I'm increasingly asking myself if the answer is the one Roger Goodell would want to hear.
The Super Bowl is still going to be watched. That's a family thing that I can recall us having gathered around for since Super Bowl XXIX (49ers over Chargers), and 20 years later I don't see that changing. But if it turns out in the long run that I really don't need that much football in my life anymore, I'm seeing that that's okay. Missing out need not drive you nuts. There are other sports out there, and there's other aspects of life out there.
And then I need to figure out if the fact that my relationship with soccer, which will remain unchanged and undying either way, makes my relationship with football look hypocritical. Because soccer's problems make football's problems look like the kiddie pool.