That’s former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant. Bud was quite a figure for those of us that grew up in the shadow of the Vikings. Vikings never spiked the ball or did end zone celebrations. Vikings never wore parkas or those big insulated capes even when playing in sub-zero temperatures. Vikings never panicked. It was beautiful to watch, even if we never won a Super Bowl. It shaped my expectation of what the game should be and maybe that’s part of the problem. Then again, maybe football should meet my expectations.
I am part of a football pool that picks the winners and point spreads of each game every week. A former coworker got me into this pool and I’ve been in it for at least a dozen years now. I’ve only met a few of the participants face to face but that doesn’t matter. The pool is an intriguing community. The players are strewn across the country. It’s all done by emails and spreadsheets. There’s no money involved, just bragging rights and the knowledge that one week the game loves you and the next it can turn on you. It keeps me interested and engaged in football even when my Vikings are sucking. The Vikings sucking is pretty much a constant so this pool is pretty much the only thing that has kept me interested in football the last several years. I’ve gotten good at picking too. The last few years I’ve finished in the top five and that’s damn hard to do in this group. This year though I’ve fallen in the standings and it is for one reason. The NFL has gone to hell and my heart just isn’t in it anymore.
A few months ago I posted here that I was boycotting football for that weekend (http://jeroljohnson.org/2014/09/13/hail-the-bison/). After that, my viewing of football was infrequent. I’ve watched most of the playoff games but my heart wasn’t really in it. As I have said in a few emails to friends over the last week, this is likely the last Super Bowl for me. I can watch my NDSU Bison with a somewhat clear conscience but I cannot abide what the NFL stands for and what it has become.
It’s not just the violence of the game. Yes, the concussions and other injuries that plague these players long after their careers are over are ghastly. But just as bad is the NFL’s token settlement to the concussion class action suit; their paltry effort to sweep this under the rug. Then there’s the continual blackmail of city, county, and state governments for new stadiums. The fact that the league that generates BILLIONS of dollars in revenue is classified for tax purposes as a non-profit. Roger Goodell, the head of this clusterfuck, was paid 44 million dollars last year for being the owner’s lapdog. Then there’s the domestic abuse, child abuse, and drug abuse. I know athletes aren’t role models but good lord, the behavior we have seen is ridiculous. And no one can tell me that these guys are using some sort of PEDs. There’s the league’s ridiculous hypocrisy of ignoring and covering up these scandals while twisting their collective panties into knots if a player wears the wrong pair of cleats, is not wearing a NFL-approved hat, or doesn’t show up for meaningless press conference. Enough, enough, enough.
I told the kindly man that runs the football pool that this is my last year. He agreed with most of my concerns regarding the game but pointed out that the community created by the group has its own value. He has a point there. So I may reconsider and keep picking games. But I still won’t be spending any time watching them next season. Maybe I’ll come back to it some day but it’s about as likely as the Vikings winning the Super Bowl. If you know football, you’ll understand those odds.