I was surprised to hear myself telling my son in the car ride home from school recently that the Super Bowl we are planning to watch this weekend will be the last one we will watch, the last NFL game we will watch.
He was a bit surprised and dissappointed. We have watched plenty of games over the last couple of seasons. Early on he couldn't really follow what was happening (who was able to the first time they saw the game?) but he is at the point now where he really understands the mechanics and is begining to appreciate the drama. This also allows him to enjoy the temporary suspension of many of the rules of appropriate behavior when watching television together. We yell, rooting our team on, gobble up nachos and tackle each other on the sofa.
The reason I was surpised to hear myself making a "this is the last one" announcment is because I hadn't thought that I had made any decision about it. I was still weighing the pros and cons in my head, I thought.
Isn't there a little something educational about the whole affar? A sport with teams representing many cities around the country aids a child's understanding of geography, a little. Statistics and scoring scenarios supplement their math skills, a bit. Okay, this is really just me trying to justify my habits, even if football has more educational value than, say, cage fighting.
But American Football is great television. Unscripted drama is why any sport is worth watching and the NFL has been refining the playing out of the game's story arc over the years and it is now exquisitely crafted to leverage the strengths of the medium of television. Gladiators and clowns, cheerleaders, cool logos and mascots, plenty of interuptions to replenish the snack supply, the dramatic compression of time at the end of each half with two-minute warnings, timeouts, and scoring play reviews all extending the narration and heighten the suspense. A fine way to spend time with friends and family.
Well, it might have been, but I can no longer put aside the trail of negative consequences the sport leaves in its wake as it charges down the field with our national identity, The player injuries, both short term and long term, reflecting our attitude towards health care; the explotative economics of the game, reflecting privatising profit and pushing costs to the public; and the unrelenting blitz of advertising (even with DVR time travel) modeling a universe where beer equals fun, cars make up 90% of your personality and erectile dysfunction is the number one medical issue facing mankind today –- it had finally flipped a switch inside. Enough.
It is time to stop watching, I told him, and we both knew it was the right thing to do.
And we have plenty of alternatives: the Winter Olympics are right around the corner, the next World Cup is in 2016, our Timbers and Trailblazers are worth supporting –– and, hey, doesn't baseball start soon?