[Ed. – Seriously, 1,100-odd words? Whatever happened to men clamming up when they’re conflicted?]
It’s not just that America’s favorite sport is both shameful and popular. In fact it’s becoming more shameful and more popular at the same time.
To be a self-aware American football fan today is to commit an act of deliberate compartmentalization. I know, because I’m guilty of it. Like most of my male friends from high school and college, I am a passionate professional football fan (who also watched both record-setting college football games on New Year’s Day). Are football fans like me simply in denial about football’s injustices, or are there more complex reasons for the sport’s unsinkable popularity during a time of relentless scandal? I have three theories, but please consider them incitements rather than conclusions.
1) The I’d-Prefer-Not-to-Think-About-It Theory. Some fans aren’t making the connection between the game’s off-the-field embarrassments and its on-the-field contests, because … they’d just rather not. It’s too hard. …
3) The Invisible Queasiness Theory. Football’s ratings aren’t falling, but that doesn’t mean the sport has eluded its scandals without accumulating some invisible damage.
There was a time when I couldn’t name the NFL commissioner, when I didn’t think about the quality of my favorite players’ marriages, and when I rooted for the hearty clack of a linebacker crushing a wide receiver crossing the middle of a field. Today, however, I consider Roger Goodell an embarrassment to the league, wince at big hits, and quietly root for my favorite non-quarterback players to retire before 30 to avoid long-term damage to their brains and bodies … all while watching football games.