There we have it, everyone. Another solid weekend of America’s actual favorite pastime: football.
Saturday saw Stanford come back from two touchdowns to beat upstart Arizona in overtime. On Sunday, the Niners won, Andrew Luck led a last minute comeback, and I once again spent an entire day going “Next commercial, that’s when I’ll get up to do my homework.” One phone call to Domino’s later, I knew I wasn’t getting off my couch.
Sometime during my daylong coma, in between Drew Brees breaking Johnny Unitas’ record and my fifth slice of pepperoni, it hit me: you know what, I’m having more fun watching today’s games than I did yesterday actually attending the game. Sure, nothing I can do in the comfort of my room can recreate the fun of tailgating, but the simple act of watching football is much better at home.
I had a great time on Saturday, yes. But sitting there on Sunday, I realized a few things:
1. I really hate standing up for long periods of time. Especially when I have to roll my ass out of bed at 9 in the morning to pound a few beers before a noon game (really, who thought a noon game on homecoming weekend was a good idea?).
2. I also really hate yelling for long periods of time.
3. And I also really miss that yellow line on the TV that tells where my team needs to get to for the first down.
In between a few Sunday games, I was glancing back at an old Rolling Stone issue and found an article on the relationship between network television and the National Football League. It discussed how TV has drastically changed the game of football, trying to turn it, as the title of the article suggests, into “more show than game.”
The article cites a 2010 study by The Wall Street Journal that found that the average amount of time the ball is in play during a typical NFL game is only 11 minutes, “meaning the networks’ main challenge has always been figuring out how to make those other 174 minutes exciting.” They do this, as the article reports, through infinite replays, close-up shots of coaches and fans, pre-packaged stories, charts, graphs and of course, commercials.
The networks are also assisted by the NFL itself, through various rules that encourage more offense and strict salary caps and revenue sharing that keep competition fairly level, as well as a 16-game schedule (compared to basketball’s 82 or baseball’s 162) that makes every game that much more important. None of this is solely meant to make the game more entertaining, but it certainly does.
I feel like this should have hurt: this realization that I have succumbed to the simple pleasures of being a coach potato, and that the market forces of network football are only keeping me put, tickling my simplest desires and undercutting my passion for the sport by oversaturating me with arbitrary facts and statistics. It should have hurt that I had an analyst and play-by-play commentator constantly telling me what’s happening and what it means so I don’t have to think all that much, replaying every damn play in three different speeds, from four different angles, to the point where my favorite players are nothing more than collections of slow motion sequences, season-long statistics and fantasy football points. This idea that what I was enjoying wasn’t just the game or the team, but in part were the ways in which the game was being packaged: that should’ve hurt.
So much about watching football and being a part of a football fan base is being at the actual games, being surrounded by people all lathered in the same color, screaming your voice hoarse with thousands of other fans – in other words, being a part of something that’s bigger than yourself. It takes effort, and not even that much of it.
Yet through my own weakness, and at the urging of the networks’ powers that be, I see myself becoming less of a fan and more of a consumer, one who is content with the ease of watching, rather than participating, taking in statistics and commercials and replays and having to give nothing in return but my limited attention.
It should hurt, but truthfully it didn’t. I’m not so certain that I know what that means. All I know is that come Monday night, I still had a few cold slices of pizza left, so I turned on the Jets-Texans game and ate myself to sleep.
When John’s not sleeping or eating cold pizza, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.