My name is Michael and I am a football fan. It’s been six months since the last time I watched a game.
I don’t mind telling you that the first couple months without football were tough. I had trouble sleeping. I was twitchy, short of breath and generally irritable. My chicken wings and beer didn’t taste quite right. Over time, however, things got a bit better. I learned how to cope, mainly by focusing my energy elsewhere. I wrote a book, started a blog, did enough drinking that the taste of my chicken wings really didn’t matter. All these things helped…. sort of but they were diversionary tactics at best. Deep down, I knew I was only kidding myself. NFL training camps are opening all across the country and I can feel that familiar yearning once again. I’ll try to resist and I will fail. This blog post is a clear indication that I’m already beginning to lose the battle.
I have been blogging for a few months now. To date, I don’t believe I’ve said a single word about sports. That’s about to change. Truth be told, I don’t consider myself a huge sports fan. I enjoy baseball. I tolerate hockey. I have no interest whatsoever in professional basketball. I completely ignore gold, tennis, NASCAR, soccer and virtually every other sport you might care to name. There is one obvious exception. From September to February, I eat, sleep and breathe football. I am the commissioner of a fantasy football league. I run a football pool (for entertainment purposes only). I write weekly football updates. I may begin blogging about football. My basement and office are full of no fewer than seventy five pieces of what my wife typically refers to as “purple crap.” That makes her an enabler since she gave most of it to me. If you haven’t already guessed, I pull for the Vikings. In honor of my team, I have lamps, blankets, pillows, clocks, coasters, helmets, puzzles, signed photos, plush toys, and a traffic light that, instead of red-yellow-green, flashes Let’s-Go-Vikes!” I have hats, gloves, shorts, socks, sweatshirts, and I could wear a different Vikings jersey every day of the week. I even have what’s very possibly the only Minnesota Vikings Mardi Gras necklace known to man. Of course, my Vikings flask is the only collectable with any practical application. Why do I devote so much time, energy and money to something that, in the greater scheme of things, makes no difference whatsoever? I honestly have no idea.
Over the past decade or so, the National Football League has seen more than its share of trouble. Two different Super Bowl winning teams have been caught cheating. One marquis player is currently in prison awaiting trial on a murder charge. Others have been arrested for crimes ranging from drunk driving to vehicular manslaughter, domestic violence, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, drug possession, drug possession with intent to sell, obstruction of justice, illegal use of a firearm, unlawful possession of a firearm, etc., etc., etc. The common perception is that the NFL is full of steroid pumping thugs with far more money than brain cells. And, as much as I might like to, it’s getting harder and harder to argue the point. Finding a good guy in the National Football League is tantamount to finding a politician without at least one sex scandal on his resume. And in addition to the myriad unending legal issues, you’ve got hundreds of current players complaining about the league’s new safety rules and thousands of retired players suing for injuries supposedly suffered during their careers. Fans are upset that the game is changing and that players are injured so often. It is the proverbial double-edged sword. For the league, it all boils down to a public relations nightmare; or does it? Prior to the 2011 season, the NFL and NFL Players’ Association reached a new collective bargaining agreement. It demonstrated that, not only is professional football the most popular, most lucrative sport in the world, the expectation is that it will continue to grow. Coaches can cheat. Players can keep acting like jackasses. Bus drivers and school janitors can do a dreadful job officiating the games. Through it all, we will continue to watch and to cheer. So, although I may have a problem, I’m definitely not alone. GO VIKINGS!