Why I’m Abstaining From the NFL

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Elise Amendola / AP

The New England Patriots run onto the field before an NFL football game against the New York Jets Thursday, Sept. 12, 2013, in Foxborough, Mass.

The air chills, the humidity departs, the school bell rings, the shofar blows … all signs that the football season has begun to eat my Sundays. Or would be eating them if I hadn’t resolved, unlike most Americans (even most women), to opt out of the NFL this year.

I am here to report that I survived my first two NFL-free weekends. It was a strange experience, as if I’d delayed the sun setting for four hours. What could I possibly plan my Sunday around?

News flash: watching football is a time suck. Studies have shown there’s 11 minutes of action in a game that takes three hours. So even though I’ve tried to convince myself that I can be productive during the game — checking e-mail, folding laundry, even working out — that’s still a lot of wasted time trying to not waste time.

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So instead, on the NFL’s opening Sunday afternoon I cooked dinner — a real dinner, with different dishes and a complicated recipe. I helped the kids with homework, with the attention span to actually help. I found out how the other third lives — the third that doesn’t watch the NFL. It was enjoyable.

But my newfound free time is merely a by-product of my resolution. Why have I chosen to abstain from pro football? I have four downs of reasons:

First down: head injuries. The sad tales of retired NFL players who suffer brain trauma from repeated concussions are now legion. Yes, there’s a new settlement for them — but that $675 million is going to be spread over 60 years and thousands of former players, with an additional $91 million going to research and medical monitoring. (And this is all just a fraction of 1% of the revenue the league will make in the next two decades.) Plus, the NFL gets to keep secret the information it’s compiled on brain injuries and football. Should I be watching for entertainment a hazardous activity when its effects on the entertainers are being swept under the turf?

Second down: performance-enhancing drugs. Sure, NFL players use some of the same drugs you and I take to recover from injury. But they also rely on substances that are dangerous to them. Performance-enhancing drugs are now so rampant that players who don’t take something are arguably handicapping themselves.

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Third down: if the NFL didn’t exist, would college football be so corrupt? And this is where I’ll admit it: My weekends have not been entirely football-free. My daughter is on her high school poms team, so I have a good excuse to catch the not-exactly-Friday Night Lights atmosphere of the D.C. suburbs. And more important, my college alma mater, Northwestern, once a doormat, is at last nationally ranked.

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When I tell my friends I’m not watching the NFL, they say college football is far worse, because you can add the slavery of uncompensated players and a corruption of academic mission to the head injuries and performance-enhancing drugs. True. But isn’t the NFL responsible for the dynamics of college football? It’s the league that forces players to go to college, essentially turning big-time conferences into its farm system and giving the NCAA a cudgel to keep collegiate athletes in line.

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Fourth down: I’m pushing the demand curve in the right direction, just a little. So many of the arguments about the NFL end with a sigh of, “Well, it’s an unstoppable force, so let’s try to fix it rather than end it.” But that feels like surrender. Small actions add up, and you might as well start somewhere. I know my one hybrid car isn’t going to stop global warming, but I’m telling the auto industry that I’m willing to pay extra to help the planet. My refusal to watch the films of Roman Polanski won’t stop him from making films, but as the father of daughters, I’m not going to help him. We can either surrender to a demand curve or try to make a small difference. Let others sue. Let others rant. I’ll just go for a bike ride on a beautiful fall day.

Hogan is managing editor of the New America Foundation and associate editor of Zocalo Public Square, for which he wrote this.
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238 comments
Chasmodee
Chasmodee

Let me tell you why I think all the people who would boycott Football are wrong.  Every single day there are people in this nation that get up before the sun and toil with wood, mortar and clay.  They labor to build your houses and office buildings.  Every one of them will live a shorter life than the average office worker.  What they do stresses their bodies, breaks their backs, and ruins there knees, yet they work on, often for less than $20.00 an hours.  I would wager that most of them would trade their 35 year careers for 5 years of football at $500,000.00 a year.  Football is a physical sport and everyone who participates knows the risk going in and they get paid for it.  Brick Masonry is a physical occupation and everyone that does it knows the risk and they get paid for it.  If you hate football because of the brutality, then ban all forms of physical labor, including military service.  Then, move your fat *ss back into the forest and pick berries to live and die at age 20.  You all are ignorant *ssholes and I hope and pray that one day you get a small taste of what hardship really is.

Lazor
Lazor

I like football but not for sport.  I just like getting together with friends to drink and eat together.  Hardly any of us pay attention to the game.

MathewKing
MathewKing

i have tuned out of NFL after three decades of watching. it has been a very boring sport. too much hype and commercials.

sltahoe88
sltahoe88

I quit watching football in 1970 when I was in the service overseas. The last Super Bowl I watched, Broadway Joe was the quarterback. Prior to then, I wathed 2 games every Sunday afternoon. I found futbol, AKA soccer, to be a much better sport. As for the violence, it will remain in the sport as long as the players and owners get rich. The game is slow and boring. I used to enjoy Canadian Football more because it is faster and, to me, required more skill because the teams only have 3 downs to move the ball into first down territory but have many more options to score. 

rutnerh
rutnerh

I agree let's boycott not only professional football, but all violent contact sports including college football, boxing and hockey and demand tougher penalty rules for basketball and soccer. May I also suggest playing soccer with shock absorbing helmets and flexible plastic boots. I recall playing soccer in bare feet in post WWII Germany since I owned only one pair of shoes. Rugby may be an excellent sub for football and does not require costly padding and equipment that should help reduce college sports budgets.

FootballIsBoring
FootballIsBoring

In addition to the points made in the article, the sport is actually boring.  Of the 11 minutes of action, 2 or 3 minutes is actually exciting.  The rest of the "action" is 2 yard gains off tackle, screen pass for 4 yards, incomplete pass, punt, etc.....all boring.  The whole concept of a field goal is for wimps.  (I gained a few yards, couldn't score, but I get some points anyway.)  With as fast as the players actually are, the sport is ultra conservative and slow to watch.

CliffTrenton
CliffTrenton

I have watched (and played into high school) football all my life, but I agree it is probably time to take a break. It has surpassed the NBA in thuggery, passed MLB in PEDs, passed the NHL in unneccesary violence for entertainment purposes. Like the Coliseum was to the Romans, Americans are flocking to football as the "city on the hill" crumbles. College football is a serious joke and should be dismantled and banned. I am tired of hearing how college football players should be paid...completely ridiculous! It is all about filthy money and none of it about a game anymore.

MadChaz
MadChaz

Many of the negative responses to this article remind me of the defensiveness and anger that comes from someone with a drinking problem, when they are asked if they have a drinking problem. Seems like Fuzz struck a nerve with some NFL-obsessed people!

RichardOgilby
RichardOgilby

This article needs Sarah keening in the background ( ASPCA style)

JenCord
JenCord

If you judge all of your entertainment based on the above-mentioned guidelines, then I hope you have also boycotted every band/singer that has ever used narcotics or alcohol to "enhance their performance" (uh...The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, etc.), every actor or actress that participated in movies or pictures that they aren't necessarily proud of to jump start their career, and every profession that has the risk of injury (military, law enforcement, construction).  Fine.  Don't watch football.  However, don't judge every player based on the actions of some any more than you would judge the people of the previously mentioned careers as a whole.  Many pro athletes use their stardom to push positive platforms in their communities.  Football is one of my family's greatest loves.  It brings us together in spirit and defeat.  The only thing your boycott is doing is teaching your children to generalize and stereo-type groups of people based on biased information.

tymmac007
tymmac007

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

LukeHanewall
LukeHanewall

its not about the 11 mins...its what happens in those 11 minutes

leftbower08
leftbower08

If you're going to complain about performance-enhancing drugs, I suggest you don't watch any other sport...ever.  If you're going to complain about the risk taken by players to get a concussion, I suggest you don't watch, racing, skiing, snowboarding, hockey, boxing, half of the olympics, or god-forbid anyone ever jump out of an airplane...wherein the risk of a gruesome injury for each of those activities is as high, if not multiple times higher than football.   Don't you EVER again watch the local evening news and say, "oh it's so sad that someone got in a car accident."  It's equally as sad that someone was accidentally hurt in the NFL, but you're not changing the channel from the news, are you? Bad things happen.  NFL players know what they risk when they play.  I know the risk when I get in my car.  Nobody is entertained by the injuries in either case...enjoy saving America from the NFL.

RobertKeithRoss
RobertKeithRoss

Your forgot one reason. The NFL has become a cesspool of overpaid,

narcissistic, showboating thugs!

JeramiahHarland
JeramiahHarland

Good for you. Know what else is a time suck? Reading articles on Time.com. I won't make that mistake again.

ericanderson222
ericanderson222

If you don't want to watch football that's cool, just keep it to yourself.  It annoys me to no end when people try to make other's interests seem worthless.

letsberealpeople
letsberealpeople

You should stop driving cars, too, due to the pollution, accident deaths, and all of that.  

Probably should move out of your house, as well, to cut down on the damage to the environment that is derived from heating and cooling all of America's houses.

It makes me sad when people critique others' hobbies just because they have none.

MelissaBenko
MelissaBenko

Ever hear of down-time? Football games are great for it. My fiance and I love to kick back with a couple beers and watch a Redskins game...with all the go-go-go mentality with the rest of our lives, I dont think of a game as a time suck, I think of it as time to relax for a change.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

You are a hero, Congrats... We need more heroes like you who are capable of abstaining from watching TV

mlsmith1229
mlsmith1229

1st down..ok    2nd down...ok   3rd down...ok    4th down...ok    how about a touchdown!!!!! why would i watch a bunch of guys running around in tights whining about their injuries making millions of dollars when there are soldiers aout there giving there lives to protect ours not even making a tenth of what these idiots make.....I have an uncle that played and a cousin that played but these are my beliefs...they might have played but I was a soldier and I gave my time in Iraq and Afghan..I hear stuff about a man card and crap...you all can take that opinion and shove it cause I have never kept up with football and never will it does not make me any less of a man...that 4 hours that everyone spends on the couch yelling at a game they cant control i spend with my kids doing things they want, or traing my new lab puppy, or helping my wife...better time well spent

Chasmodee
Chasmodee

@rutnerh You're an idiot.  Did you ever take physics class?  Shock absorbing helmets would serve two purposes.  1) the force would be moved further down the body, likely breaking he neck or backbone.  2) more protection means the game gets faster and therefore more dangerous.  You are a shrew living in a cocoon dreaming of ways to regulate things and yet have no common sense whatsoever.  I played both football and rugby and rugby is significantly more dangerous.  Perhaps you could move your worries to other things like boycotting firefighters and police because they could be injured.

commentonitall
commentonitall

@CliffTrenton 

Your coliseum analogy is cute, except people were forced to compete in that.  I get your point and I respect it, but a better analogy could have been used.

commentonitall
commentonitall

@MadChaz 

I think this article is hypocritical. We have a person writing an article for a newspaper that reports on horrible acts of violence and misery everyday (which they make money off of) saying we should not watch football because of the misery and violence it causes.  The arguments put forth could be applied to a great many things in life.  For example I could say I'm not going to buy pharmaceuticals because it lines the pockets of heartless shareholders who lobby for the cheap healthy alternatives not to be available to the general public (why cure when we can treat).  No one is holding a gun to the NFL players head, they chose to do what they do and I'll happily watch and live vicariously through them.  When it becomes something that is not an option and is forcing people then I'll stop watching. 

thefreakinjman
thefreakinjman

@leftbower08 You're terrible at arguments. First, the news is reporting things that are happening around the world.  You watch the news to gain knowledge. You then use that knowledge in parts of your life. "Don't drive here because traffic accident," or "Don't eat at this place because it's dirty."  There is no learning going on that you use for your life by watching the NFL. Second, an analogy to a traffic accident? The NFL is a game that's played on purpose. Players are not getting accidentally hurt. They tackle and hurt each other on purpose. You don't drive your car around looking for an accident. It happens, um, on accident. That's what the author is saying. Because he finally understands the severity of the injuries and that they do this to each other on purpose. Now you have an strong case for him to use this same principle with watching hockey, boxing, and say MMA. Those are the only other sports where you purposely try to hurt each other.

What I don't get with performance enhancers is why can they drink Gatorade, something that replenishes your body, that only could be achieved through time, but you can't replenish oxygen in your blood and put the blood back in your body?

ericanderson222
ericanderson222

@mlsmith1229 and thats good for you, you don't need to be like the author and shove your beliefs down my throat


ravisher
ravisher

@mlsmith1229 Which makes you a real man!!!, unlike stephen kaufman who thinks only manly men watch football, and all others should go paint their nails with their daughters!!



letsberealpeople
letsberealpeople

 No, I'm comparing it to the author's campaign of "social good".  You need a reading comprehension class.

Realworldnonfantasyland
Realworldnonfantasyland

@ravisher @letsberealpeople Telling people they are fools for doing something that they don't do, that they are better than you for not doing something and that they should be patted on the back and given a "good job buddy" for doing something... Thats what he is saying

ravisher
ravisher

@letsberealpeople You failed to compare your opinion to the author's statement in any relative manner.  NFL vs Humanity what a comparison!