Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Are You Ready for Some Football -or- Are You Ready To Be Excluded Therefrom

Last night marked the official (as if anyone actually watches the preseason) debut of Monday Night Football on ESPN. For those who don't pay attention to sports this may come as another "who cares", as, admittedly, my last post was. But c'mon, see past the end of your scrawny self. Monday Night Football is one of the most important television shows of all time, and it just got moved off of network TV. This is a sea change in progress.

It's difficult for me to believe that NASCAR is actually as popular as many say it is, seeing as I personally have only ever met a handful of people who give the minorest shit about the sport. Football, however, is different. A truly populist pastime unconfined to the southern ghetto, as NASCAR is seen as having been, the NFL is probably the most American institution in existance, and that includes America. Middle class males in the United States, in general, have nothing going on in their lives for the five months spanning Autumn and early Winter other than football. The rest of the year, as much as this seems cliched, a message forcefed to the public by the NFL's marketing strategies, is a vast cultural wasteland for most of these people.

Baseball has been corrupted by scandal, Basketball, again, is unfortunately still only a hugely popular ghetto sport, and Hockey airs on OLN. Football is the last greatest American dream.

I have often marvelled at the passion for Soccer that incites European fans to riot on a weekly basis all over the continent and bemoaned the fact that, because of the structures of the organizations that govern professional sports in this country, that sort of passion is rarely seen in our sports culture. Sure, people call in to sports talk radio and foam at the mouth, sure people tip over cars when their NBA team wins a championship, but American sports really just don't have the history, the regional division and the deepseated hatred inbedded in them required to create such spectacles of football hooligany as the Europeans are expert at creating.

But we were well on our way to creating that sort of history. Football was well on its way to becoming America's true national sport. Why do you think it isn't in the Olympics? No one wants to play us. With the extremely minor exception of the CFL, this is our sport, and you can't have it. You probably can't even understand it, unless, that is, you extrapolate from rugby. The NFL has become so ubiquitous, so successful, and so worthy of veneration by its teams' fans not only because of the decrease in ethics within baseball or the marketing of basketball, but because of the genius of its own organizations.

Look who has won the last few Super Bowls. Pittsburg, New England, New England, Tampa, New England, Baltimore, St. Louis. Do you see a New York or a Los Angeles, or christ, even a Chicago in there? Hell no! These are real cities. And I hope New York and LA don't win another Super Bowl for the rest of the century, because the NFL isn't about those cities and doesn't relate to most of the people who live in them. The entire city of Cleveland would immolate themselves if it would help the Browns make the playoffs this year (they won't). The NFL is middle America at its best, and that is why its fans, and I, have come to love it.

Which brings me back to my point. Most of the people the NFL truly is meant to appeal to can no longer watch Monday Night Football because they don't have cable. In my mind, this is one of the largest injustices wreaked upon the American public in recent memory, and I would've liked to have seen some consumer advocacy groups lobby against the decision. Disney, as a man I once almost worked for pointed out to me once, has almost total control over what sports most people can and will watch on TV these days, and this is just as big of a deal, if not a bigger one, than all of these battles being fought over the record industry.

Someone needs to look out for the rights of America's god-fearing football fans. This is an open cry for help.

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