Whether you believe the NFL should force players to stand for the national anthem or not there are two facts that by now cannot be denied. The first fact is that a lot of people have turned off the NFL either by not watching or by not attending games. The second fact is that many people are now saying that the NFL was a kind of addiction for them and they are so over it that they won’t watch games even if the players all begin standing for the anthem next week.
That remains to be seen.
Addiction Abounds in Society
As a society, we struggle with many addictions: food, alcohol, gambling, sex, and many others. Until now no one thought that the NFL was an addiction but as protests move well into the second half of this season, we see that many erstwhile football fans simply don’t care.
You might be surprised that every reputable online casino has a program for problem gamblers. The pastime is so popular that the casinos have no incentive to encourage problem gamblers to gamble. Instead, they encourage problem gamblers to set limits or stop playing altogether.
We would not expect the NFL to encourage fans to set limits or stop watching their product altogether! We wouldn’t expect the makers of sugary breakfast cereals to encourage us to cut back or stop consuming their products altogether!
Cable no Longer Popular
The loss of viewership for the NFL started years before the kneeling started last year. Television generally is less popular than it has ever been. Many people complain about the high cost of cable coverage and that they have hundreds of stations but there’s nothing to watch.
The protests against the kneeling simply accelerated an historical phenomenon. In this age of live streaming, there really is no reason to pay to watch games. The live streaming companies pay for their streams with advertising, ironically about gambling for the most part.
Thanking the NFL
The interesting point here is that so many people are now saying that they are glad to have their Sundays back. They used to waste their Sundays watching games that they couldn’t affect in any case. The highlights are available on YouTube within hours of the end of any game so people who still want to see the best plays can do so. It takes about ten minutes, give or take a couple of minutes.
Every Monday morning you can see on many news sites the half empty football stadiums from the previous day’s games. The networks don’t talk about it and do their best not to show empty seats but the average fan knows what’s going on. In short, the NFL through its players and league management has turned off the bedrock fan base the league enjoyed for decades.
Pansy Game vs a Man’s Game
Football surpassed baseball as the national pastime in the late 1960’s. At the time, baseball was a pitcher’s game. Offense was hard to come by. The subtleties of the game were lost on young fans who loved the hard-nosed game the NFL presented.
Mush for Brains Becomes Reality
Today, the hard-nosed game of the NFL has become a kind of persona non grata as lifetime brain injury has been found in player after player after their early deaths, often from suicide as desperate players see suicide as the only way to prevent them from hurting their families, friends, or others.
Sad but True
For those of us who grew up with the NFL, the accelerated demise of the league is bittersweet to say the least. We yearn for the innocence of our youth when a great hit was something to celebrate rather than an acknowledgment that the game is destroying young people’s brains.
People are already talking about how they are filling their Sundays now that they no longer watch the NFL. Some go fishing, some simply spend time with their wife or girlfriend, some sing in a church choir, some surf the internet and some participate in conversations on blogs and forums all over the net. Instead of sitting at home or in a bar watching meaningless games, people are finding that there are an unlimited number of things they can do with their free time, so long as they free up some time in order to have more free time!
These latter express their decision to leave the NFL is wistful tones but say they are grateful to the league for allowing them to see that they had a football addiction and to kick it.
Political but Also Non-political
Many fans have left the NFL because they see others leave it. Many are not protesting for political reasons. They don’t agree with how players are protesting institutional racism; they aren’t saying that players shouldn’t protest.
The bedrock fans who are leaving the NFL are also firm believers in free speech but they feel that there are proper ways to express free speech. By players kneeling for the national anthem and the display of the flag, these former fans are saying that the players are showing disrespect for the armed services and the flag.
It has not gone unnoticed that soldiers who die in the course of their service come home in a flag-draped coffin.
The slow demise of the NFL may actually pick up steam as people discourage their kids from playing and people find that their lives have been enriched by no longer watching football.