8 Questions (and One Bit of Advice) I Have For the NFL


Once you pay the bills, money is highly overrated. ~Ross Perot

I still have bad flashbacks over this

I’m a recovering NFL football fan, much as I’m a recovering Catholic. I spent my whole life watching a sport that had no effect whatsoever on my life, my family’s collective lives, or my dog’s life. Nothing these 300-pound behemoths did on the football field affected me the way, say, a congressional budget bill would. And yet I cared. I really cared. I threw money and time and energy and the better part of thirty winters caring about what was basically grown men getting to play a kid’s game.

The caring is over. I’m done with the NFL. Maybe my neighbor is going all Brokeback and “can’t quit” the Shield, but dammit, I can. I’m tired of having my heart broken every year, my hair torn out, and a bunch of guys who make more in a year than I’ll make in my lifetime hitting me up for more money each and every year. No thanks, bro.

While I’m going to spend this fall and winter watching the NHL and college basketball, I’d like to ask a few questions of Roger Goodell, the 32 NFL team owners, and the nearly 2000 players. Maybe, if these questions get answered successfully, I might consider sharing some of my Sundays with them again. That’s a big maybe, after the near-6 month lockout, a weekly edition of Players Behaving Badly, and Brett Favre’s 17th retirement/unretirement.

Good thing he didn't sign with the Browns

Question #1: When are you going to stop making it acceptable, and even glamorous, for players to be criminals? I know Michael Vick did his time, but now he’s getting big-time endorsement deals from Nike and Subway. If I committed a felony, I’d be lucky to scrub floors over a graveyard shift. I know I can’t run a 4.4 40 or scramble into the endzone from 30 yards out…but that shouldn’t matter. I guarantee you that if most of these “players” had to do what I or my co-workers do, they wouldn’t last a week.

Question #2: Speaking of criminals, when are you going to put your foot down on these repeat offenders? Vick is a little different in that he only got caught once. I can name any number of players (Ben Roethlisberger, Pacman Jones, Plaxico Burress) who’ve seen multiple scrapes with the law. Enough is enough. I know athletes aren’t really role models anymore, but that doesn’t mean they deserve gainful employment either. Kick ’em out if they can’t keep their act straight.

Question #3: What’s up with the absurd rookie salaries? I present a scenario for you: I go to my local bank, asking for a $20 million loan. I tell them that I have a great record as a blogger and writer at an amateur level, but that I am going to be a bestselling novelist within the next few years. Think they’ll give me that loan? Nope…but that’s exactly how rookie guarantees and signing bonuses work. This for a guy who could blow out a knee and be useless before he ever plays a down professionally. If anybody knows of a gig like that for writers, let me know.

Nice playground...but where's the beef?

 
Question #4: I know you guys do a lot of charity work, but where were you when I needed you? I have a confession to make here: I’m not for charities helping those who won’t help themselves. I see so much of the United Way (the NFL’s #1 charity) in my community and it’s not going to help people who really deserve it. Last year, when I was out of work and my A/C was broken, I actually called the United Way to ask for some help. They pretty much told me to get lost. NFL, I’ve put so much money into your organization for the last 30 years. When I needed a hand, where were you? Probably buying another Bentley or a vacation home in St. Croix.
 
Question #5: Why do you think taxpayers have to support your league if it’s so strong on its own? I’d invite you to come to Tennessee, home of the Titans, where, across from a multi-million dollar facility sit acres and acres of decrepit stockyards, derelict houses, and skid rows. Money can only build up a facade so much. Taxpayers already pay out the nose for roads, schools, emergency services, and other necessities. The NFL is entertainment. It’s not a necessity. If we want to support you, we’ll buy tickets.
 
Question #6: I know you guys like change, but is it necessary every few years? There are a few old-school stadiums in The League (read: Lambeau Field) and every other one seems to get blown up every decade or so to make room for a bigger, glitzier place. There’s also the damn jerseys which change more often than Lady Gaga. Third jersey? Home alternate jersey? Special-edition cause-of-the-week jersey? After a while, fans just aren’t going to buy that crap, especially when players get traded as often as they do. And yes, I know you’re trying to make money. I don’t care.
 

Stinko de Mayo?

Question #7: If your paychecks keep going up, and most of your hardcore fans’ don’t, how do you expect to stay in business? I’m sure there are people who will always be able to afford $12,000 PSLs, $15 beers, and $30 parking. I’m not one of those people. If the NFL fails to adapt to the Great Recession, it’s going to fail just like everything else. People aren’t going to mortgage their future, or their kids’ college accounts, for entertainment. At least not most people I know.

Question #8: Do you actually expect fans to come back in droves after what you’ve put them through? I know of at least a dozen former fans like me for whom this is the last straw. If you really want to make amends, NFL, you’ve got a long way to go. Start with reaching people at a grassroots level, like Facebook and Twitter.

And, NFL, one more piece of advice:

Get rid of the damn cheerleaders. They’re anachronistic, sexist and completely useless.

Thanks for listening, NFL. If you want me back, call my agent and we’ll do lunch, preferably at Cheddar’s.

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~ by Howlin' Mad Heather on July 25, 2011.

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