Next week Sunday evening, the Carolina Panthers and star young quarterback Cam Newton will face off against veteran Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. Super Bowl 50 at Levi Stadium is being touted as the “Father Time vs. The Fountain of Youth” matchup, and rightfully so. Only New England Patriots superstar Tom Brady can rival future Hall of Famer Manning for the title of generational greatest. And Newton? Well he’s 26 years old and already the best of what remains should Manning and Brady finally decide to hang up their cleats. Barring major injury (unfortunately always a prospect in the NFL), we should be talking about him for a long time.
I’m deeply interested in this game. I’ve always had the utmost respect for Peyton Manning as an athlete and competitor, and I’ll also admit I’ve enjoyed his humorous turns in a variety of ad campaigns. He’s far looser, with better comedic timing than his wooden and unfathomably two-ringed younger brother Eli (another rant for another time). This may well be his final season and it would be awfully sweet to see him go out a champion. Also, suck it Colts.
As for Cam Newton, he’s at the top of his game and a possible 2016 MVP candidate. It’s fun to watch a guy who just won the Heisman Trophy five years ago dominate the sport. The fact that he’s also extraordinarily good looking has nothing to do with my affinity (lies).
But you know what? Other than perhaps the first three contests of the 2015-2016 Bears season, Super Bowl 50 might be the ONLY game I’ve given a shit about in awhile. Yes, the former Monsters of the Midway went a pathetic 0-3 and never improved much. Sure my fantasy team comfortably finished in last place. And I admit I was out of my survival pool by Week 5. I miserably own all of these misfortunes, but I’d be lying if I claimed they weren’t the year-over-year norm.
No, for three colossal reasons, I’ve just found it hard to care much about this season. My love of sports and competition springs eternal, but National Football League, if you’re listening? I’m over it. Notwithstanding welcome and overdue news of Buffalo’s hiring Kathryn Smith, breaking the glass ceiling as the league’s first female assistant head coach, I’m just not that into you anymore.
The absurd greed.
The NFL has finally begun paying taxes, but corporate whore Roger Goodell and his machine generate over $10 billion in revenue for football. It’s a business, and this fact permeates seemingly everything the Ginger Hammer decrees (thanks Drew Magary!).
- The decision to depart from Roman numeral 50 for the coming Super Bowl, and the fact that this story about the merchandising theory behind it ran on CNN Money.
- The strong but struggling Midwestern city of St. Louis delivered a huge blow with the Rams’ pending relocation to Los Angeles, California. Despite valiant efforts by city leaders to make staying in place an attractive deal for the team, shitbag CEO Stan Kroenke trashed the Lou, and per Sports Illustrated, “the NFL and its ownership followed the money.”
- And as a female fan weary of the league’s blatant, rampant misogyny (see #3 below), I can’t even deal with it’s misappropriation of the breast cancer awareness pink ribbon without actually raising funds for research.
The long-term injuries
It’s true that the NFL agreed to a $1 billion concussion settlement with thousands of former players, stemming from the brutal sport’s catastrophic injury record. It’s also true that there is serious doubt about whether this amount can ever be enough to reimburse a steady stream of former athletes for their medical bills and ruined lives. Just this month, former Steelers star Antwaan Randle El opened up about his struggles with memory loss and balance. He’s a mere 36 years-old and was never seriously impaired during his playing days. Yet he says, “I have to be on my knees praying about it, asking God to allow me to not have these issues and live a long life. I want to see my kids raised up. I want to see my grandkids.”
This is a tragedy and there are too many human stories like it. A fellow writer and friend recently observed, “I said in a blog post once that I wonder if, in the future, our support for the game will be seen as barbarian.”
It’s getting tough not to feel barbaric for continued support of a system that allows an unacceptable number of men to commit suicide as pain relief.
I wish I had a stronger word for this last one, but I already used “misogyny” and I don’t like to be linguistically repetitive. Ray Rice and thousands more overpaid, entitled, criminal cases like it – spoken and perhaps just as often, hushed. The New York Times titles the sport’s unchecked – and frequently unpunished – violence against women,”a quandary.” Once again the nomenclature seems feebly understated.
The Super Bowl is a national event and millions are looking forward to a Patriots-free contest, while relishing the commercials and spectacular half time show. Including me. But it feels different in 2016, much more bittersweet. I don’t know how if my engagement can survive the offseason into the fall. The NFL is going to have to do some work over the next six months to demonstrate less cynicism. The lack of currency involved may not matter to Roger Goodell and the league, but continuing to ignore fact is bad business for my moral conscience.