To My NFL,
How long has it been since you first captivated my attention? Fifteen years? More? We’ve had some tremendous times together. I can still remember the sheer joy as I realized my Chicago Bears were going to the Super Bowl. The indescribable exuberance I felt at the certainty that the Patriots wouldn’t be perfect. There’s been so much happiness in our relationship. I can’t forget how ridiculous it sounded when I got a crap writing gig that let me talk about you every week. It felt perfect. Years later, I’ve only increased the amount of effort and time I’ve put into you. And it’s paid off in ways I never thought possible.
That’s why it hurts so much to tell you this.
…We can’t see each other anymore.
You probably noticed that I didn’t call or text on Sunday. Or watch any of your games. I wanted to take the day off. It was just a short break as far as you were aware. I knew it was something more. I knew it was something that felt right. Its being right doesn’t make this any easier.
Things really came to a head Friday afternoon. Adrian Peterson had just been indicted on child abuse charges, and I was just reeling at the non-stop violence leaking out of the league these days. Still, it wasn’t the indictment that made me stop and look at our relationship. It was tweets like these, that came moments later:
Is this what I’m supporting? Instead of reacting like human beings to an awful situation that should never befall a child, we’ve begun examining whether or not Adrian Peterson is worthy of a “Start ‘Em” this week? I was sick. Roger Goodell handled the Ray Rice clusterfuck about as deftly as a five year old trying to lie about leaving his toys all over the floor. It was appalling. You were then presented with yet another opportunity to take a stand, but instead of doing so you let the team make the call and deactivate the player under investigation. Oh, he missed one game? TIME HAS BEEN SERVED, let’s reinstate him! And how do we, in 2014, still have an NFL franchise named the Redskins? I just don’t understand you.
I’ve spent years dealing with the bro culture that acts as your baggage. You know, like the former high school offensive lineman bro-bag who would take one look at me and go “you never played the game. What can YOU possibly know about football?” I knew I was going to have to share you. I knew that sharing wouldn’t be easy, but I expected you to give something back to me… but you keep failing to be better. I’d like to tell you that “it’s not you, it’s me,” but that just isn’t true.
This has been building for a while. At first I just chalked it up to burn-out over the initial onslaught of writing I was doing, as I go through every season. This was different. In looking at the league, I found it harder and harder to keep writing in my levity-filled style when these atrocities and crimes were going unchecked. People have asked me if I could give my opinions on these situations, but I’m not a serious writer. I never have been. I admire people who can tackle heart-breaking topics like a viciously beaten four-year-old and not be terribly depressed and affected by them. That’s not me. I write about Sharknados and how Adam Levine is a douchebag. I’m not where anyone should be coming for their dose of hard-hitting journalism. I want to add fun and laughter to the internet, not jarring realism. I can’t handle that.
I’m not trying to make this about taking the moral high ground, but we just don’t share the same values anymore. I care about human rights. You care about making money. Your pink breast cancer awareness gear is a joke, designed to simulate your support for the cause, when in actuality you donate the smallest percentage of those sales and pocket the rest. You give FIVE percent. That’s insulting to the fans who spend money on those clothes, thinking their money will truly go to the right place. (Which is not your pockets, FYI.) You pretend to give a shit about women, but somehow failed to realize that domestic violence has no place in the league. Convicted criminals were playing in games up until a few days ago, because they were afforded “due process” while they appealed their conviction. And of course, this only applies to stars or players making big money. If it’s a third string safety, that dude is getting CUT. Way to hold to your principles… as long as you’re not on the hook for any major cash. Teams care more about the salary cap than they do about housing a wife-beater in their facilities.
I’m just tired. I’m tired of defending the indefensible, and I’m not just talking about Jay Cutler’s interceptions. Tired of having the same repeat conversations with “fans” who won’t accept that this isn’t 1972 and running the ball up the middle 45 times a game just isn’t a sound strategy. Tired of you taking up two weeknights and my entire Sunday. Tired of the twenty hours a week you take from me. Tired of feeling like an utterly lazy shut-in on twenty Sunday’s during the year. Tired of you keeping me up late on Monday nights… which in turn makes me literally tired on Tuesday mornings. It’s a vicious cycle and I want out. I just need my life back.
I want to do other things with my time. I have great friends, a family I don’t see enough, and an awesome girlfriend. Those are all more important than you. Did you even notice that I have a girlfriend? Of course you didn’t, because your time was unaffected. I spent several conversations preparing her for the time-suck you were going to become. Sure I missed a few preseason games, but when the regular season rolled back around I was right back in my chair, writing away and never slowing down. You didn’t even appreciate it, you asshole. You don’t deserve me.
I’m not expecting this letter will make you change your ways. There are still women wearing Ray Rice jerseys and I, a tiny drop in your fan-base’s ocean, will never be able to reach them. That doesn’t mean change isn’t coming though. I’m convinced this game won’t exist or will drastically change in the next fifteen to twenty years. What worried mother is going to let their child play a game where brain-altering concussions are so commonplace? Sure, sports come with their fair share of injuries, but outside of hockey (which is really only violent in the NHL), none actively feature the brand of physical punishment yours promotes. You can try and contain it all you want, but your sport is built on the foundation of 200+ pound men running into each other and hoping to not die.
On those grounds and more, I can’t support you anymore.
As much as I’d want to, I won’t be able to just leave you behind entirely. We’re too close for that. I’m sure I’ll watch the occasional Bears game. NFL-related podcasts will still lull me to sleep at night. You should definitely expect some booty-calls come playoff time as well, ’cause Imma hit that. As for the Super Bowl? You’ll always have me… as long as I have food and friends to watch out for me. Otherwise we shouldn’t be in the same room together for that long. It could get serious. I assume we’ll slowly drift apart and go our separate ways, looking back fondly on what we had together. And I’ll always keep my jerseys. Even my Rex Grossman.
I want you to know this is not about me leaving you for some other league. There’s no one else. The NBA could never hope to replace you. You’re totally hotter than Hockey. And the MLB? They have a boring personality. This is as much about me as it is about you. You’re not absorbing my life anymore. I refuse to tell my best friend that I can’t come to her birthday party because the Bears are playing and I have to “work.” I need to go out and be Joe, not “Joe the NFL writer.” Maybe one day you can learn to be the “NFL That Cares,” as opposed to the “NFL That Cares About the Bottom Line.” Maybe then we can get a cup of coffee. Maybe.
For now, this is the way it has to be. Don’t call me. Don’t text me. Get out of my Twitter feed especially.
So long NFL. I’ll see you around.
-Joe, Who is Mostly Average
On a serious note, I’ve become entirely too disenfranchised with the league to keep writing about it and I really am leaving it behind. I’d tell you it was a hard decision, but I’m looking forward to spending time with the people in my life I’ve been missing every NFL season. I’m not posting this for some publicity or to get a few likes. I’m posting it because I’m lucky enough to have a forum and readers who appreciate my opinion on this sport. The only thing that can keep the NFL in check are its fans. Discourse and debate on social media are the tools we have at our disposal, and Roger and the league need to know that not everyone is going to continue blindly supporting them. If you’re going to be a fan (and please do, by all means), I just want you to be an informed fan.
Mostly Average Joe will obviously continue on, now with less sports and more of the nerdy, fun, and ridiculous posts I love! I just want to thank everyone that has been reading my snarky sports takes for the past several years. Your feedback and continued support is what kept me going.
I hope you stay tuned for what else is coming in the Mostly Average future. If you’ll excuse me, I’m going to bury my feelings in some ice cream.