Original Author: Andrew Forbes
After almost 30 years, a fan gave up watching football this season — wrestling with questions of morality and routine along the way.
I’ve been a New Orleans Saints fan since 1987 — for tenuous and obscure reasons owing mainly to timing and a running back named Reuben Mayes — and a football fan longer than that, but I do not know what the Saints’ current record is, nor even which NFL teams are having good seasons.
I don’t know who is on top of the NFC South. I don’t know what kind of a year Drew Brees is having. I don’t know who’s playing in this week’s Thursday Nighter. I don’t know anything, frankly, because I have not watched an NFL game this year.
I’m not sure if ours is a moral universe. I suspect it is not. I suspect we live our lives in a vacuum and then we die, and that notions of decorum and civility and kindness are constructs that we have developed over time to suit the particulars of our interactions, to help us move more efficiently and, maybe, even happily through our lives until our personal timelines end, and the world beats on without us.
But I value many of the ways we have devised to ease our passage. I don’t want to say morals because that’s a loaded word, one that seems to have its fingers in judgment and competing versions of religion, or spirituality anyway. So, no, I don’t think I’m a moralist. I hope I recognize that there are a lot of different ways to live one’s life. There are a couple of rules, I think, but even rules is a strong word. Guidelines. Maybe Best Practices. Or maybe just this: Right and wrong are hazy concepts, except when they aren’t. And they tend to defer to the more tangible notion of kindness.
We were all really upset with the NFL back in the early part of the season. Maybe you remember this. I barely do. But we were angry because it was obvious that a culture of violence and misogyny permeated the league, that Commissioner Roger Goodell and the powers that be were perfectly happy to let certain things slide in order to maintain the game’s cultural dominance, and a grand campaign of CYA was undertaken, much of it centered on whether or not anybody knew there was footage of Ray Rice assaulting his fiancee from inside the elevator, or when they knew it.
This was stupid, of course. Is there anybody here who really thinks anything took the NFL by surprise? The NFL is a megalithic nation-state whose influence crosses borders and supersedes that of virtually all law enforcement organizations. Someone within it saw that tape. But Goodell said they didn’t, and then the football hype machine eventually kicked into regular-season form, and I guess some exciting games happened, so they were basically let off the hook.
Anyway, the point is, I said to myself that I was done with all of it. It was maybe a final straw. I’d already found myself a bit wishy-washy about the whole package a year earlier, as much as I liked watching Drew Brees chuck touchdown passes. But all the things you probably already know — Bountygate, concussions and CTE, the way women are treated as ornaments on broadcasts, the massive militaristic ritual enacted on my TV every Sunday — had piled up and conspired to take a bit of a shine off the whole experience for me. So when all the news of domestic violence came out at the tail end of last summer, I decided to leave it be. I was going to wash my hands of the NFL.