The first Sunday of football season is usually an exciting one for us. By the time September rolls around, we have been spending lots of time of poring over all of the draft and free agency acquisitions. Fantasy football rosters have been set and everyone is waiting in anticipation for opening kickoff. The start of this season feels a bit different, though.
The days of sharing fantasy football tips and game picks have come to an end. The enthusiasm that we once had for this great sport is waning. It’s no fault of the fans and we are not looking to launch any sort of protest. We just don’t have the same joy for football that we used to. That’s because the NFL is looking to play politics, instead of playing the game that we know and love.
Of course, we were still willing to check out some of the Week 1 action. It’s a very hard habit to break. We’ve been spending our fall Sundays in front of the television for some time now. That does not mean that the games held our interest, though. The league’s handling of the pandemic was also a point of emphasis for us. We wanted to see what changes were being made and if the recent social unrest had any affect on the games.
We got our answers fairly early. The Jets-Bills tilt was played in front of zero fans, due to New York State regulations. The Bills are not allowing fans for their first two home games and they plan to revisit the question soon enough. When the National Anthem, we got our answer about the social unrest. Both teams decided that they would rather stay in the locker room.
The Jets and Bills were very coy about this decision, not tipping their hand to the media before game time. Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins announced their intentions of remaining in the locker room before the games even started. The NFL is adding a secondary National Anthem this year to appease the players but it is all for naught. These measures are not actually doing anything to address the problems.
It’s easy to see why fans are going to tune out in these circumstances. People watch sports as a respite from the real world problems that they are dealing with, not to be reminded of them. From the looks of it, the owners and the commissioner have completely caved in on the topic. No player who decides to skip out on the National Anthem will be penalized or fined in any way.
As we sit here and think about all of the things that we saw during Week 1, we are not sure if we are going to be able to continue watching. Teams are not handling themselves in a manner that is conducive to a drama free season. Maybe at some point we will be able to separate our feelings about the issues from the game itself and continue to watch. This is a chance for fans to decide how they really feel.
Are people going to allow their love for football to overpower their love of their country? We can already already tell you where the NFL lands on this one. Professional sports are fairly easy to cut the cord from as well. Think of all the people who were put off by the baseball strike back in 1994. The sport is still reeling from these losses today. What’s to say that the NFL won’t experience the same sort of defections?
If the league is lucky, fans will be willing to give them a little bit of time before they jump ship. Lots of NFL obsessives have a sizable amount of history with the sport. No one necessarily “wants” to stop watching but at this point, people are being told that they have no choice. This is what the league is now, for better and for worse.