The first weekend of the National Football League season – just seven days away – always seems to prompt an annual question: What in the world have I been doing with my Sundays since January? It’s like I can’t remember. I distinctly recall coming home from church, running my customary three miles, walking the dog around the park, eating lunch, or it being Sunday, eating dinner, and, then … it’s hard to say. But I did something to kill an afternoon and early evening for six months – six long, tedious months.
As big a Rangers fan as I am, I checked out on them, save for an inning here or there, about Mother’s Day. I don’t need to see the same car wreck game after game. On the subject of car wrecks, NASCAR doesn’t do a lot for me. So was the TV even on?
I like to read, but my reading is done at night just before falling asleep. It wasn’t mowing the yard since I prefer to do that on weekday evenings so I can have weekends free. But free for what?
It’s like my mind won’t let me remember those Sunday afternoons in May, June and July, a defense mechanism to prevent dangerous flashbacks of acute boredom and actual grown-up conversations with my wife.
I do remember a Sunday in June, I want to say June 29, when I had planned to gut the garage, throw away some junk, power-wash and sweep the floor, and streamline everything, but it was very hot that day and the cooler fall weather seemed more suited for that.
In long-range planning, I had penciled in today, but it occurred to me this is the Labor Day weekend, so for religious reasons, something like that is impossible. It can’t be next Sunday, because beginning in seven days for the next four glorious months, the National Football League returns.
And might I say, not a moment too soon. Excuse me while I close my eyes, take a deep breath and exhale.
Lord knows, the United States has its issues, but this is what separates this country from all others, and what makes it a beacon of light to many third-world outposts and the likely cause of immigrants and refugees clamoring to cross the border.
You see, on these shores, we have the unalienable right to watch three NFL games on Sunday, one on Monday, two on Thursday, not including the NFL Red Zone to view every team inside an opponent’s 20, the privilege to lose half a paycheck on a three-game parlay, to work three times longer on your fantasy league team than helping with your kid’s homework, to get rip-roarin’ drunk and go shirtless in 5-degree weather in Green Bay, and to cross-dress in a bright print blouse, wig and hog snout in Washington.
That, my friends, is what made this country great. And this is coming from someone who is more of a college football fan. There are three corporate giants in the U.S. – General Motors, Microsoft and the National Football League. And not necessarily in that order.
The Harris Poll in April reported the NFL as the country’s favorite sport for the 30th consecutive year, and now it’s not even close, outpolling Major League Baseball 35 to 14 percent.
Last season’s Super Bowl was the most-watched U.S. television event of all time – not game, event. It drew 111.5 million viewers – and it was a rout, a 43-8 Seattle win over Denver. Second? The Super Bowl in 2012.
The NFL is all about B’s, as in billions. The 32 franchises average 1.17 billion in value. The league generates $10 billion annually, of which $7 billion come from TV contracts. Watching an NFL game is so good, so encompassing, so convenient, so cheap, that it’s starting to drive down attendance at real games where the cost and hassle are high.
The four television networks that carried NFL games last year combined to average 75 million viewers each weekend. Count me among them, shaking my head and smirking at the Cowboys all the way.
Not that the NFL doesn’t have its drawbacks. Like any giant, the NFL takes its share of justified criticism. There’s too much uniformity and conformity, not enough character. The game lacks the pageantry and tradition of the college game, the purity of high school. Too many games of five field goals and 16-13 final scores.
It’s ironic that a nation that values individualism so embraces a socialist system like the NFL which is governed, and teams are held hostage, by a salary cap. While it’s supposed to be balance, in reality, it’s a lot of mediocrity.
But the NFL is still superior to any other professional league, still has the most talented players in America’s favorite sport, is still an institution on Sundays in the fall. It offers two things Americans love – legalized violence and fantasy leagues. And, besides, the halftimes are only 12 minutes.
So my Sunday afternoons are wide open for you, NFL. Bring them on. That garage can wait until spring.
by Jon Mark Beilue
Jon Mark Beilue is an award-winning columnist for AGN Media. He can be reached at email@example.com or (806) 345-3318.