Guest column: A childhood love of the NFL is nearly lost, especially after that Super Bowl
February 5, 2019
Watching Bill Belichick storm around the sideline on Sunday yelling, “What's going on?” to the referees pretty much summed it up for me.
Two minutes left in the Super Bowl, there's a penalty, and one of the most experienced NFL ambassadors of our time doesn't know what's going on. Maybe I am being dramatic, though. Or am I? Now it's “fourth and inches.”
I have a feeling I know how this will end.
The real problem for me is that I am watching the game that I loved nearly to worship in my youth; and in what is supposed to be a “game of the century” kind of Super Bowl — hyped because of supposed mega-showcase offensive juggernauts — I am bored.
If the right NFC team was playing, it may have been better.
As we all know, the Saints lost to the Rams. Late in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game, the referees missed a blatant pass interference call — what ESPN Pardon the Interruption's historic sports journalist Michael Wilbon called something "offensive to his sensibilities." We all watched, knowing the right result, but were forced to stomach the wrong one. Michael Wilbon testified, what most of us already know consciously or what some are in denial over, that there is no "integrity" to the "(NFL) product."
And now the Super Bowl is over.
I have a feeling — maybe based on my resentment towards the NFL, or maybe because I truly feel it — that the New Orleans Saints' Drew Brees would have turned this game into a classic passing shoot-out with Tom Brady.
But we will never know.
I must say again that I genuinely loved the NFL as a child. And that is maybe why I am resentful. Not only is this sport tainted, but what is worse is that it once was not. A child sports fanatic could only have gravitated to the NFL's lure of the early 1990s, could only have worshipped the mud-mouthed monster Lawrence Taylor, the quarterbacks of the San Francisco 49ers Joe Montana and Steve Young who epitomized the idyllic Hall of Fame shrine, the All-American Dallas Cowboys. Personally, I loved Emmitt Smith, small and elusive, like me. I had Michael Irvin's signed jersey, among others.
That is how I feel about the NFL, and a tensionless, boring Super Bowl that resulted in Tom Brady’s anticlimactic win of another of his many championships.
I should probably stop there, but why not shamelessly plug my beloved Premier League Soccer, and how that league ultimately presents a true champion every year.
In a league of 20, every team plays every team twice — home and away once each. Every game is so meaningful, and carries the charge and effect of that meaningful atmosphere. The champion will have played the best of its league overall. There is no room for drama because there is no great spotlight on any one moment.
Game by game and moment by moment of so many, a champion is born; and the championship may be clinched long before the season is done.
I know what I say next will not reassure anyone, but having watched dozens of games this season and hundreds over a decade, there is little controversy and little flopping.
Who would not take extra time on the grass after being slide-tackled, after many minutes of continuous work, by a footballer in his utmost peak of physical form? Let's also not forget the crowd-tradition of endless songs and cheers, how the atmospheric game ebbs and flows in its beautiful fluidity until a goal in a moment stops your heart before you and it leap for joy.
When games are tied, they are on the nervous brink of mad exultation; and when they end in ties, well it is part of the journey of the season.
Maybe the mind of an American sports fan is trained to have a small attention span — where soccer is like an antique and captivating black-and-white movie, so beautiful and thoughtful and worked out and complete but ultimately requiring of too much thought to appreciate. But trust me, there are goals for those who need them; brilliant moments created by building momentous play. That is enough!
I like basketball too, just saying. I like college basketball, the NBA (playoffs, especially), ironically I love college football (but that is another article altogether), love World Cup ski racing, the summery scent and feel and pace of baseball, love to play hockey, and tennis can be OK.
I used to love the NFL, for I am the sports fan that I am today because I grew up watching that specific form of sports entertainment, with all its gladiatorial and heroic epicness in its prime (where it will never be again).
I just finished watching a boring game — for mostly everyone but non-Bostonians.
The season truly ended in a low way; a dissatisfying playoff tainted by its referees and the modern game's flaws and shameless, offensive falsehoods, mysteries, and obscurities; then a boring Super Bowl, and a finish nobody wanted.
What is the future of this game? And why should I care? Maybe I am being dramatic.
Zachary Akselrad is the ski and bike patrol supervisor at Winter Park Resort.