Wednesday, January 9, 2008

NFL Culture

I have been a fan of the Cleveland Browns for as long as I can remember. I mean that too. I have pictures of me at my first birthday wearing a Browns sweatshirt. I have always loved the Browns.

I also love the sport of football. In all its incarnations. I associate football with autumn, with playoff baseball, the first cold winds coming down from Canada, the drums of the band on a Friday night or Saturday morning. I associate football with personal things: college, personal happiness, and camaraderie.

But the NFL is a different subject. I don't know if it is possible to love the Browns and the sport as much as I do and loathe the NFL as much as I do. Does that work? There are tons of things I can't stand about the NFL, from the way it is presented (on national television with a dizzying array of incompetence), I hate the amount of commercials, I hate the 3 months of discussion about the draft that starts in February. I can't stand the coverage, on almost every level form the putridness of Tony Grossi and the PD, all the way through Sean Salisbury at ESPN. I find it all offensive and repugnant.

But I look around myself and I am alone. The NFL is the most popular league in the world. People through giant tissy fits about their inability to watch a Packers Cowboys regular season game. Who were they mad at? The cable companies have made a business decision that the exorbitant amount that the NFL network is asking for is too much. I didn't hear anyone saying "why is this greedy company playing the game on Thursday night anyways." Had the game been on Sunday afternoon, like all other games, I'm sure FOX would have loved to have carried it.

People eat up the draft coverage. Just because I get mad at ESPN for shoving Mel Kiper in our faces in February to talk about who the Dolphins MIGHT draft, doesn't mean people aren't eating it up.

The problem is with the culture. The culture of the NFL. It is a frat boy, testosterone driven culture that has been developing over the past ten years with the explosion of the NFL from Sunday afternoons to 24/7 365. People aren't necessarily fans of teams, but of the league itself. I hate to get academic here, but the exposure of the NFL leads to its popularity. Its straight forward Marshall McLuhan or Jean Baudrillard. If we put Sean Salisbury up talking about the NFL all day, and then we start treating a Thursday night game (that's on in every bar in America) as a news story, eventually we as a culture will begin to accept it.

Its not that the NFL draft is so important that we better start covering it 3 months early. Its BECAUSE we cover it 3 months early, that it is important. Like the Red Sox/Yankees "division race" last year. It was unimportant, they were both in the playoffs, and who they played was more dependent on the other 2 teams. But Bristol covered it, it became important, and next thing you know, it was part of our culture.

The NFL is gross. But it will continue to be gross with offensive production, insane amounts of commercials, and repugnant coverage because that's how they create this culture. The NFL culture that I feel ashamed to be a part of.

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