I was watching NFL network this morning and I heard a line that made me stop and ponder all that is the NFL. T.O. was talking about his relationship with Ochocinco and he said that while things may get competitive between them, they would remain friends. They would still “love each other as men.” When I realized this awkward statement was made by someone who is commonly known as “T.O.” and he was discussing his relationship with a man who had his last name legally changed to “Ochocinco” it really got the wheels turning about how incredibly wonderful and bizarre the sport of professional football truly is.
I’ve been a fan of the NFL for something like 30 years now. Specifically I’ve been a Bears fan for almost as long. During that time I have witnessed many strange rituals, heard great one liners, read about things that made me shake my head and came up with several traditions of my own. I am a teacher. At least that’s what they pay me to do. In theory I teach high school students. Perhaps a better way of clarifying things, I get paid to tolerate adolescents and their behavior while attempting to get them to complete activities that are viewed as academically relevant. It’s a living. Not a very exciting one but it allows me to live in relative obscurity and for the most part it pays the bills. But it’s nothing compared to playing professional sports. Not that I’d know. But I can imagine and it goes something like this....
I once heard John Madden have a serious conversation with Pat Summerall about Nate Newton’s ass sweat. It was during a particularly hot game in Dallas. The camera even provided fans with a close up. John didn’t go as far as to telestrate the issue but it was an actual conversation being broadcast into my living room. I could probably write this entire article on John Maddenisms alone but that wouldn’t cover the spectrum I’m seeking. The point is I would never face this type of scrutiny at my desk in Iowa. At least I hope I don’t, but you never can tell where teenagers will take things. But how strange must it be to have a job where people will actually take time to critique bodily functions?
It was also pointed out on the NFL network today that Aaron Schobel may be using the threat of retirement as a method of contract negotiation. Many have speculated that Brett Favre is already doing the same. I don’t know about you but in today’s economy that is something that just wouldn’t work for me. I can hear the conversation now; Me: ”I’m sorry boss, but if the school can’t give me some better numbers I may have to walk away from education.” My boss: “That’s Ok Dave we we’re debating cutting your position anyway.” Unless you are incredibly good at what you do what profession other than professional sports allows you to utilize such tactics? Even Hollywood super stars will merely threaten to move to another project but to retire from acting completely? It just wouldn’t work.
The last thought I had concerned how much time, energy and resources as a fan I use to enhance my enjoyment of football. The NFL has its own network. I know other sports have some version of that but it really only works for the NFL. I can (and do) get football 24/7. I watched the 1986 Super Bowl in, like May 2010. It was amazing. And if the NFL network isn’t enough they have their own web site, and the team has its own web site, there are multiple pro football web sites and publications and then there is this web site for people who really like to spend time thinking about the Bears when all those other resources just aren’t cutting it. Then there is all the wonderful merchandise, tickets to the games, hours spent watching TV or blogging (hell this rant alone has eaten up a good 1/2 an hour) among the countless other ways we find to get our football fix. The fact that you are even reading this is a fair indicator as to where you stand on this issue. It’s mind boggling.
I’m sure there are other professional sports that draw as much attention and acclaim. There may even be other professions that get the same attention. As a nation we enjoy eating so much that food has its own network. There are “educational” programs so my profession has that going for it. Women have their own network but so do animals and Catholics so I guess that’s a push. But even given all those other channels touching on all these other aspects of life I don’t think any of them possess the very specific draw that professional football gets. It’s ingrained itself into our society and it only continues to grow. Even now I can look across the street at my neighbors flag pole and see “Old Glory” rustling in the breeze with a Bears flag directly underneath it and in spite of the sarcastical tones of this rant, I absolutely love it.