Monday, January 5, 2015

Why I can no longer support the NFL

I wish I could sit here and seriously right that I retired from being a NFL fan because of some moral outrage. Outrage over how the league botched the Ray Rice situation, outrage over the racist name of that franchise in our nation's capital the somehow plays its games in Maryland, outrage over the millions of dollars in corporate welfare given to team owners to build football palaces at the expense of taxpayers.

I wish that were true, but the straw that broke the camel's back for me is the two fold problem the NFL has, and continually fails to address, with its overly complicated rulebook and the terrible job its officials do on the field of play. I am one of those extremely selfish human animals...and yesterday it was those two problems that conspired to screw the team I have supported for my entire football life.

I have never seen a call so egregious, so beyond what we expect from a game of football, and so unfair go unaddressed in my entire history of playing, watching, and working in football. I have never seen a call so wrong, so obviously in error that changed the entire momentum of a game. Let's be clear here the Detroit Lions did not play a complete game in Dallas yesterday...they did however play well enough to beat the Cowboys...and they likely would have...till the referees made an error so huge they themselves could not explain it.

With that being said, I do not place the entirety of the blame on the on the field officials. It is very hard to get every call right or see everything that happens on the field...this is a NFL wide problem and the league itself puts these men in a ridiculously bad position. The rule book is overly complicated...and I could write 1,000 words on that alone...but the league takes guys who have worked with crews for the entire season...up to 20 games in some cases...and then breaks those crews up and mix matched crews for what are the most important games of the year.

I would argue that the wild card round is the most important round since a lot of the teams playing in this round are not post season experienced....and like the Lions have not grown enough to be able to overcome a flawed call...a penalty picked up that would have extended a drive...the proof of that is the very next play in the Detroit Versus Dallas Game...where the Lions lost their poise.

It is not the easiest thing in the world to be a fan of the Detroit Lions...and every season since I started rooting for this team in 1988 has ended the exact same way (in bitter disappointment)...I am pretty lucky I have seen every one of my hometown's teams win a championship save the Lions and I would trade all of them (beyond the 1984 Detroit Tigers World Series and the 1997 Detroit Red Wings Stanley Cup) for the chance to see my Lions play...not even the Super Bowl.

The Referees of the NFL making bone head calls and arbitrary rulings on the field is not a new problem...the failure of the league to use replay to fix those errors is not a new problem. It seems almost every week some official makes a call that helps determine a game on the field of play...that makes the NFL not a sport...but a lamer version of the WWE...And that is why I can no longer support, spend money on, or help promote the NFL.

In a lot of ways I owe that credit for this decision to Roger Goodell...sure he makes a lot of money for his owners and that is his highest priority...but when you cannot take a stand on any one issue you wind up standing for nothing. In the words of Thorin Oakenshiled, "If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." Goodell only cares about the hoarded gold...and that makes his NFL the Comcast of the sporting world and I already rid myself of that menace earlier this year and now I will rid myself of this one.

Much like Comcast, Roger Goodell needs to learn that I as a sports fan (and even as a sports) writer have options. I can supports the Arena League, I can become a fan of the Canadian League (not to mention the three other pro sports leagues and NASCAR)...I can watch all of these both on TV and via my computer...I have an it as good? No, not nearly...but it is football and it will satisfy my football addiction.

Let me be clear here. I bleed Honolulu blue and silver. My home is full of Lions mementos collected over a lifetime of support of my team...if there was a way to continue my support of the team I love without a cut going to Goodell's evil empire I would take that option in a heartbeat...Since there is not I will step away from the NFL until at the very minimum it fixes the problems with its on the field officials and the overly complicated rule book.