#NoKaepNoNFL: Playoffs? You kidding me, playoffs?

Jim Mora’s “playoffs” rant is one of the all time great press conference videos. This is a man who has clearly run out of fucks to give and just wants his team to suck less.

I love it!

This is usually one of my favorite times of year. I love the NFL playoffs! In a seven game series, the best team usually finds a way to win, but in a single elimination scenario, a team can get hot at the right time or just play out of their minds and win a game. Any given Sunday, as the saying goes.

Add to that the divisional round, arguably the best weekend of football in the entire year, always falls around my birthday. Four excellent games, gift wrapped for me. You shouldn’t have, NFL.

Of course, this is not a normal year. I didn’t watch the playoffs. And I’m kind of glad I didn’t. The Steelers lost a 45-42 shootout at home to the Jacksonville Jaguars, who then in turn got beaten by the Patriots.

(shakes fist at the sky) Damn you, Patriots!!!

On the NFC side… something happened and now the Eagles are going to the Super Bowl.

So this year’s Super Bowl will be a repeat of Super Bowl 39, Patriots vs. Eagles.

I remember that Super Bowl very well… because I really didn’t give a fuck.

It seems apropos that the year I boycotted would end with a Super Bowl towards which I am almost completely ambivalent. The NFL is dead to me.

Of course, it’s not. This year away has reminded me of how much I truly love the game. I’ve decided that I will return to watching next year. Even knowing how problematic the league is, and it is wildly problematic, I still very much love the game and have missed watching it in a way that is really hard to explain to a non-fan.

I don’t know if I will come back to the game with the same fervor that I had before this year. A lot of this year has left a sour taste in my mouth. The prospect of Brady and Belichick winning another ring isn’t helping any. The politicizing around the national anthem and the interference of buffoonish commander-in-chief were infuriating. I don’t know if any of theses things are going away in the near future.

But the NFL is a mirror to our culture at large. All of the issues of this nation spilled on to the field of our most popular sport and we left the social commentary that should be domain of journalists, politicians, and other public thinkers to sportscasters and former athletes. Don’t get me wrong, some of them have been insightful. My admiration for Jemele Hill has gone through the roof this season. She, Bomani Jones, and other (mostly black) commentators who understand that you can’t separate sports from the lives of the athletes who play them have added more sophistication to the national conversation than it feels the average white sports fan is comfortable with, often at the risk of their jobs. Still, until we have these conversations in the nation at large, and especially in those places where people can make lasting, legislative changes, it’s unrealistic to think that what is discussed in the realm of sports will be anything more than symbolic.

None of the above means that I will let the league off the hook for its bad behavior going forward. On the contrary, I will be critical of the NFL because I am a fan. I have to confess the annoyance I feel about people who have no knowledge or interest in the game having sudden, strong opinions about something that I know and love well. If the politics of the game, both internal and external, are to change, it will be fans who make it happen. It’s because I love the NFL that I reserve my right to be critical of it.

The other piece of this, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is my son. As I checked the score of the Steelers/Jaguars divisional round game, and saw that things weren’t going the Steelers way, I thought about my boy and texted my ex to see how he was doing. He told me that he had that feeling where he felt like he might cry but he didn’t cry. Welcome to being a Steelers fan, kiddo! I love his passion for the game and I look forward to years of crashing on the couch and geeking out with him. Yes, I do hope and pray that we will cultivate other shared interests, and we do have plenty, but… well, maybe I can’t explain it to you if you haven’t seen his face light up when Antonio Brown makes a sick catch.

Sports continue to be a great way to teach life lessons which is why they are such an enduring part of American life. Thomas already has an ethic of fair play and teamwork that has been honed by watching games. He already takes losing much better than I do, a lesson that will serve him well in life because we all have to lose some time. One day, he and I will talk in depth about this year. Maybe he’ll read this blog series. I hope that he’ll understand how much he was a part of my decision to not watch as well as my decision to ultimately watch again. I hope he’ll understand that it’s about the kind of man I want to be and the kind of example that I want to set for him. I hope one day all of this makes sense…




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