Let’s talk about football, shall we?

* ed note:  this is a cross post from my ‘what I am reading’  page.  It began as a book review, but crossed into so much more I thought it should stand alone as it’s own thing.

9780062108029

Let’s talk about football for a bit, shall we?  I love football.  Love love love it!  I am also torn, however.  I am torn because the NFL is an evil organization, for many reasons.  They treat their players poorly.  Did you know NFL players have no health insurance after they retire?  Yet… Ford employees do.  The NFL makes 8 Billion dollars a year, and they are a ‘non-profit 501C’ charity.  This means they don’t pay a penny in taxes.  In fact, quite the opposite; every football stadium in the US is paid for with paxpayer dollars. Charity, my ass!  They pay no taxes and they pay for no health care.  They are mean to the players and they are mean to the fans.  More specifics?  How about the black out rules?  If a team doesn’t sell out all the tickets in the stadium for a home game… the NFL forbids that game from being on TV in that market.

For example – San Diego Chargers rarely sell out their games.  So, that means you also don’t get to watch them at home on Sundays.  The NFL does this to force you to go see the game in person.  Yeah, that is a treat for sure – $40 parking, $100 seats (that is face value for the worst seats) $6 water, $8 beer. When the game is over, you have to navigate home with 60,000 fellow drivers… all of whom are also wasted.  No thanks, I’ll watch at home.

Another example?  Ok. Last month RG3 was not playing.  It was a pre-season game, and he was still dealing with an injury.  BEFORE the game, which was NOT regular season, he wore a shirt on the field made by a company other than Nike.  Nike, you see, has an illegal monopoly with the NFL.  All players HAVE to wear Nike clothes, and only Nike clothes.  I can call it a monopoly because the Supreme Court already did.  Well, for wearing a tshirt that wasn’t Nike, before a game, a pre-season game, a game he wasn’t playing in… he got a $10,000 fine.  Some fucking charity that is.

So, with that said, I still really love football.  An analogy would be my love of music and my feelings towards Ticketbastard.  One has nearly ruined the other, but it is what it is.  Football joyfully consumes a ton of my time.  I play in a couple different fantasy leagues, and all that jive.  I watch football games, I watch shows about football games.  I study about it, and I am more than happy to talk about it for hours with total strangers. More importantly,  I am fascinated by the life of a football player outside the game.  I wanna know about the minutia of being a football player.  Is it weird to go to McDonald’s because people stare at you?  Do you have trouble fitting in beds and cars and clothes because you are so ginormous?  What did it do to your relationships?  Stuff like that is what I like to know about, same with musicians.

Several books below, I talked about the really great Stefan Fatsis book called ‘a Few Seconds of Panic’.  I very highly recommend that book.  This book, so far, is a similar tale about the NFL told from the inside.  Here is what I have learned so far.  For the players – football isn’t about the smell of the grass on game day.  It’s not about taking the ball 70 yards for the game winning touchdown.  It’s not about signing the football for that little crippled boy who says you are his hero.  Yeah, I know it says that on the back of every dust jacket. 

Playing in the NFL is about pain.  Constant pain every waking minute from the time you are about 18 on.  You think to yourself ‘cry me a river, these guys have the best doctors on earth taking care of them!’.  Well… yes and no.  They do have the best doctors and the best everything money can buy.  But no, they are not treating the players.  Why?  Because the players are afraid to tell anyone they are hurt.  if you are hurt, you get benched.  Your ‘toughness’ is questioned, and you get cut in the offseason.  So, you play hurt always and never tell anyone.  You also say “but Lono, these guys are getting millions to play a playground game, cry me a river!”.  Yeah, they are.  However, these guys are also retired and unemployable by age 30.  They are also broke and addicted to painkillers.  Every single one of them.  Well, except the 12 guys on television.  There is no pension or health care for players. 

I don’t blame that all on the NFL.  I also blame the players union who doesn’t do dick for them, but takse their money.  Remember when Homer was briefly president of the employee’s union at the nuclear plant?  In negotiations with management, he traded their health care for a keg of beer.  The saddest part was the workers were stoked they got one over on management. I blame the young dumb poor 20 year kids who spend 5 million a year like they are going to be making that for the next 20 years.  The league actually does try and coach and warn these kids about money issues.  But, you can’t tell a 20-year-old kid shit.  He ain’t listening.  He especially ain’t listening’ if he is a newly minted millionaire and has been dirt poor all this life.  He especially ain’t listening’ if a bunch of super rich old white guys are telling him what to do… when in his eyes most of all his problems have been caused by super rich old white guys.

Per the Fatsis book, I learned the average NFL career is 2.5 years.  Of course, every player thinks they will be the exception.  Think of that.  You are done FOR LIFE by 30 years old. It comes against your will. It is the one thing you did well all your life, and the only thing you ever truly cared about… and it is taken away.  Imagine if you told me at 30 I could no longer cook, or screw, or play guitar, for the rest of my life.  I just really started getting good at that stuff at 30.  Imagine if my company came to my desk at 30 and fired me… and no one else would hire me.  Imagine if I came to work every day, and there were three guys in the office looking for MY job.  The only way any of those three guys gets to keep their job is if I screw up at work or hurt myself.  Can you imagine that pressure?  Let’s be even more specific.  I work in customer service, so I handled escalated and very visible customer complaints.  Last month I had one that I just blew.  Totally my fault, I spaced out calling the customer back.  Plus, I am 41.  Guess what, in sports, that would have been my ass.  I would unemployed, and unemployable.

I know this is all very negative, and doesn’t sound like a guy who loves football.  But, to love something you must understand and appreciate all of it’s aspects.  Like a marriage, you have to understand and live with its faults.  This is how I feel about football.  It is complex, and often horrible… but I live for it.

Lucky for me, this guy Nate Jackson, like Fatsis below, was a Denver Bronco.  So, I get the added bonus of not just learning about the NFL’s culture… I get a peek inside my beloved home team.  Here is a small example of what I am poorly trying to explain – I am about 20 pages in so far, and the author talks about ‘the Greek’ a ton.  He says ‘the Greek’ is the team trainer/doctor.  Now, if I wasn’t a Broncos fan, I would have no idea what or who he is talking about.  But, I do.  ‘the Greek’ is long time beloved team trainer Steve Antonopolous.  So, knowing the Broncos like I do helps.  Yeah, I know our team trainer by his name, AND his nickname.  Do you know that much about your football team?  Of course you don’t.

So, I am very excited this book.  I know it will be about the smell of the grass on a game day Sunday morning.  I know it’s gonna be about free drinks and pussy wherever he goes.  I know it’s gonna be about teamwork and camaraderie and running seams and patterns.  Mostly, though, I know it’s gonna be about pain.  Not just the physical pain… but that day when he was probably about 27 years old and the assistant coach called him and said he’d been cut.  The one thing you have been working towards every single day of your life since you were ten years old… you will never ever get to do again.  Worst of all, it is almost never on your own terms.

Go Broncos!

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3 thoughts on “Let’s talk about football, shall we?

  1. As a fellow diehard football fan I appreciate your perspective. Allow me to offer a contrary deconstruction.

    The NFL does not call itself a charity. Our government does. They have no shareholders or ownership therefore there is no way to distribute it’s earnings. It has employees that it pays and other companies it contracts with which do pay taxes with the money the NFL brings in. Why would our government call them a charity then? Well, it’s really the only category it falls into. How many other for profit entities do you know of that have no ownership? More on that in a minute.

    You can’t fairly compare them to Ford either. Ford does not pay it’s employees what the NFL does. Your average Ford employee can’t afford health care the rest of his life but your average NFL player can. Most NFL players have college degrees, if they are dumb enough to make a few million bucks for a few years work only to walk away broke when it’s all said and done, is that the NFL’s problem? Like you said, they do try to educate them on what to do with their new found wealth, but if they are unreceptive to that what else can you do, throw more money at them? How will that fix the problem? Let them take their wealth and do what they please. Some go into broadcasting in one way or another, usually on a local level. Some open a restaurant. Some retire and raise a family. Some spend it all on hookers and blow. God bless the USA!

    As for the blackouts, well they still are in the business of selling tickets. We are spoiled as Broncos fans where we have never had this problem but most NFL fans don’t have that luxury. What are we supposed to do, ask the government that calls them a charity to step in and force a private entity to cheapen it’s value by broadcasting games that people don’t even want to go to? On that same note, the NFL does not make it’s money on ticket sales, they make their money on merchandise and broadcasting. The individual privately owned teams benefit from the ticket sales. The teams have ownership and shareholders and they do pay taxes. They pay the players who also pay taxes and they pay the NFL a franchise fee just like many other chain businesses.

    Onto the Nike monopoly. It’s not a monopoly, its a contract. Reebok used to have that contract and when that contract expired Nike outbid them for it in the free market. Nike pays good money to have their product seen on every NFL player. Every player has a contract too, each one signed on their own free will, which includes the stipulation that they need to be wearing their Nike gear in certain circumstances. You break a rule in the NFL and your going to get a fine.

    Lastly, it’s an expensive prospect to put 80,000 people into one place for only 4 hours. The teams would go broke if they paid for that so other companies pay the teams to handle those logistics for them. The consequence is an $8 beer and $40 parking. And then you have to get there and home again. Many fans rely on public transportation for that.

    The short of it is the NFL is very good for the local economies that have teams. The NFL makes a lot of money from it, yes but so do 10’s of thousands of other people. Why do we love the NFL so much, because they sell entertainment and do a better job of it than almost anybody else in the world. While their structure has it’s flaws their system is tried and true.

  2. Dear ‘Chris’ – if that is your real name.

    You magnificent free market bastard. You are a Republican, aren’t you? Excellent, we shall spar!

    Because the NFL is de-centralized they shouldn’t have to pay taxes?

    Whatever. I am not going to argue that point because I don’t pretend to know enough about tax law or incorporation. You may be absolutely right. I don’t care if it is the NFL or the Fed who calls them a charity. making 8 billion dollars a year in taxpayer bought venues doesn’t sound like much ‘charity’ to me.

    I can tell you this – the NFL took in 8 Billion last year… and every year. Roger Goodell makes 35 million. Why the hell am I, john q taxpayer, paying for their football stadium? What if I don’t watch football? And then, on top of it, you are telling me I can’t watch my team on tv? Guess what, I make minimum wage (for the sake of this discussion). I can’t AFFORD to go see a game at the stadium… the stadium that I paid for.

    Since I paid for that stadium, I think the team owes me a free ticket. I think everyone who lives in the five county area that paid for the stadium through property and sales taxes are owed one free game ticket of the team’s choosing.

    Or, are you going to give me that BS that the stadium benefits everyone through trickle down economics. That one drives me crazy. Unless you are a scalper or own a bar adjacent to the stadium… I don’t see the benefits I get as the taxpayer. Frankly, it just creates traffic jams and drunk driving hazards.

    To your point about the contract vs monopoly claim of mine, I am going to side with the supreme court. The supreme court said this is an anti-trust issue. I think they know more about law and commerce than you and i.

    To your point about no one being responsible for the players but themselves… that is a fair point. I disagree with it, though. Being a liberal pussy that I am, I feel the owners have a moral imperative to protect the people that they made their 8 billion dollars off of. But in a strict legal sense… you are correct. It is up to the players to take care of themselves.

    As for the Ford employee, fuck that guy. I know it’s a free market, but that guy made $75 an hour twisting bolts with a bolt twisting gun. The unions created a monster, and that is why American cars are shit, and have been for the last 30 years. He wins because he had a great and powerful and savvy union. My concern is the NFL doesn’t have that kind of advocacy for their players, and they should.

    Here is what I would do. The owners want another 2 games for each season. The players are very against it because it is more wear and tear on their bodies for no extra money. If I were DeMaurice Smith, their useless ass union rep, I would say this to the owners – I’ll give you 2 more games a season, you give us lifetime access to health care. Not free surgeries and stuff… but free lifetime access to a doctor. Just so a player can say “hey doc, does this look like cancer to you?” They don’t even need to necessarily pay for treatment, but they do need to be able to say “yes, it does.”

    Either way, I appreciate a lively and passionate discussion. Keep in mind where you are, though, bubba. See what is says up top? It says “I am Correct”. There is a reason for that. They don’t just hand that shit out, you gotta earn it!

    See you in court, ‘Chris’!

  3. Pingback: NFL – boo fucking hoo | I am Correct

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