The Super Bowl is on today. I may watch. I may not.
In the parlance of NFL injury reports, list me as questionable.
At some point during the two-week Tilt-A-Whirl of buildup (and it may have been when I saw a column, written in complete earnestness, arguing sports journalists should boycott Skittles because those dastardly candymakers are profiting from Marshawn Lynch’s media mum-ness), my capacitors for this sort of nonsense could no longer hold a charge.
So when a friend invited me to spend the weekend with hers and another family near Bear Valley, I accepted — without asking if the cabin had a TV.
If it does, and everyone wants to watch the game, great. I won’t avert my eyes.
If it doesn’t, or if we decide to spend our Sunday afternoon on the slopes (provided there’s a patch of snow) or throwing rocks into the Stanislaus River, that’s fine, too.
I admit this is an odd stance for someone who is paid to keep abreast with such matters, and offer opinions about them. So the DVR has been set, just in case something so monumental happens that it would leave a yawning chasm in my football knowledge. Otherwise, highlights should suffice.
My Super Bowl ambivalence wasn’t triggered any single event. It was more an accumulation. I watched the NFC Championship and sat mesmerized through every second of Seattle’s comeback. But a game that should’ve stood for ages was all but forgotten the next day when the whole world became obsessed with footballs that were slightly under inflated and who was behind the dastardly deed.
And when mass attention finally turned to the Seahawks, the only subject anyone seemed to care about was what a certain bruising running back said, or didn’t say, to the media. Oh, brother. Speaking as one of them, it doesn’t perturb me in the slightest if Lynch chooses not to engage.
Last time I checked the First Amendment, freedom of speech also covered the freedom not to speak. Except in the NFL, where silence costs $50,000. Which is why if there’s any justice, “I’m here so I don’t get fined” will take its place alongside “You’re talking ’bout practice” in the popular sports lexicon.
Spare us the inane lectures on privilege and professionalism and simply hand the microphone to someone else. To someone who doesn’t mind answering mostly stupid non-questions that begin with “Talk about …”
There, crisis averted.
During our national obsession with the Super Bowl, it has been a long time, probably two or three decades, since the game actually mattered. Or mattered more than the hype, spectacle and commercials.
But this year, following the NFL has been like watching a slow-motion train wreck.
It’s Ray Rice and Commissioner Roger Goodell’s ham-handed handling of domestic abuse. It’s Adrian Peterson whipping his son with a tree branch. It’s due process, when convenient, in the form of Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald.
It’s the stupefying rules (see Dez Bryant) and inept officiating (see all the subsequent admissions on blown calls). It’s how the league continually sends out mixed messages on player safety. (“Sure we care about concussions, but let’s explore an 18-game regular season while adding more midweek games.”) It’s the junky brain science that for years got passed off as legitimate.
It’s how players are fined more for wearing the wrong uniform socks than for knocking someone out of the game with an illegal hit.
After a while, the gunk in the engine builds up to the point where it affects your enjoyment of the game. For me, that time might be now.
The Raiders’ 32-14 thumping of the Vikings in Super Bowl XI was the first I remember watching. I can still picture John Madden’s tousled hair and beaming grin while getting carried off the field on his players’ shoulders.
In the 37 years since, I’ve watched every Super Bowl except one, (John Elway and the Broncos besting the “Dirty Bird” Falcons 34-19 in 1999) and I missed the game that year only because a friend wanted to go snow camping above Huntington Lake. (I’m glad we went because days after our trip my friend went missing from his home in the Santa Cruz mountains and hasn’t been seen since.)
Little did I know the following year, 2000, I’d witness my one and only Super Bowl in person covering the game for this very newspaper. Of course, when Kevin Dyson and the Titans came up 1 yard short against the Rams, I watched the fateful play on a TV screen in the tunnel that leads out to the field. Just like everyone at home.
A record 111.5 million Americans watched last year’s Super Bowl, and it’s likely that figure will be surpassed again. Those kinds of ratings, as well as revenues approaching $10 billion, tell us the NFL is healthier than ever. Perhaps it is. Even so, I’ll bet I’m not the only one feeling a bit nauseous.
So I may miss Sunday’s extravaganza. But on the way to the cabin, think I’ll stop for a bag of Skittles.