Lewis Black put it best more than a decade ago when he said in a routine about Super Bowl halftime shows, “The NFL, which can’t even present football, is now going to try and present America to me.”
And we’re not even talking here about how the NFL presents America. It’s true, though, that the NFL can’t present football any more. Latest example: Dez Bryant, who caught a ball that he didn’t catch because what he did, he didn’t actually do. The byproduct: Green Bay 26, Dallas 21.
But before we go too far down this particular rabbit hole (as I had no rooting interest here), let me remind you of one other thing. People are watching the games in record numbers, which means you have stopped liking football too. You watch out of some bizarre reflex now, knowing that things you know to be true can be explained to you as false, and you keep coming back for more.
I mean, it’s clear you’re not watching football as you know it any more. Bryant’s non-catch catch near the end Sunday’s divisional playoff game is merely the latest example of how you aren’t seeing what you’re clearly seeing.
Now this will not be a diatribe on the officials. The officials have been given a rulebook as thick as a Buick, have been asked to interpret it while men half their age run at high speeds into each other and after a ball, and we wonder why they occasionally cack one up.
Then the NFL brought in technology to fix that problem, and it didn’t work because the real problem isn’t the people, it’s the rules. The impenetrably dense rulebook still sits like a show bible at a cathedral that says on every page, “Your eyes are liars, your eyes are liars, your eyes are liars.”
Thus you can get people who correctly note that the rule on the Bryant catch was properly applied, but that the rule is a bad one. Of course it is. It’s been amended twelve times by about 60 different members of the dreaded Rules Committee.
And now it is utter nonsense. Part of it is nonsense because the NFL is trying to slalom a course between the football of 40 years ago and the new realities of systematized brain trauma. Part of it is nonsense because the NFL can’t train officials any more to use their common sense, because the NFL hates common sense. Common sense means independent thought based on years of judgment and practice, and you can’t have the robots showing real judgment.
So they’ve changed the rules over and over again to cover all possible eventualities, and now you have this.
But you keep coming back, week after week, year after year. So the problem, clearly is you.
How does a company know you’re dissatisfied when you don’t express your dissatisfaction by not using its product? The NFL still doesn’t care that it got Ray Rice wrong, because it knows that you’re not walking away even after that one. It has the numbers and the advertisers and the money and the congressional throw-weight. And yes, it’s got you.
Therefore, you don’t demand change with your wallets, you don’t even turn the channel to the Teemu Selanne jersey retirement that took almost as long as the Cowboys-Packers game.
You Tweet, of course, but Tweeting is as helpless an act as the word suggests it should be. The NFL isn’t listening to you. It’s telling you Dez Bryant didn’t catch a ball he caught, and if you object, it walks away disdainfully, knowing you’ll follow like a puppy.
Or, if you like your metaphors a little more al dente, like a sheep.
So what are you, the helpless consumer, to do? How can you find satisfaction in your own way? Easy. Bet the games. Stop caring whether your favorite team wins, and start caring whether you do. Have a rooting interest you can get behind.
Proof? The Packers didn’t cover the 5½. If you bet the Cowboys, it doesn’t matter was Dez Bryant did or didn’t do. The rest of the world can pull off its own eyelids in impotent rage, but you cashed. You’re singing show tunes while the rest of the world is in torment. You can feel the way the NFL feels every time one of their impenetrable rules flies in the face of known three-dimensional reality, and like every time it does something wrong and creepy and monstrously greedy and utterly self-serving.
You’ll feel invulnerable. Selfish, narcissistic, and invulnerable.