The National Football League – America’s last refuge of undeniable world dominance – began its 91st season Sunday.
(Traditionally, Major League Baseball unofficially opens its season by having the president throw out the first pitch; in the NFL, the new season is unofficially christened when Jay Cutler throws his first interception.)
For the uninitiated, here is a brief chronology of the three crucial stages that established the NFL with its fan base:
• In 1920, the NFL began play. Fans generally rooted for a team when they watched a game.
• In the 1950s, the point spread became prevalent. Some fans now rooted for a team to “cover” the point spread, with money being involved; this is commonly known as “gambling.”
• In the 1990s, Fantasy Football took hold. Some fans now didn’t root for teams. Rather, they rooted for individual players to score touchdowns or defenses to record sacks, with money being involved; this is not known as “gambling” but it is.
Over the last generation, two changes have greatly altered how many fans watch NFL games – instant replay as an officiating tool and fantasy football. What once was a relatively pure and simple viewing experience – relax a little and root for your team – has been largely perverted. Fans now concentrate on officiating mistakes or individual achievements; in the latter case, whichever team wins is inconsequential.
(This would be like going to the opera to see “La Boheme” and not caring if Mimi and Rodolfo can reconcile their lost love before her death because you’re so hung up on sound and lighting issues and whether Rodolfo hit a higher note in the third act than Marcello.)
America may need to rebuild, but it will have to wait until a nation of fantasy freaks is done shouting, “They’ve GOT TO challenge that!!!”
Now, frankly, I shouldn’t begrudge fantasy fanatics their pleasure. The games are there for our recreation and entertainment; if someone finds more enjoyment by having a financial stake in how various players perform, so be it. And I had made my peace with these people – they stay out of my living room, I stay out of their sports bars – but then I heard about fantasysports- insurance.com and fantasydispute.com and, well, the uneasy truce was over.
If Tom Brady has a season-ending injury in Week 1, you now are protected. You can buy fantasy insurance online with just a few clicks and a credit card.
(I’m fairly confident many people these days do not carry life insurance but carry fantasy insurance.)
If you think there was an unfair trade in your fantasy league, you now have an avenue to justice. You can settle disputes with your fantasy friends online with just a few clicks and a credit card.
(Remember: Fantasy owners have rights, too!!!)
Alas, I wish we could dial the clock back to a time when watching the Jets and Giants lose provided all the weekend pleasure we needed.
By the way, Jay Cutler threw his first interception with 5:33 to go in the first quarter of the Lions-Bears game. Enjoy the rest of the season!
Ask The Slouch
Q. My husband says you love to gripe, so if I ask you to gripe about something, he says we’ll win the $1.25. (Ann Snowden; Spokane)
A. I used to turn on a baseball game on ESPN and it would tell me the balls, strikes and outs with a little graphic that read simply, “Balls 2 Strikes 2 Outs 1,” but now – because somebody with a college degree and a pocket compass decided that was too confusing – they put up a bunch of little circles, some colored in and some not, and I’m supposed to count the circles that are colored in to figure out how many balls, strikes and outs there are. By the time I have done this correctly, the pitcher has already thrown the next pitch and I have to start all over again. (Kudos to your spouse – you got the 10 bits and I got something off my chest.)
Q. If Dan Snyder really loved the Redskins, wouldn’t it have made more sense for him to have bought the Cowboys and run that franchise into the ground? (Jeff Brown; Arlington, Va.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.