NFL training camps are underway, there’s actual football being played (or at least practiced). Yet, the only thing we seem to want to talk about is deflated footballs, contract negotiations, and speeding violations.
The league which used to pride itself on being less about soap opera flotsam and more about outmuscling the man in front of you has done run a full reverse. The NFL loves this, eats up the offseason Maury Show. But at what point did an entity based entirely on duels in the dirt become infatuated with its TMZ drama?
Certainly it helps that there are no games to discuss, and haven’t been for six months. The void, and thirst for football, needs to be filled with something. We are a nation consumed by its gridiron heroics, and without the competition, highlights, and boxscores we are left picking through the leftover table scraps.
But the NFL has also embraced the soap opera, and while it can’t control Sheldon Richardson doing 143 mph while smoking weed with a 12-year-old in the car, sometimes it’s all too obvious how much it revels in its shallow debate topics.
Roger Goodell and his 32 owners have embraced and adopted David Stern’s credo of thirty years ago. As long as they’re talking about you, it’s good for business. The NBA was constantly looking to build stars, highlight the individual, create any and all reasons for fans to pay attention. The league shone a spotlight on zany antics, larger-than-life personas, and antagonistic personality clashes. “Hey, look at us!” the NBA seemed to constantly be screaming like a 7-year-old at a family barbeque.
But the NBA at that time was desperately seeking cultural relevance, with tape-delayed NBA Finals games, and half-empty arenas. The NFL already has cultural dominance, and at some point we’re all going to become exhausted of this nonsense (if we aren’t already). Deflate-Gate, the ensuing punishments, investigations, bickering, appeals, and press conferences has become a neverending parade of kabuki theater.
Russell Wilson’s contract negotiations seemed to stay in the news cycle incessantly, especially when he’s also discussing his sexual relationship with Ciara to The Rock Church. Jason Pierre-Paul may have blown off a finger, maybe more, while holding fireworks in his hands. But no one really quite knows the facts a month after Independence Day, because apparently he’s smashed his cell phone to smithereens like Tom Brady.
Lest we think it’s just a slew of millionaire athletes acting the fool, there’s a cadre of billionaire owners who enjoy creating the same types of melodrama. There’s an 1890’s land rush to Los Angeles for not one, not two, but three NFL franchises. The family of Junior Seau will not be allowed to speak at his Hall of Fame induction for fear its head trauma epidemic will be dug up and discussed yet again. Jim Irsay enjoyed driving around Indianapolis, warped on pain meds, with cash in a briefcase, and a duffel bag full of pills… that was until he got caught doing it.
We, as humans, are drawn like moths to the candle flame of soap opera. The NFL has acknowledged this, and is spoon feeding us heaping amounts daily. But at some juncture there comes a tipping point, where we hit critical mass, and it’s just not worth sitting through the endless, blaring, noisy, explosive trailers to finally see the movie. At some point we may just get up and leave the NFL’s theater.
D.A. hosts 6-10pm ET on the CBS Sports Radio Network. He has hosted The D.A. Show (aka “The Mothership”) in Boston, Miami, Kansas City and Ft. Myers, FL. You can often catch him on the NFL Network’s series “Top 10.” D.A. graduated from Syracuse University in ’01, and began looking for ways to make a sports radio show into a quirky 1970’s sci-fi television series. Follow D.A. on Twitter and check out the show’s Facebook page. D.A. lives in NYC, and is a native of Warwick, NY.