I am a football fan. I am often a reluctant football fan for a variety of reasons. As much as I enjoy the games, I dislike the degree of importance we give them and the way we idolize athletes because they can throw or catch a ball … or knock another man to the ground. While I don’t idolize the players, I do enjoy watching the sometimes amazing athletic feats the games bring into our family room. But I have to say I’d enjoy them a lot more if I didn’t have to listen to the constant chatter of announcers explaining every play as if it were rocket science. That’s probably because I don’t have something they call football intelligence. Then there’s sports-talk, twenty-four hours a day, the place I go for information on the teams I follow and the games I’ve missed. Unfortunately, the media, aiming for a younger demographic than Older Eyes favors smack-talking announcers and ex-jocks who’d rather create artificial sports controversies and offer sophomoric social commentary than actual report on sports.
So, Monday, when I turned on sports-talk to hear about the NFL Championship games that were played over the weekend, what did I get to hear about instead? Balls. To be more precise, deflated Balls. No, I didn’t accidentally tune in to the Men’s Health station or encounter one of the countless low testosterone commercials that play almost continuously on sports-talk. They were talking about footballs used by the Boston Patriots that were deflated in the AFC Championship Game, presumably so that they would be easier for quarterback, Tom Brady, to grip in the rain. By Tuesday, the crack reporters at ESPN had determined from league sources that eleven of the twelve balls used by the Patriots were deflated. Not one of the sports talk weenies said that the deflation of the balls materially affected the outcome of the game, which ended with the Patriots winning 45-7. In fact, almost universally, they said, The whole thing is ridiculous and not worth talking about … which they demonstrated by talking about it non-stop, all day. Some said it was about the integrity of the NFL. Yes, that’s the same NFL that tried to wink-wink about Ray Rice’s assault on his then-fiancee until a video of him cold-cocking her in an elevator surfaced.
Now, the tempest-in-a -tea-pot has shown up in non-sports media, too, with the monicker Deflate-Gate. Coaches are being interviewed and other quarterbacks are weighing in. One lineman, the Raven’s Chris Canty, is quoted as saying that deflating balls is no different than using performance enhancing drugs … contributing to the stereotype that lineman are big and dumb. And then there’s the fans. You may know that the Patriots are one of the most hated teams in the NFL. They have a grumpy curmudgeon of a coach who stalks the sidelines in a gray hoodie and responds to media questions with short, cryptic answers, if at all. They have a passionate, good-looking quarterback who, in addition to being a future Hall of Famer, is married to a super model. Oh, the sports-fan trolls hate that, particularly since the Patriots continue to win, year after year. Patriot haters want the Coach banished from the league or suspended for the Super bowl, as if the league would ever tarnish its signature event.
I’m taking a break from sports talk and online sports media. I’m tired of reading about Balls. Maybe by next week there will actually be some talk about the big game itself. And in the meantime, if anyone asks, Are you a football fan? I’ll answer, Not really. I watch a little. Because people judge us by the company we keep.