Happy Wednesday, friends. I'm writing today for the first time in a few weeks, and I'm not feeling that great about it.
About a week ago, I let the other guys know that I've decided that continuing to promote the NFL is misaligned with my personal ethics, and that consequently, I wouldn't be doing so any longer. I really didn't want to write this article, or make a big deal about myself with it, but Doug asked me to write something so that everybody would at least know what happened.
It's taken me a week to figure out what to say, and as I write this, I still don't know. Please bear with me as I feel my way through it.
For several years now, I haven't felt great about what's been going on in the NFL for a couple of decades, and most probably, since its inception as a league. Way back when, in the spring of 2008, I was a lonely, semi-depressed dude that was separated from my soon-to-be ex-wife. At that time, I was just a big football fan, and I decided that it might be fun to write about it.
I was oblivious then to the problems with the NFL which trouble me now. I started out posting at Mile High Report, which wasn't really that big of a site yet, but which had a good platform for what were called Diaries at the time, and would later be called FanPosts.
I just started writing those from time to time, and toward the end of that 2008 season, I was asked to join the MHR staff. I did that for about a year, and developed a good following with a regular column I called Shallow Thoughts and Nearsighted Observations. During the 2009 season, I watched probably 160 or 170 of the 256 regular season games, and I was all over everything.
Then, I thought I was big-time, and left to create my own site. It didn't work out, because it turned out that I didn't have the time or energy to carry a site by myself. I eventually gave up on it, and took the 2010 season mostly off from writing, except when I felt like it. If you remember One Man Football, that's what I'm talking about.
Meanwhile, all of the guys I thought were good writers at MHR, except Jeremy Bolander, left to form IAOFM at the start of the 2010 season. In early 2011, Doug finally convinced me to join IAOFM, after lobbying me to do so periodically during the first season here.
Over the last four years, I've had some fun writing here, but truth be told, I've enjoyed it less and less all the time. When I was feeling young and edgy, writing was fun. I could piss in people's faces, and be a jerk (which I'm totally not in person), and antagonize people I didn't care for. To some extent, I became known for being like that.
As I've gotten older and more successful in my career, I've become much more conservative in my personal style, if not in my politics. It really affected me last year when I decided to take a swipe at MHR, and some guy who allegedly writes there threatened to try to make trouble for me with my day-job employer. He wouldn't have had any success, but who needs that drama? That's not why I got into this, you know?
Not too long after that, I tried to quit. It wasn't for the first time, either. Every time, Doug has talked me out of leaving.
This time, he didn't even try, which adds to the already high level of respect that I have for him. I'm quitting for a different reason today than my prior reasons of thinking that football writing wasn't that much fun anymore, or that I could make more lucrative use of my free time.
This time, the last time, I'm resolved to be finished with writing about NFL football because I think that it (as a total corporate entity) represents the worst things about America. I'm not going to be melodramatic, and say that it's evil or fascist, or any of those things.
Or maybe I just did; you be the judge.
You know, it starts with the anti-labor collusion and union-busting over the entire history of the NFL. The anti-competitive practices, because if laborers try to practice capitalism, and get the best price for their product (labor), it's a bad thing. It continues with the league's complete disregard for the post-playing health of the players.
Then you get into medical malpractice that's been rampant with current players for decades; think about all of the Toradol shots, the team-friendly diagnoses, and the "mild concussions" where guys just got their "bells rung." Then you think about Elliot Pellman, the hack rheumatologist who for years chaired the NFL's concussion research committee. Of course, that meant that he did everything he could to prevent meaningful research, and to lie about and contradict whatever came out.
Then, you have the Ray Rice situation. I'm not shocked at Rice, or what he did. The NFL has about 1,900 players participate in any regular season, and there are bound to be some people doing bad stuff within a sample that large. There are also bound to be many, many more players who are good everyday people.
The NFL (and its member organization in Baltimore), by most accounts that have emerged, worked hard to cover up a despicable, unexplainable thing that Rice did because he's a good player. The NFL probably did the same thing (in conjunction with its member organization in Denver) with Brandon Marshall several years back.
Marshall is lucky nobody got video of his actions, because nobody can understand or condone the visual of domestic violence. It becomes an emotional thing when you see it, and it can be spun in clinical and neutral terms when only words are used to describe it. That's what lawyers and public relations whores do, is keep the language clinical. They might suggest that it was the victim's fault, in subtle ways. It was through that kind of spin that the NFL thought they'd get away with suspending Rice for two games. Business as usual, right?
But people freaked out this time.
The values of society are always changing. With every passing day, month, and year, the pathetic sorts of men who think it's OK to beat women are dying off, and younger people who'd mostly never condone domestic violence reach the age of activism and financial means. Suddenly, they're in the target demographic.
Something else was going on though, something the NFL initially misunderestimated (Shout out to George Dubya!). The rate at which men watch football has stayed flat for years now. In trying to grow the viewer base of the league, the NFL has beeing seeing the increases come from women.
It turns out that women don't tend to like the idea that it's fine to give a player a slap on the wrist for knocking out his fiancee.
So the National Organization for Women (and other groups) organized its membership to lobby the NFL's sponsors, and the sponsors pushed the NFL to strengthen its domestic violence policies. The NFL didn't do it because it was right; they did it because of intense backlash. They did it to get everybody to shut the hell up, and let them get back to making their money.
But then the video came out, and it got emotional for people. And by then, the NFL was left to explain how they ever thought that two games was appropriate. And then they had to cut Rice loose, and seek more damage control. Things like most likely pressuring ESPN to suspend Bill Simmons for being extremely critical of the NFL's integrity to a large audience.
And then the Adrian Peterson thing happened, and the NFL and the Vikings misplayed that, before reacting in such a way as to minimize the outcry by deactivating Peterson indefinitely.
The bad thing about the Peterson situation, to me, is that it's a missed opportunity for society. It could spark a useful conversation in this country.
There's no useful debate to be had on whether you should beat your wife, but there is one to be had on what's appropriate in terms of disciplining a child. The jury is nowhere near in on that one, in general, even if it's pretty clear that Peterson's specific behavior was abhorrent and over what most people would consider to be the borderline.
But the NFL, only caring about damage control, shut the whole thing down. And that's just what they do; they piss on your leg ALL THE TIME and tell you that it's raining. They act in nobody's interest but their own, and then tell you that they're all about the fan. They cover up a crime, and underpenalize it, and then tell you that they want to be part of the solutions that society needs.
It's completely dishonest.
Honor is in the dollar, kid. The NFL, which is made up of 32 very rich men, cares nothing about anything else. The jury has been in on that one.
I don't object to people making money, of course; I'm just not interested in helping them make it anymore. I've been writing for this site, and my past sites, as a Broncos fan, but my hard work has had the effect of being a fan of the money guys getting rich.
Everybody who ever enjoyed football more because I explained something to them went on to give their money to these horrible and dishonest oligarchs. I've never made one dollar writing about football, not one. In fact, I've probably spent over five grand doing it over the years, between subscription fees and other costs.
A lot of football writers have made a big deal about considering the ethics of their work over the last couple of weeks. I haven't actually seen anybody quit over it, once their soul-searching article was posted. It's harder for most of them than it is for me, because this isn't how I make my living, and because I have knowledge, skills, and abilities in other areas of life.
What's a guy like Peter King going to do if he decides to stop lapdogging for Roger Goodell? What else could a guy like him possibly do? This has basically been a hobby for me, so the only thing that makes it hard to walk away for me is loyalty to the other four guys here, and to the readers who've been with me for a long time. That's what kept me in the box the other three or four times I tried to quit.
Alas, this time though, it's not really that hard. Continuing to do this will make me feel like a horrible person. I'm still working out the extent to which I plan to remain a fan of the Broncos and the NFL. I paid for Sunday Ticket this year, whether I feel like using it or not. I still like to root for the players in orange and blue, and for the most part, I think they're worthy of it. I watched the Seattle game last week, though, and I didn't get very excited about it. That's not a great sign. The real test will be what I do if they make the Super Bowl this year, because it's happening three hours from my house, and I've been planning to go.
That will be my own private deal, I guess. I need to get centered within my own ethical framework, and it's just unclear what that means yet. I do know that I won't be contributing to the money vortex any longer, at least in the form of pulling readers into it. For the guys who are remaining here, I hope that IAOFM continues to be the best Broncos site around. My leaving is deeply personal, and it carries with it no judgment of anybody who decides to proceed in a direction that's different from my own.
I created a new Wordpress site called All The Ways of Contending, and it's located at tedbartlett.me. It will not include any football writing, unless I feel like taking a shot at the NFL. I'll write about other stuff, maybe management and accounting, maybe politics, maybe just general thoughts, as I have time and interest. Check it out if you feel like it as time goes on.
In closing, I just want to exit out the side door in quiet, unobtrusive fashion. As I said, I didn't even really want to write this article. I don't want to make a statement, really, I just have to do the right thing for myself. Things are as they are, and people must find ways to align themselves optimally in environments which they don't control. Be well, friends. That's what I'll be working on too.