Sunday, February 4, 2018

The FGR Super Bowl Preview

It's time to put this miniseries out of its misery. We left-off almost two weeks ago in the early 2000's with the FGW and I in the heyday of our football fandom - walking right from our front door to six or seven Ravens games a year, indulging, carousing, reveling, etc. Those Sundays were like little bacchanalian escapes from reality right in the middle of Baltimore City. You even felt kind of safe in a drunken naive oblivious sort of way. I don't even remember being slowed down by the birth of our first son in 2001 (which is kind of an interesting story). I'm not sure what we did with him on those days . . . probably involved a Super Big Gulp and Baby Einstein videos* on a loop.

In 2003, however, we moved out to the county and had our second son which introduced all manner of attendance inhibiting factors ranging from drunk driving and parking hassles to babysitter expenses and guilt. "Hey little guys, mom and I are going to duck-out for seven hours and be really shitty parents when we get home . . . love you . . . please don't cry." Our attendance immediately dropped by at least 50% and half of the games we did make felt more like work. On the bright side, eBay had revealed itself to be a great tool for the recreational scalper and the secondary ticket market was strong. Especially when they played a team with overly enthusiastic and super douchy fans like the Cowboys and Redskins. Those suckers would pay three times face value to watch the Ravens' defense crush their souls.

So we hung-on to our tickets under the belief that one day going to the Ravens games would become a family tradition. Two flaws in that theory: (1) Taking your kids to a game costs more than replacing your kitchen appliances. It's like getting out of your car in Little Italy and having a guy say "hey that's a nice thousand dollars you got there . . . be a shame if something happened to it"; and (2) The stadium experience is borderline child abuse. From the steady stream of high decibel obscenity to the Turkish prison style bathrooms, you're not treating your kids to a game as much as you're sentencing them to it.

Fast forward to 2013 by which time we had three kids (a/k/a one too many for a hotel room) and the Ravens had just won their second Super Bowl after making the playoffs the four previous seasons. I was bloated with football fan success. However, at that point, my desired list of Sunday afternoon activities went something like (1) watch my kids play soccer, (2) play golf (yes in that order), (3) watch games on NFL Redzone and . . . (237) drive downtown, look for a parking space, deal with a crowd and stand in bathroom lines like I was waiting for a bowl of soup in 1931 all so I could spend $80 on seven beers and start the work week with a dull ache behind my temple. It was also clear after the first five minutes of 2013 that the Ravens were going to go 8-8 so what was the point of handing them a bunch of my emotional currency? (This is where my friends call me a fair weather fan . . . and they're right.)**

AND ANOTHER THING. Our seats were smack in the middle of one of the longest rows in the stadium and that eventually took its toll on me because I don't like dealing with people and especially not strangers. And even more especially not the socially stunted assholes at the end of our row who would dress for every game like they were Sir Edmund Fucking Hillary in nine layers and ski goggles even if it was 52 degrees outside meaning that, for them to pry their fat assess out of their seats so we could walk by, it took every ounce of energy they had after using most of it to make a face that made them look like they had just licked a dead rat. As I write this, I can still feel the intense loathing I had for them. I wish I had known my last game in those seats was going to be the last time I saw them so I could have pulled the one guy's goggles and snapped them back on his face like John Travolta in Grease (wait, did he just reference Grease?). Damn right I did.

I guess I should take solace
that my son would rather watch
Gareth Bale than Bobby Flay.
So in 2014 I cashed-out my long term investment in Row 32, Section 148 and my interest in the NFL has been rapidly waning ever since. At first I thought it was just me, attributable mainly to my soccer dad circumstances and the fact that my sons' interest in football was at best tertiary to their interests in the EPL and NBA but it appears that I'm not alone. Television viewership has been on a steady decline since 2013. For example, over the last Thanksgiving weekend the ratings for every time slot except Sunday night went down somewhere between 9% and 35% and the three Thanksgiving Day games went down between 12% and 23% (yeah but who watches football on Thanksgiving?).

On a purely empirical level, if you had asked me ten years ago how many hardcore Ravens fans I knew, I could've listed dozens of them off the top of my head but now only two immediately come to mind and they're professional tailgaters so their unbreakable loyalty makes sense to me (sort of). I myself hadn't been to a game since 2015 so I felt it was time to check back in and see if I missed it. Combine that with my 10 year old daughter's repeatedly stated desire to go to a game along with free club level tickets and we were in business for a week 12 match-up between the Ravens and the Lions, two 6-5 teams with playoff aspirations. Just the kind of game the modern mediocre NFL is designed to produce.

We didn't arrive until the end of the first quarter because you know, soccer game, but the upside of that would be a carefree stroll right into the stadium. Um, not so much as we had to wait in the security line for fifteen minutes. Strike one. For lunch I had a $15 kielbasa that tasted like a toilet paper roll smothered in seaweed and a lukewarm coke in a bottle for which I was not allowed to keep the top because I definitely paid $6 for it just so I could not drink any and then throw it at one of the five Lions fans at the game. What in the fuck is the point of taking the cap anyway? Like you couldn't do just as much damage with a full bottle and no cap? Asinine rule instituted by some overthinking dork trying to look smart at a meeting which is probably the origin of most NFL rules. Strike two.

With ten minutes left in a one score game on a sunny 50+ degree day in December, the stadium was only about 2/3 full and the fervor was nothing compared to the sheer frothing insane madness I remember from ten years ago. Something was amiss and I couldn't put my finger on it. And then it dawned on me. I was bored out of my fucking mind. Strike thre e. So bored that I started doing the math on how much time is spent during a three and half hour football game actually playing football. Turns-out not much.

I did some research (talk about overthinking dorks). The Ravens-Lions game that day had 124 plays and an average NFL play lasts about 7 seconds so that adds-up to 14.5 minutes of actual footballing during the course of a three and a half hour game. That means for three hours and fifteen minutes you're just watching players aimlessly milling around like husbands who got dragged to a flea market. I'm no social scientist but I don't think those numbers are going to work for an emerging generation that has a shorter collective attention span than a school of minnows. 

It was a good forty year run and I won't turn my back on the NFL completely but it will never again be an obsession. Now it's just kind of something fun to look at like the pretty new kitchens on the HGTV shows that the FGW has hypnotized me into pretending to enjoy. (Change it back I want to see the new back splash!***). With that being said, I'm going to a Super Bowl party today and I wouldn't care if they had it on a 13" black and white Zenith.

Patriots -4.5 v. Eagles

FLY EAGLES FL . . . oh
what's the fucking point?
Which brings us to the pick and yet another reason why the NFL sucks. The Patriots. If you were trying to kill a professional sports league, wouldn't you start by putting a dynasty in the city with the most despicably punchable fanbase,**** coached by a humorless troll and led by a star so dripping with sanctimony and faux humanity that he literally caused you to puke a little every time you saw his face? Well that team is going to win again today because their opponent is going to blow a sure thing by calling literally the only play in the book that could cost them the game. The script has already been written. And it blows.

Patriots: 20 . . . Eagles: 17 

Last Week: 0-2 . . . Overall: 2-7-1


* In hindsight, I think those Baby Einstein videos were part of an Eastern European mind control plot and on a predetermined date in the very near future a million teenagers are going to go into a Reggie Jackson Naked Gun like trance and start blowing-up dams and bridges.  

** I've never felt the need to spend my time and money supporting professional athletes who suck at their jobs. I'm more of a tough love fan. They'll thank me for it later.

*** Back splash . . . when HGTV words and porn search terms collide (or so I've heard).  

**** Nice effort Saturday Night Live but you couldn't even do the Pats fans justice with this bit last night. And when did Philadelphia steal Baltimore's accent?  

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