It’s a vote-with-your-wallet culture right now. Boycotting or stockpiling a certain brand’s frijoles negros or another’s sleeptime head support products could easily be determined by the last candidate you pulled a lever for. For example, I don’t eat at Chick-fil-A because a mediocre chicken sandwich is not enough of a payoff to me to assuage the guilt I’d feel over some of the bigoted things the company chooses to do with some of their profits. That’s a fairly easy one. But how do you take a stand against a morally bankrupt corporation when the product they provide is actually really, really good?
Amazon? Spotify? Facebook? There’s no shortage of big bad megacorps that I’d rather not contribute to. Goddamn if I don’t enjoy the services they offer, though. I can get a five-inch waffle iron delivered to my door by tomorrow afternoon because I impulsively bought one after watching a TikTok on a recipe for a crispy melted cheddar-and-pickle snack? Sold. I can just pop on a playlist and have an algorithm force-feed me killer tuneage undisturbed for hours, and I don’t have to get up to flip a record over? I’ll take it. I can angry-react to some dude I went to high school with ranting about “cancel culture” from the driver’s seat of his shiny new F-150? Well, yeah, I don’t know what the hell I’m doing there.
Perhaps chief among the big bads I can’t help but consume is the NFL. Setting aside one of the league’s biggest issues in the form of the obvious long-term physical repercussions suffered by its athletes, there are plenty of other reasons to refuse to let the pro football league sell ads to make their way into your eyeballs. From the shamefully uneven profit sharing between players and owners and the gruesome gladiatorial spectacle of grown men literally trying to destroy one another for entertainment, to the seemingly ever-present specter of domestic abuse and the staggering lack of racial and gender equity among leadership positions leadership positions — an issue so severe that it has prompted recently fired Dolphins head coach Brian Flores to sue the league for discriminatory hiring practices this week — to the pervasive flat-out racism and sexism infecting almost every level of the sport, if you think too long about how the NFL sausage is made, you couldn’t in good conscience take a single bite.
Other major sports handle some of the above infinitely better. Major League Baseball has the most powerful player’s association in professional sports, and as a result, the average MLB player’s salary is $4.17M, nearly five times that of the average NFL player’s $860K, despite the MLB’s lower annual revenue. The NBA is certainly at the vanguard of racial equity in sports with the number of Black coaches hovering around 50% compared to the NFL’s embarrassing 12.5%. In the NHL … well, maybe they actually help the NFL’s look in respect to some of the above issues. The point being, the NFL is a rotten organization.
But! As the playoffs have shown, the NFL’s product is just too damn good. What is more beautiful than Cooper Kupp catching a 40-yard pass over his shoulder to set up a field goal and stave off yet another Tom Brady Super Bowl appearance? Or Patrick Mahomes hitting Tyreek Hill for a 64-yard TD catch and run to take back a lead just a minute after the Cinderella Bills scored? You just have to make yourself forget that Hill, one of the league’s two best wide receivers, fell to the late fifth round of the 2016 draft because he brutally beat and choked his pregnant girlfriend.
The last two weeks of the NFL playoffs have been some of the most exciting spectacles any sporting fan could ever hope for. We can ignore “Super” Wild Card Weekend, which suffered greatly by the addition of a seventh playoff team in each conference — a flagrant cash-grab by the legion of bloodsucking septuagenarians who run the league and which culminated in a series of mostly boring blowouts. Beginning with the Divisional Round, however, the six games since have all been absolutely stellar. Every single game was decided by only a field goal and, in most cases, a walk-off field goal at that. The Buffalo/Kansas City game alone is one of the most monumental sporting events I’ve ever seen. Twenty-five points between the two in the final two minutes?!?! If it weren’t for the NFL’s stupid overtime rules, those two teams might still be trading touchdowns more than a week later. You can’t script entertainment more fulfilling.
The parity that the league seeks (at least as far as quality of teams) is being born out in front of our eyes, and the results are inarguable. The single-elimination aspect of the NFL playoffs gives infinitely more weight to each game than in the other leagues’ series-based format. With the teams so evenly matched — swings in momentum! lead changes! explosive plays! — you just can’t beat it.
So shut off your noodle and focus on the good. There’s a lot of it. For every scumbag like Tyreek Hill, there are a dozen solid bros like Joe Burrow (Joe Cool 2.0) and Andrew Whitworth to cheer for. For every gruff and stoic Jon Gruden, who was rightfully fired earlier this year for sending racist, sexist emails, there’s a Sean McVay, a guy on the sidelines with heavy youth minister vibes who coaches with the same passion as a fan in the stands. He’s you with the brain of a football computer.
Perhaps the NFL is like ground beef. The high fat content is exactly what makes it so effing delicious. It’s also what’s giving you colon cancer. With the Cincinnati Bengals set to square off against the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl 56 in two weeks, I can think of a million reasons to tune out. If I were the type to put my duckets where my piehole resides, I would. But I’m not. And so I’ll watch. And I’ll enjoy every damn second of it.