Sunday, January 22, 2017

A Brief And Obvious Point About Sports Dynasties, Or How The Patriots Make Me Want To Stop Watching The NFL

When you read the history of baseball, and see all of those Yankee titles piled up in the 1950s, you might miss an obvious point about the decade: it wasn't a good one for the sport. Attendance declined, teams had to move to new cities (some of them fairly haphazardly), and other sports picked up margin, never to relinquish it. If you watched American League baseball in that time, and weren't a Yankee fan, you probably watched less baseball at the end of the decade than you did at the start.

We'll pivot to basketball. The Celtic dynasty of the '60s is something that stunted the NBA's growth for decades, with most of the league turning into Flyover Country between Boston and LA. Sure, other teams popped in from time to time, but the sport didn't really catch on at a national level until transcendent individual talents took command, and even now, building a great team takes longer than any other sport, and requires a superhuman amount of fortune at the draft. Not only do you have to win lotteries, you also need to win them in the right year, then hit on long shot picks for the supplemental players, and then keep everyone healthy. The Association is good now and getting better, but most of that is because it draws on six continents of talent in an unquestioned top league, unlike every other team sport on the planet that isn't soccer. The point: dynasties don't help.

Now, football. Tonight in New England, the Patriots punched their ticket to their I Don't Care How Many Super Bowl appearance, and if you know anyone who was excited to see the game and doesn't have Patriot merchandise in their closet, you are lying. It was the 8th out of 10 NFL playoff games this year that provided zero drama or fourth quarter interest, and it felt about as important as a squash match in the WWE. My Twitter feed was more concerned with Tom Brady's oversized jacket and nasal cleaning practices than any particular play, because that's just how damned deadly dull the game was.

Is there any way to blame the league or New England for this? Probably not, other than I have no idea why teams turn to idiots and butterfingers when they go into that yard. It would also be nice if the refs called fumbles, well, fumbles, or took issue with the rampant OPI on bubble screens, hands to the face and holding on offensive line plays, DPI on their secondary, and so on. I honestly lost count on the penalties that weren't penalties, and stopped caring in the second quarter of this game, and while New England didn't need any of that crap to win, it's still just, well, dispiriting.

But what I can tell you is that, well, I care a hell of a lot less about football now than I used to, and New England is a big reason why. I don't like this team or their fans, and I feel stupid for caring about a sport where they win all the damned time, honestly. The worst year to be a Patriot Fan in the past 15 years would be the best year to be a fan for half of the franchises in the league, and it doesn't matter that they do it with different guys or whatever. I watch sports to not think about things that are far more important and frequently far more depressing, so when sports are equally or more depressing than what I'm trying to escape from, it's just, well, the worst.

Oh, and hearing from the analysts about how historic and majestic and amazing all of this is, when it's the same damned thing, pretty much every year?

Not making my decision to care about football any better, honestly.

So, congrats to the Patriots. Go, Falcons. I'll watch the Super Bowl because I'm a lifer, and have a Not The Patriots team to root for that doesn't sicken me.

But the next 7+ months of No Football?

I'm going to enjoy that.

More than the NFL this year, at least...

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