Blake Williamson is a senior journalism major who writes "Blake’s Beats" for The Daily News. His views do not necessarily agree with those of the newspaper. Write to Blake at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sundays used to be a holy day. The living room was my church, and I prayed with conviction to the altar of National Football League.
I would stroll into the old RCA Dome with my grandfather, knowing nothing else other than I was happy if the team with blue horseshoes on their helmets won, and I was so unreasonably sad if they lost.
I was blissfully ignorant to the carnage happening in front of me, and behind the scenes too.
Part of me wishes I could go back to then, before my brain had the ability to recognize the truly evil corporation that is the NFL, an entity that makes its bread off of an assembly line of human bodies.
I thought I was watching something ‘“pure.”
All of these players I looked up to, they were happy to be out on that field, because the NFL did a good job at convincing a younger me they even remotely cared about the money signs that trotted out every Sunday, Monday, Thursday and sometimes Saturday.
As I grew older, I started to become more aware of what I was taking in, and the lines started to get blurred. Even though I was fully aware of how problematic this league was and is, I still tuned in every game day to have the violence spoon-fed to me.
Knowing what I know now, though, why can’t it be enough for me to change the channel? The issue with NFL viewership is these players are seen as commodities, just cattle in the yard. Not real people, but animals that entertain us.
I have witnessed the NFL actively silence player’s voices, entirely blackball a player who stood up for something he believed in — *cough cough* Colin Kaepernick — and attest that they have their players best interests in heart. Even as countless lawsuits from former players with diagnosed brain injuries flood their offices, Commissioner Roger Goodell sits in his lush corporate office in New York, counting checks.
None of this matters to him or the corporation, though, as long as they know there are junkies out there like me who will continue to tune in every week, despite how dirty it makes us feel.
Within the confines of the game, many not-so dirty little secrets lie. According to an investigation in 2017, 99 percent of former players studied were found with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) in their brains. Not only that, but suicides of former players like Junior Seau, whose brain was later found to have CTE, and the controversial case of Jovan Belcher who shot himself at the Kansas City Chiefs training facility after shooting his girlfriend in their home, have more people asking questions about the mental health of these players we watch like zoo animals.
Parts of the brain affected by CTE:
When the NFL is going to do something proactive instead of reactive?
My hope is that the average NFL fan just becomes aware of the addictive nature of this game, and that we have productive conversations with each other people. Imagine if you had thousands of drunk people showing up at your job yelling at you because you didn’t change the toner correctly in the copying machine. That’s what Sundays are for NFL players. They’re just playing a game, but too many times the fans place all of their emotions into these players, these people.
There is nothing wrong with being a football fan, but there is something wrong with being blind to the product that you’re consuming.
I’m ashamed to admit that I’m excited for the NFL season. There aren't any local chapters of “NFL Fans Anonymous” that I can go to, no 12 steps to follow on the path to recovery. I like to think I’m going to try to wean myself off of it, but I know that I’ll be sitting on my couch, like the rest of America, playing right into the owner’s grubby hands every time a game comes on.
You win again Mr. Goodell.