An NFL football season lasts only about 5 months of each year; a little longer if you pay attention to preseason, which I’ve tried to do, but rarely succeed. Each NFL season has about 20 games if your favorite team manages to make the playoffs and if you’re a fan of a particular team you need only watch a single game each week.
That’s not a lot of viewing commitment, especially compared to sports like baseball, basketball, hockey, or even soccer, and yet by the time the Super Bowl rolls around, I’m so tired of all things football that I can barely get myself to care about “The Big Game™.”
As I’m sitting here watching Super Bowl LVII, we’re not even to halftime. I’m exhausted listening to the “triumphant stories” of Patrick Mahomes, Jalen Hurts, etc. I’ve endured scripted, feel-good commentary from Bradley Cooper. I rolled my eyes at an awkward tribute to Mahomes from Brad Pitt, and I’ve been reminded ad nauseum that Rhianna is going to be lip-syncing during the halftime show.
All of this is on top of months of high-drama storytelling from the minds behind the NFL’s ridiculously competent marketing machine and an American sports media that eagerly eats it up. Sure, there was some real drama this year. Damar Hamlin nearly died on the field just a few short weeks ago and because we’re at the tail end of another season, we’ve had to tolerate another round of “will they finally fucking retire,” courtesy of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.
And yet for all the pageantry and pomp and circumstance, NFL football has slowly become the least interesting and most melodramatic popular sport in this country, and its annual ultimate event, the Super Bowl, is little more than an excuse for beer and insurance brands to spend ridiculous sums trying to outdo one another with Snoop Dogg commercials.
How exciting can any of these player storylines be when we’ve been hearing them for months, if not years? Yes, Patrick Mahomes has a bum ankle. How could I not know that when it has dominated all ESPN programming for more weeks than I can count? Yes, the Jalen Hurts story is great – or at least it was the first dozen times I heard it.
I get it.
NFL football has been my favorite sport since before I knew how to spell “sport.” The difference between the football I watched as a kid and the football I watch today is minimal when it comes to the actual on-field play. The athletes are still impressive as hell and the game is certainly as solid as it’ll ever be. But the FOX Sports 12-hour pre-game show and the estimated (by me) 72,000 hours of commentary for each actual hour of play? Well, they might be making a couple of television networks a pretty penny, but they’ve managed to make my favorite sport feel old, bloated, and tired.