To Love the NFL Is to Hate It in Its Present State

Antonio Gates

Here comes the Super Bowl!


Why am I so down on the NFL? Interest in professional football seems to be at an all-time high. The league clearly makes more money now than it has at any point in its 95-year history. The NFL boasts its highest TV ratings ever, right? The Super Bowl remains the biggest American sports spectacular.

Why then are more and more fans becoming disenchanted with the NFL product?

Despite all of its positives and all of its money, if you look more closely, the NFL is starting to ebb weaker. The NFL product fast becomes something that doesn’t satisfy the way it once did because of the very real War on Football and the unpopular changes recently made to the game.

The NFL plays as a mere shell of what it used to be. Ever since Roger Goodell assumed power, the NFL has changed in many ways–none of them any good. Goodell has presided over an NFL that has lost its way, that has forgotten what made it great, and Goodell has led the NFL down paths of constant apologies.

Football has been likened to Big Tobacco. Most fans I talk with think that the league has torn itself apart by capitulating to threats, lawsuits, and various forms of the insidious methods of political correctness over the last several seasons. The result is a game played on the field, and an institution that presides over it, that many no longer recognize.

Has the NFL ever been harder to sit through on a week-by-week basis?

Look it I’m not talking about the various peripheral issues that the league contends with in the way of hot-button items such as domestic violence, drug use, and ridiculous fabricated flash points like the name of the Washington Redskins. For sure all of those issues have enough juice to keep the phone lines buzzing on call-in talk shows. It’s the way the league has changed on the field that has so many people turned off.

Flags anyone?

What’s the under/over for flags thrown in the upcoming Super Bowl between Seattle and New England?

While the league has eviscerated any kind of consistent and fundamental defensive play, it has turned the game for the most part into an arena-league game played on an outdoor, 100-yard field.

The league seems to want points and more points, and then some more.

The NFL no longer prides itself on football the way it ought it be played. Instead, it’s now a league set up primarily for those who favor the ridiculousness of “Fantasy Football.”

Play defense anyone? Forget that, if a defensive player so much brushes against a receiver, he’s flagged for any one of a number of violations. This makes playing the game on the defensive side of the football a near impossibility. It slows down the game.

You can take all these records on offense—for instance, Peyton Manning’s 55 touchdowns from a year ago—and be impressed if you wish to. Just don’t expect me to join in the enthusiasm.

I come away with an almost hollow feeling when it comes to these gargantuan “records.” Quarterbacks such as Dan Marino, Joe Montana, Dan Fouts, John Elway, and others who played in a much-tougher previous era would have soared to heights in this incarnation of the NFL.

You can’t hit. Quarterbacks are off limits completely. Wide receivers may take guided tours across the middle of the field when running routes, and if they are hit, they can’t be hit too hard lest they are called, “defenseless.”

Yes, I still watch all the games but my enthusiasm for the NFL (and I’ve been watching since 1971) has been on the wane for a good many years now. I love football and I used to love the National Football League. The college game has outdistanced the pro game by a mile at this point. I’ll tune-in to watch the upcoming Super Bowl. But the NFL really isn’t the NFL anymore.

Dino Costa is a talk show host who can be found at


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