I think we’ve all had that moment, that moment of disappointment and the near-shedding of a single tear, that comes when you open your Chinese take-out only to find bell pepper in your kung pao chicken.
You see, bell pepper, in addition to being a gastronomic sin, has an additional trait: it’s flavor and stench aroma permeate and contaminate whatever it was cooked with. Your degree of sensitivity to the offensive pod will determine your reaction to thus-contaminated food.
For all but the most sensitive, small amounts of bell pepper can be picked out of the kung pao and tossed into the trash bin where it belonged to begin with. The remaining meal can then be eaten with a degree of enjoyment, though noticeably reduced from your initial anticipation.
If the amount of pepper is too large, however, the entire meal must be disposed of because even the tastiest and most tender chicken morsels are irredeemably tainted. Refunds are a 50/50 proposition at best. And your disappointment may be sufficient for you to choose never to return to that restaurant, even if they inform you that they have ended their odious culinary practice.
I’ve loved watching the NFL since I was a child. While I’m sure I watched with my dad when I was younger, my first memories are of the Pittsburgh Steelers of the mid-1970s, the teams of Bradshaw and Swann and Stallworth and Harris, of Lambert and Ham and Greene on the other side of the ball.
I may have been too young to notice whether political issues of the day were injected into a football broadcast by a player, or by broadcasters like Curt Gowdy and Don Meredith, but if it happened I surely didn’t notice it then and don’t remember it now.
Which is a good thing, because politics in my football is like the bell pepper in my kung pao chicken.
Yes, if there’s only a little and if it’s early in the game, I can mentally “pick it out.” I’ll still watch the game, and still mostly enjoy it, but it’s hard to fully get that “why would you do such a thing?” taste out of your mouth.
At some point, however, whether due to suffering through this contamination game after game, or because the pollution within any one game increases, such as with halftime commentary or even play-by-play focused on the inappropriate behavior of players, owners and the president, you just can’t ignore it anymore; like Chinese food full of bell pepper, the good parts can’t be salvaged.
I’m pretty sure that whether a few disrespectful players kneel before a game, whether or not you think they have a legitimate issue they’re trying to bring attention to, has nothing to do with whether the Broncos can get after Raiders’ quarterback Derek Carr this Sunday as well as the Redskins did last Sunday. (118 yards passing, 52.9 QB rating — how’s that $125 million feeling this week, Mark Davis?)
And really, Von Miller’s sack count is one of the few things that really matters to me and millions of other Americans on a Sunday afternoon in autumn. So can’t we keep the bell pepper out of it.
I don’t know whether this whole mess — President Trump giving new life to an annoying but not widely practiced fad among a handful of players — will end up being a political win for him. But the NFL is at some serious risk here.
Dozens of my radio show listeners told me that they are “done with the Broncos” after so many members of the team knelt for last Sunday’s anthem even though, prior to that, we haven’t had a player kneel since linebacker Brandon Marshall stopped doing so last November.
I suggested they should give the Broncos a break, as one might give a break to a restaurant that put a bit of bell pepper in your take-out. But for many of them, apparently even more sensitive than I am to the contamination of sports with politics — or, more specifically in this case, to the perceived disrespect by the team of the flag and the nation — once was enough.
I hope and believe they’ll come back, much as you might try that Chinese restaurant again after “punishing them” for a time. Whether it’s really the offenders who are being punished, or whether those football fans are engaged in self-flagellation is a discussion for another day.
If I were a betting man, I’d wager — though I wouldn’t wager much — that few players will kneel this week. Not because they’ve forgotten or forgiven President Trump’s over-the-top “son of a bitch” description of some of their colleagues (and urging that they be fired) but because owners and coaches have probably spent much of this week explaining how tremendously bad for the NFL this intentionally inflammatory display is. And how if league revenue drops (presaged perhaps by stories of DirecTV giving refunds on their NFL Sunday Ticket package for the first time ever), players’ salaries will also drop when contract renewal time rolls around.
One thing is certain: I’ll have a better sense of the action and reaction than many. Because if you watch the Broncos game this weekend and look carefully you’ll see me roving the sidelines with the parabolic microphone for my sister station KOA NewsRadio’s coverage of the Broncos. (Here I am doing the same thing last season.) It’s one of the highlights of my year.
Will Broncos players kneel? How about the hated Raiders? (As if we Denver fans need more reason to boo them.)
As for the former, at least, I sure hope not.
Because I hate bell pepper.