It was not Colin Kaepernick and his knee alone that drove me from the NFL. Rather, as I have written on these pages going back to September 2017, I awaited the league’s response to that useless ingrate’s treachery. One rogue means nothing. But a rogue league that can be pushed around by one punk the way that Nancy Pelosi can be pushed around by one massively ignorant freshman representative who received the votes of only 3 percent of her district can take its football and stuff it where the instant replays don’t shine.
Roger Goodell and most NFL team owners did not respond to Kaepernick by standing for patriotism. Instead, they dawdled and contemplated their navels as more and more of their massively constructed, massively overpaid, and massively undereducated gladiators decided to imitate the fool. The NFL essentially caved in to the Political Correctness mob. And, frankly, perhaps very correctly. Perhaps they accurately determined that leftists not only make noise but also real trouble while those on the right merely belly-ache. The Left boycotts; the right belly-aches. The Left intimidates sponsors into cancelling advertising; the right belly-aches. Maybe it really is Politically Correct with lower case letters, too — that is, correct politically — to cave in to the Left and to thumb the nose and blow off conservatives.
Even when the Left radicals are accommodated, even if their attacks on the nation’s flag and patriotic values are allowed, the conservatives, religionists, and patriots still will watch the NFL and Super Bowl. The political right will belly-ache, but the mighty conservative stallions will pony up as just so many geldings. Conservatives and religionists will line up for the movies that attack and destroy our families and our nation’s Judeo-Christian culture and heritage. They will watch the commercial and streaming television programs that poison our living rooms and dens, admitting the Left’s toxins into our homes. They complain at church and at the office, and they approvingly and enthusiastically encourage their pastors’ and priests’ sermons that condemn Hollywood perversions and social corruptions and that attack the overpaid narcissists of most professional sports. But then the same conservatives and religionists patriotically patronize the poison, thereby propagating and proliferating it. Accordingly, the Super Bowl commercials still will draw the viewership numbers that justify charging millions of dollars for a minute of airtime, even $5 million for 30 seconds.
And then the next morning and through the next six months, the conservatives not only will belly-ache about the NFL but also about the commercials of transvestites eating hummus or razor blades being leveraged to emasculate American men, shaving off more than their beards.
When I was a kid, I was a huge sports fan. I watched all the competitive league sports from the perch of my bedroom black-and-white TV. As a fiercely loyal New Yorker, I stood with the Yankees and Mets, football Giants and Jets, Rangers and Knicks. I never absorbed the irony that I was remaining so loyal to “my” teams, even as the players for whom I rooted so passionately and fanatically willingly departed year after year to play for other cities and teams if offered a bit more money or a bit longer contract. And if they did not jump ship first, there was an equally good chance that the team owners would dump them even after their having had great years. Well, they weren’t loyal — but I was.
As I grew older and matured, my sports viewing habits changed. I had to get serious about more things in life. My Sundays became consumed with my unfolding careers and with those I was serving professionally. As a congregational rabbi, I needed to set aside huge swaths of most every Sunday to conduct weddings (something for which I so much love participating!), attend tediously lavish bar mitzvahs (something that I so much hate attending!), mourn solemnly and tearfully with families at funerals and interments of their loved ones (who also were people I had come to love deeply), conduct tombstone unveilings a year later, teach Talmud and other Torah classes for laymen and women whose only free day all week for those kinds of intensive-learning classes was Sunday. Sundays also would need to be set aside to study with prospective converts to Judaism, with boys and girls studying for their bar or bat mitzvah, even for conducting pastoral-care sessions and visiting the hospitalized. So Sunday sports had to be set aside.
Later, as a big-firm litigation attorney, I typically had to spend most of each Sunday at the office all day and night because, like all big-firm attorneys on the partnership track, I had an obligation to produce 2,100-plus billable hours annually. So we all worked endlessly at those firms, but as an Orthodox Jew I had to leave early on Fridays to be home timely for the Sabbath and likewise honored and remembered the Shabbat on Saturday through nightfall. Therefore, I needed to work 12-hour Sundays. And there were the court hearings and depositions scheduled for Mondays that demanded focused final preparations the day before. So the demands of life in yet another career competed with my sports fanaticism. Yet I remained a superfan. I still would read all the articles. I still actually cared.
With the exception of my baseball addiction that the Politically Correct have overlooked amid their concerted campaign to destroy everything in America that once was decent, those NBA and NFL days are way past. I long ago said goodbye to the NBA. I have catalogued that disgust previously, and fittingly the NBA hero of the age is the one I most despise, the gutless coward who sold out the freedom marchers of Hong Kong just so that he could make even more millions on their backs and on their last breaths of freedom. By now it no longer matters to me that, perhaps, more than half of basketball or football professionals stand during the national anthem. “More than half” — even “most” — does not work for me. “More than Half” is fine for elections. Unlike the Democrats, I accept the winner who garners more than half of the electoral votes, even when it was a Bill Clinton who twice failed to attract at least 50 percent of the voting public. But when it comes to my time, my entertainment, my leisure — it is all or nothing. Either the league in its entirety, and through all its players, manifests patriotism by honoring my flag and national anthem — or the heck with each and every one of them.
Yes, free speech. Yes, free conscience. Go ahead and spend all week — except gametime — and spend all six or eight months of annual vacation between seasons advocating whatever. But not during any moment of the three hours of the sports event that they expect me to patronize. You expect me to buy your team shirts, your jackets, your caps, your other insignia-embossed novelty trinkets, gewgaws and gimcracks? Not if you do not honor this flag and anthem. That is my insignia.
So I stopped following the NBA years before LeBron the Gutless Coward. And then, two-plus years ago — dating back to my September 2017 article in The American Spectator — the NFL. I had forgotten what it had been like decades earlier when I dropped the NBA from my life, so it was fascinating observing my own alienation process as I left NFL fandom. The easy part: I just stopped watching the games. But I found that I still was reading about the games the next day. I still was wondering — for old time’s sakes — how “my team” was doing. I occasionally would Google a team name just to see the headlines about them. But as months passed, and then a year, I found that I really cared much less. And then even less than that. Not until January, as the season was winding down, was I curious as to whether my old teams were in contention for the NFL post- season.
This year — this month — marked my turning point. It finally happened. I honestly did not care. Sure, I had seen an occasional story about Tom Brady’s Patriots starting to stumble, then about their missing this year’s bonanza. Those stories occasionally were included in a RealClearPolitics daily aggregation of stories about impeachment, trade with Mexico, the latest health plague from China, always something about Ocasio-Cortez, Brexit, the latest Arab Islamic terror attacks launched from Gaza against Jewish civilians. So I noticed a thing or two about Brady, whether or not he will be back next year with the Patriots. Anyway, I have followed professional sports so intensely — and have studied human nature so passionately — long enough to know the answer anyway: he will be back for a final one- or two-year contract with the Patriots, to the degree that it matters to anyone. (Oooops! Uh, spoiler alert?)
But other than the Brady bunch of articles — I honestly did not realize that the Super Bowl was a week away. It is almost impossible for me to describe how remarkable a change it is in my life not to know that the Super Bowl is that close. I would not even have known that much but for the news items reporting that Michael Bloomberg, en route to buying a Democrat nomination for himself, was spending $11 million on a Super Bowl ad. Having been duly alerted, I quickly looked up the names of the teams playing so that I could appear to my law students and bar mitzvah students as though I am current on what matters. But on the Sunday morning of the game, one of my favorite people in the whole world approached me after our congregation’s Sunday morning services, as we were removing our tefillin, to ask whether I was rooting for Kansas City or San Francisco. I told him that, as a political conservative in California, I never root for San Francisco for anything. And since the Chiefs are in the NFL, I am not rooting for them either. Since he loves rugby and soccer, I told him that I am rooting for the “All Blacks.”
My dear brilliant wife was years ahead of me. She not only never followed the NFL or NBA, but she would not know the difference between an off tackle or an onside kick, a quarterback sneak or intentional grounding. To her, a “hat trick” (more an NHL term) is when she finds just the right chapeau for synagogue, “clipping” is what the kid needs when it has been too long between haircuts, a “free safety” certainly sounds better than paying for one, and a lineman is some guy in Wichita searching in the sun for another overload. But, as with most things in our marriage, time has proven her the wiser. So I spent the first global Palindrome Day in 909 years with her, all day Sunday — the whole day, morning to night — enjoying and celebrating our friendship. Not a word — nor even a thought — about football. Not even pizza. Rather, I ate some gefilte fish and heated some potato knishes, deciding to leave the pizza for Monday. For entertainment, we watched several episodes of the wonderful recent Ken Burns documentary on the history of country music. (He is such a national treasure!) As we finished watching Episode 7, with the playing of George Jones’s greatest hit, it kept running through my mind: this time I’m over the NFL for good. I stopped loving it today.