In the sports world there’s been a great shift in values over the past half century. Nowhere is that shift reflected more than in the National Football League. Pop culture historians will tell you there’s probably been no greater influence on our lives during that period than the Beatles of the sixties but, I would say, the NFL is more popular than the Beatles.
It was 46 years ago that John Lennon spoke those unfavorable words, “the Beatles are more popular than Jesus.” The group and their music were banned by many radio stations. The memory of record-burning-rallies is etched in my conscious, and unconscious, memories. I’ll venture a guess that there are more than a few people who wish they hadn’t burned their records now. The Revolver LP is currently listed on eBay for $699. A side note: it’s likely that Lennon’s farcical phrase unwittingly gave birth to: bad press is good press.
So, is the NFL more popular than Jesus?
The NFL game has taken over Sunday and many a church goin’ folk would like to throw a penalty flag on the most popular gathering in town. In Cincinnati, the Bengals drew the lowest average attendance in the NFL in 2011. I’m wondering if more than 49,251 go to church in the Queen City each week? Someday someone will likely re-write a Super-revised, Abridged, Updated and Revamped version of the Bible that reads, “And on the seventh day, He watched football.” With apologies to feminists everywhere.
Saying that the National Football League has grown in social status is kind of like calling people who leave their young children in a car, on a hot day, bad parents. Somebody has to say it. Right? Well, maybe not, because most NFL fans are either scouring the net for Fantasy League tips, downloading their team’s most recent Cheerleaders calendar or Googling their favorite players, like Tim Tebow.
Since Tim Tebow’s name has come up let’s talk about what I came here to talk about: values in the NFL.
Values. The NFL. I think the NFL waived Values at some point in the 90′s — and no team picked them up.
Did you know that Tim Tebow has become so popular that fans are now doing the Tebow Tatoo. The other end of the spectrum may be Ray Lewis, “who (once) pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of obstructing justice after originally being charged with murder” but, now gives motivational speeches to the Stanford basketball squad or teams like the Loyola LaCrosse team.
It’s a wild, wild, wild, wild, league. One with no clear cut values. You could say there are no values at all. Well, nothing of any consistency. It’s amazing, really: there are no constants.
Take the most recent draft for example. When the New England Patriots selected FS Tavon Wilson with the 48th overall pick in the draft you could hear every avid fan in America go, huh? Wilson had been rated as high as the 212th best prospect in the draft by some publications. So, whose value system is it? Was it? Or, will it be? The Patriots seems to reinvent themselves every time they hold a practice.
The NFL has become the great sports enigma: the richest, most incredibly popular and entertaining sport in America that is also filled with some of the most ego-maniacal, boundaryless, disrespectful and offensive millionaires — that you’d love to party with. That’s the real story isn’t it: we’d all like to know these characters up close and personally, no matter what they’ve done, even if they shot themselves in the leg. It’s hero worship gone psychotically wild: no flashing required.
This is probably one reason why a player like Tim Tebow is enormously popular. He’s really just a goofball and that’s a reason you don’t hear teammates talk poorly about him: he’s likeable.
Likeability: that’s more than you can say about many of the most popular players in the game. And the one’s that are likeable have “other issues,” as they say.
Take Drew Brees. Truly likeable. Right? This is the same Drew who stood up for his defensive teammates who committed what boils down to as: illegal acts against their co-workers. Personally, I’m glad there’s no bounty among sports writers (that I know of). Or, how about Brees’ most recent contract that makes him a 100 million man? Since football is a team game, I’ve never understood star players demanding to be paid so much money that it seriously dampens their own team’s fiscal ability to improve. I predict that the Saints will be an average team in three years.
True or false? The one “value constant” in the NFL seems to be its entertainment value? At the moment I’m in southern California. It’s 3 in the afternoon and 67 degrees on the coast. When you attempt to measure the overall attractiveness of a NFL ticket to a San Diego Chargers game in this region of the country you can understand why the organization faces attendance problems even though they’ve had one of the best rosters in the league for the past five seasons. Patrick Allen exposed the Chargers for attempting to sell tickets to Chiefs fans: also now known as Ticket-gate.
How about the game itself. What do you value? The passing game? The running game? A West Coast offense? Balance? Smashmouth? Looking over the decades each and every valued approach has come and gone. The approach is a never-ending evolution. On the other hand, consider the Pittsburgh Steelers: they’ve been to the Super Bowl more than any team and they possess familiar elements to their game today as in the past four decades, or more.
They are a bit of a throwback to the days of Chuck Noll and Vince Lombardi.
So, does Lombardi’s famous quote still ring true today? Does it have any lasting value for today’s athlete? Lombardi said, “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” We’ve become so snapshot and soundbite addicted that we forget that the quote was part of a bigger picture or an encompassing story. Lombardi also said, “We didn’t lose the game, we just ran out of time.” He also taught, “Winning isn’t everything, wanting to win is.”
Can you find what you want, or value, in the NFL game today? Yes but, you can’t find what you don’t want. So, you have to take the absurd, the crazy, the whacked out and the just plain wrong… with the good, and not just good but, the insanely greatest game going, on American soil: also known as grass, for those who just tuned in.
That’s it! The one constant — the game is still being played exclusively on grass.