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5 Reasons I Won't Watch Football This Year

I love watching sports, but for several reasons, I have largely stopped doing so. I won’t say it’s because I don’t have time. We all choose how we spend each 24 hours. It’s certainly not that it has lost its significant entertainment appeal for me. American football (specifically as it involves the Philadelphia Eagles) holds an appeal for me that is only rivaled by the world’s football (aka soccer). On the other hand, my fantasy football league has now instituted a weekly fee for those who have incomplete rosters on game day, a policy that I probably had no small part in prompting. Despite setting alarms on my phone, I have many times included players on my starting roster who were either injured or on a bye week.

Yet as the NFL season kicked off last night and I gear up for my first high school football team physician sideline coverage tonight, the return of football still holds special meaning for me. The start of football always reminds me of the ‘back-to-school’ time, a consolation for the end of summer. The fixed cohorts of school teams mean there is constant turnover. The new academic year means new opportunities for players rising into new roles. The clean slate of a new year provides the unadorned canvas on which to prove oneself.

Wilson College on a September morning

In our area, there is a crispness to the mornings and evenings that heralds the change in season. The slight temperature drop is invigorating and reminds me that it’s pigskin time again. There is community around football. At times, the game itself may be only a backdrop for social gathering, or even an excuse to spend time with friends or family. (Why do we need excuses for such things?) My team rarely plays on Thanksgiving, but the presence of NFL football in the Thanksgiving living room is as comforting and infused with anticipation as the prospect of tasting the stuffing.

The Eagles do not make a habit of winning super bowls, and so the opportunity to watch them win Super Bowl LII with my dad is a cherished memory of a magical season. One of my friends tattooed the ‘Philly Special’ play diagram on his arm in the wake of that victory.

Philly sports fans are dedicated to be sure, but one can see examples of the enthusiasm inspired by football all across our country. Although there certainly is a dark side to all this, at the start of the season, all remains yet-to-be-done, yet-to-be-said, yet-to-be-accomplished. There is prospect and possibility. In theory, every team has a chance at greatness. Like Charlie Bucket, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, opening a Wonka candy bar with his grandfather, hoping to find a golden ticket:

“We don’t have a hope, really…you do know we don’t have a hope, don’t you?” Yes,” Charlie said. “I know that.” They looked at each other, and both started giggling nervously. “Mind you,” said Grandpa Joe, “there is just that tiny chance that it might be the one, don’t you agree?”

“We don’t have a hope, really…you do know we don’t have a hope, don’t you?” Yes,” Charlie said. “I know that.” They looked at each other, and both started giggling nervously. “Mind you,” said Grandpa Joe, “there is just that tiny chance that it might be the one, don’t you agree?”

I agree. New season, new hope. Let’s get after it!

Why, then, did I stop watching sports?

  1. Although time is ultimately not the issue, there is opportunity cost involved. This has always been the case however. Even before the days of DVR, my father and I would set the VHS system to record Eagles games so we could watch them on tape to avoid commercials and keep our Sunday afternoons free for other activities. (Millennials and younger, see here for an explanation of what VHS is.)

  2. My family is not interested. I like spending time with my family. They do not like watching sports. My wife will sometimes be interested in football as a fall activity, more so for the experience than the outcome for a particular team. When we had our oldest, I tried to inculcate her into Eagles fandom. We would watch the games with chips and guacamole or other snacks, sometimes at home, sometimes out. As she got older, however, I realized that she was just in it for the snacks. As soon as the tortilla chips were gone, she would vanish. Ultimately, if I’m going to set aside time from my family to do something by myself, watching a game rarely tops the list.

  3. Watching sports often comes with less-than-healthy food and drink options. Obviously, you can watch football without downing a plate of smothered nachos, but with football you are more likely to find yourself in front of beer and wings than you might otherwise on a given day. If you’re watching European soccer, those food and drink choices are happening even earlier in the day on the US east coast.

  4. The games are too late. With my 9 pm bedtime, any primetime game ends far too late for my desired bedtime.

  5. During the 2020 coronavirus shutdown, major sports were on hiatus, and I had a chance to taste life without sports. My life contained the same amount of happiness and fulfillment, leading me to conclude that I didn’t need sports to be happy. When sports started again, there was a weird period where there were little or no fans and teams were playing off kilter from the normal seasonal calendars. It didn’t have the same appeal. Now the seasonality of sports has largely returned to normal, but I now know I don’t require spectator sports in my life.

Despite all this, my enjoyment of watching sports is undiminished, it’s just subordinated to other pursuits. I’ve always said I’d rather be playing the sport than watching it, but there is something special about watching the most elite performers. There is a reason why the Super Bowl is the most watched event in our country and why the Olympics are so captivating. These incredible athletes remind us of what’s possible, both as individuals and as teams. There is also something about the knowledge of an impending winter that makes autumn an inspiring season for accomplishment. "Winter is coming." Our season of achievement is pitted against the hourglass of fall, metaphor and microcosm for our lives on this earth.

But as enthralling as it is to witness elite performance, our lives are our own to live. Hearing Shawn Stevenson reflect during a podcast on his beloved St Louis Cardinals captured this well. He used to watch all of every Cardinals game in the Major League Baseball 162-game season, but when he thought about how he was spending his time, he thought: 'I’m watching them be great.' It’s time for us to be great in our own ways. New season, new hope. Get after it!


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