First, a few foundational comments:
- I don’t define myself at all by “patriot.” For one thing, I was never in the military, and it seems somewhat presumptuous for someone who did not do a stint in the military to label himself as a patriot. As well, it’s my view that Samuel Johnson’s “patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel” too often rings more than a little bit true.
- I’ve never been bothered by flag-burning whatsoever, but I can certainly see why that act would upset some people. Consider a dirt-poor country boy who joins the military, returns to his hometown proudly wearing a new uniform and getting instant respect. Maybe he serves in the Middle East or another hot spot, risking his life to enemy fire each day, especially when he runs the American flag up the flagpole every morning. I fully understand and respect that that man is going to react differently to flag-burning than I am. I would not burn a flag for a multitude of reasons, but respect for that man’s journey through life would be first and foremost.
- I don’t personally care what anyone does during the national anthem. (I’m surprised to learn — truth be told — that NFL players all stood prior to Kaepernick.) Sit, stand, kneel, or knit, I don’t care. But why needlessly go out of your way to do something that will upset someone? To belittle something that is a great source of pride to some people?
- I’m not a rah-rah “USA! USA! USA!” type. I’ve written about how I often pull for the European team in the Ryder Cup. If the European players are classy and polite, and some of the Americans are plagued by scandals such as inside stock trading, I’m not going to apologize for pulling against the guys wearing red, white, and blue.
- Then there’s the workplace issue. Suppose a schoolteacher insisted on wearing rebel flag shirts on Martin Luther King, Jr., Day and all through Black History Month. He might say, “Oh, I love Dr. King, and I love Black History Month. What I’m protesting is the way northern journalists portray the South, that is to say, the states of the old Confederacy.” Maybe he’s being sincere and truthful. Or maybe not. Whatever the case, no school district in the nation is going to let him do it. Employers, such as the NFL, can set arbitrary rules for employment. If you want NFL players to kneel against owners’ wishes, don’t whine to me about the teacher above.
Okay, I needed to make those points before I got started. By “start” I simply mean to disclose my decision to permanently stop watching the NFL.
To regular readers of this website, that can hardly be shocking news. My interest in the NFL has been waning for over a decade. A quick site search on “NFL” will yield several articles such as, from three years ago on opening NFL Sunday, “Why I Will Watch Golf and Tennis Today Instead of NFL.”
Another article, “On Super Bowl Sunday, Revealing the NFL’s Dirty Little Secret,” was written two-and-one-half years ago. Here’s a snippet:
The dirty little secret? Television ratings are not as stellar and unassailable as the NFL wants you to believe. The highest-rated Super Bowls were in the 1970s and 1980s.
Funny how my commentary, at first labeled heresy, has become conventional wisdom. Lesson: If you state the truth instead of following the lemmings, you will be surprised how smart you turn out to be.
The protests were the final straw for me. Not because I’m some flag-waving super-patriot because, as I pointed out above, I’m not. My response came primarily for two reasons. First, I’m sick of politics being dragged into everything. I find the entire two-party yay-team Dem/lib/left/blue vs Repub/con/right/red game to be intolerable bullshit. It’s beneath me and insulting to my intelligence. The straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was the issue ostensibly being protested: “Police brutality toward people of color.” Because, you see, that simply is not true. Not in any meaningful way, and certainly not in the way the media and politicians claim. It’s an invented issue which brings unnecessary discord to our nation.
Here, read this [the bolding is mine]:
This paper explores racial differences in police use of force. On non-lethal uses of force, blacks and Hispanics are more than fifty percent more likely to experience some form of force in interactions with police. Adding controls that account for important context and civilian behavior reduces, but cannot fully explain, these disparities. On the most extreme use of force – officer-involved shootings – we find no racial differences in either the raw data or when contextual factors are taken into account. We argue that the patterns in the data are consistent with a model in which police officers are utility maximizers, a fraction of which have a preference for discrimination, who incur relatively high expected costs of officer-involved shootings.
That’s from a study done last year by a black professor at Harvard who labeled it the “most surprising result of my career.” What surprises me is that he was surprised.
He found blacks were eighteen percent more likely to be pushed into a wall. Sixteen percent more likely to be handcuffed. Several other things like that. Not perfect, but hardly something upon which to blame all one’s failures and shortcomings. Nor is it inequity enough to condemn a nation. Especially when you continue reading the report.
Shootings? Blacks are no more likely whatsoever to be shot and killed. In fact, white suspects were more likely to be fired upon in cases where officers were not first attacked. Not exactly what the media preaches night and day, is it!
So, I have quit the NFL for good. Because of the protests and a whole lot of other long-standing reasons (which I’ve written about extensively in the past, and others seem now to finally be writing about). Bottom line: The product wasn’t much good to start with, and then they introduced politics via unfounded protests.
I want to point out two last things. First, I’m quite good at actually quitting things, not just saying I’ll quit. Two or three years ago, I said I was going to stop, temporarily, watching Golf Channel other than the live tournament coverage. Well, I found life was better not watching, so my temporary experiment turned into a permanent practice. I might catch the stray hour or two of Live From during a major, but frankly I still find GC’s non-tournament programming largely unwatchable. Another example: I smoked for a spell when young, and I quit that, too. I’ve got a string of successes. The secret is to know that at first you’ll feel a little depressed and unsettled as you struggle to grow into a new routine. What I know now (that makes such breaks easier) is that once you break a habit — and it only takes a couple of weeks — you will feel good about it from then on.
Second, I’m a little bit suspicious of the people who say, “I won’t watch another minute of NFL until all the players start standing up again.” That strikes me as, I don’t know, controlling and sadistic. Like they are saying to the players, I’m going to force you to stand! Like I said earlier, I really don’t give a damn if the players stand or not. My problem is that they are forcing a false narrative and juvenile politics onto someone who has no interest in them. As far as I’m concerned, the NFL can’t put the genie back in the bottle. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. So, I don’t understand the people who one day hope to say, “I’m watching NFL again because we made them horrible players stand up and salute Old Glory!” There’s something creepy about that attitude, if you ask me. Is their goal to cheer their lungs out for players who have demonstrated they have values opposite to theirs — as long as those players stand while the national anthem plays?