For the sixth consecutive year, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl on Sunday.
But it wasn’t always that way. Once upon a time, I was a football fanatic from the moment I set foot in New York as a child. For one thing, I had never seen anyone that huge in Haiti, so the sheer size of the players was fascinating to me.
There was a degree of idiot savant in football that I admired. The complexities of the game; the precision of the routes and the quarterback controls of the field kept me inside the house on Sundays from the time I woke up to soak up pre-game shows to the final Sunday night game.
As a child, I rooted for the Giants and grew up rooting for very bad teams that never failed to break my heart, as they found unthinkable ways to lose games. But it was fine by me because the Giants were the home team and, of course, you rooted for them because that’s what you do.
Most of my friends were secret fans of other teams. Mine were the Pittsburgh Steelers because they could beat the hated Dallas Cowboys.
My fascination with football deepened further when I went to college in the South, where football is stronger than any religious belief. There, some people may be Methodists, Lutherans, Episcopalians or Baptists, but they all pray to the gridiron altar from Friday to Sunday.
The Giants would go on to become a powerful team by the late 1980s and gave me a few Super Bowl victories in the ensuing decades. Though I haven’t followed them closely, I understand they’re back to the mediocre years of the 1970s.
I stopped watching the National Football League after owners colluded to prevent Colin Kaepernick from playing on any team because the quarterback had the temerity to stand up against police brutalizing Black people. Kaepernick felt the best way to do this was by taking a knee while the National Anthem played prior to each game kickoff – something that a former veteran advised him to do because that gesture is not disrespectful to the Stars and Stripes.
The owners of the NFL — all of whom are staunch Donald Trump supporters — stood tighter than the hulking offensive linemen protecting the quarterbacks. They tried to turn Kaepernick into a pariah. “He was not that good after all,” they figured. “Good riddance,” their enablers in the media wrote about Kaepernick. The San Francisco 49ers quarterback may not have been the second coming of Joe Montana, but Kaepernick was not the scrub that they described.
As that world turned, I decided I had enough and took my time and interests to another sport: Soccer. I began following the English Premier League and La Liga, Spain’s top flight league. Now instead of rooting for the Giants, I yell and scream for Manchester City, picked because of that club’s affiliation with New York City. As it turned out, the Citizens are a juggernaut and have been dominating the EPL since I began watching soccer regularly.
It’s not that the owners of EPL clubs are a paragon of virtue. I know they’re not. They count among their ranks, oligarchs, oil barons and other tycoons. Players are commodities and disposable there as well.
But I have a transactional connection with Manchester City and the EPL and other leagues, not the emotional one I had with football and the NFL. I enjoy the games and I’m not that bothered when City loses a game.
I do watch college football, having decamped to the Midwest, where, like the South, the love of college football is as revered as a religion. I’ve become a fan of Purdue, whose campus I trek through every day for my walks.
Since Kaepernick was blackballed from the NFL, things haven’t gotten better. A league where 75 to 80 percent of the players are Black, there are only a handful of Black head coaches. Two weeks ago, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, filed a lawsuit against the NFL and the Giants, alleging racial discrimination of the league’s treatment of minority coaches and executives.
My Giants interviewed Flores for its head coach position, and he received a congratulatory text message from the Patriots’ head coach Bill Belichick. Only problem is, the Giants did not hire Flores. Feeling that the interview was a sham, Flores filed a lawsuit.
The NFL will continue to rake in billions of dollars in revenue and treat Black players and coaches as commodities to dispense at their whims and caprices. I will continue to spend my Sundays doing other things instead of watching the NFL. I just won’t stand and watch a sport that is hostile to Black people and cheer as if everything is fine. It’s not.