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The NFL: A Toxic Relationship

How do I continue to watch the NFL, especially in light of the disgusting TNF Brawl?

NFL Logo by Michael Tipton is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The NFL: A Toxic Relationship


Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Murder on National Television.

Ruminate on that for a second. It’s just about one the worst things you can imagine right? Well, we came dangerously close to experiencing that on Thursday Night Football this week, and I’m not even being hyperbolic.

When Myles Garrett drove Mason Rudolph to the ground with less than 30 seconds left to play in the Browns Steelers matchup, he set off a horrific chain of events that has me ready to quit the NFL. Honestly, I wish I already had. And yet, here I sit having spent all day watching the highlight, listening to pundits bicker about how many games a player should be suspended for attempted homicide and who started it. And now I’m writing about it.

What’s. The. Point. 

Before I go on, let me just say that it matters absolutely none that Mason Rudolph tried to twist Garrett’s helmet. If it had ended there, he would’ve probably been fined, even given a game suspension, but a fine would’ve sufficed after the level of hit he endured. If Garrett had connected with the crown of the helmet, Rudolph could’ve died. It’s as simple as that. If the incident had happened outside of the stadium, that person is going to jail for at least a year. But let’s all scream about how 6 games might be too harsh a punishment.

And yet that’s exactly what people are doing.

I don’t care if you think he’s a well-spoken guy, or if he was provoked. I don’t care if the Browns are your team, or if you’re an alum of Texas A&M. There’s no defending Myles Garrett’s actions. None. Was Mason Rudolph wrong to twist Garrett’s helmet? 100%. But there’s no reasonable way to get from that to swinging a helmet at an unprotected head and anyone who says otherwise cares more about a game than athlete’s lives. It’s the only thing I can come up with to make sense of people not arguing for throwing Garrett out of the NFL.

How Did We Get Here?

A year and a half ago, Ned wrote about the Colin Kaepernick/Eric Reid situation and how he was finished with the NFL. I applauded him then for taking that stance and I still do. A large part of me wishes I had done the same that day, but obviously I didn’t.

A little less than a year ago, Kareem Hunt was in the news as the video of him assaulting a woman emerged. I was disgusted. A few weeks later, I was even more disgusted when, after the Chiefs (rightfully) let him go, the Browns signed him. The same Browns involved in this brawl.

And yet, I continued to watch the NFL.

I refuse to call the Washington Football Franchise by anything other than that because of their offensive mascot and even more offensive defense of it and refusal to change it. And yet…

I spent all summer wishing to never hear the words Antonio Brown uttered in a sentence ever again. And yet…

Week after week of bad calls. And yet…

And yet…

Why can’t I quit the NFL? Why does anyone put up with this, really? Is it simply because I have waited for so long to see the Lions win something, that I’ll continue to watch until they win, or I die, whichever comes first? Is it because I always wanted to be a QB and then when tryouts happened in Junior High I chickened out because I was afraid I would never be able to memorize the plays (ironically, I work in theatre where a big part of the job can be memorizing plays.) Am I just wired to enjoy bloodsport?

Because that’s what it is. Bloodsport. And Thursday night was the biggest evidence of that.

If America is Rome, that the NFL is the Coliseum. Athletes of predominately less means but above average physical prowess compete in violent combat until they reach a point where they can retire. The argument against that was always, well no one is actually trying to kill someone else. I think the people making that argument forgot to tell Myles Garrett. As a kid, I was fascinated by the Ancient Romans, but I never wished to see an actual Gladiator battle. Why do I watch them every Sunday now?

Where Do We Go From Here?

I have a lot of questions, and very little answers, and I wish I did. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, and I don’t know if that makes me feel better or worse. This might finally be the week where I quit the NFL. Or, most likely, I’ll be parked in front of my TV on Sunday as the hapless Lions take on the Cowboys, a day removed from Kaepernick finally getting a tryout for league GM’s again, clinging to hope that the NFL is slowly changing for the better. Even though they’ve shown me time and time again that they probably aren’t.

And yet…

Andrew Mark Wilhelm is a professional Sound Engineer/Designer, and amateur photographer, writer, musician who recently relocated from California to Rochester, NY. Born and raised in the suburbs of Detroit has made Andrew an avid fan of all things Detroit but nothing more so than his beloved Detroit Tigers. Every year he tells himself he won't drink the Lions Kool-Aid, and every year winds up heartbroken come January. A Spartan by heart, and a Golden Grizzly by degree, you can catch his (almost) weekly Hot Takes every Hump Day here at The Turf.

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