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Why I'm Breaking Up with Football

  • Jeff Dufour


To continue Football Week on Kempt, our DC correspondent pens a Dear John letter to the NFL.

Dear NFL,

It’s over between us. I’m moving on.

You probably thought I’d never leave. Not after 29 years together. But I just can’t do it anymore. Yeah, we may have a backslide or two—a stolen glance at a scoreboard, a drunken tryst on the occasional Monday night—but as a relationship, we’re deader than pigskin.

I know what you’re thinking: this is probably about the parade of concussions and other grisly injuries. Or the slap-on-the-wrist suspensions for wife beating. Or the maybe-racist team nickname. Or the byzantine set of rules.

You’re not wrong. It’s about all of that. But even more so...

It’s about the fan experience. You’re the only sport that’s actually worse in person than on TV. Witness the stadium traffic jams, public drunkenness and fistfights. And, from most seats, action on the field that’s hard to discern until you see the replay. Which you could do at home. While warm.

It’s about the TV experience. It’s better than the live experience, sure. But still. The Wall Street Journal has pointed out that over a game of roughly 195 minutes, one can expect about 11 minutes of actual playing time. That’s less than the 17 minutes of replays you’ll see, and far less than the 67 minutes of players huddling and just standing around. As George Will famously said, football “combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.”

It’s about the marketing. As for the other 90 minutes: yeah, that’s when you sell my eyeballs to companies who make bad beer. (And my eardrums, should I forget to hit the mute button.)

It’s about spite. I can’t help it, I’m sorry. In my town (Washington, DC), we have a very good baseball team, whom I follow religiously. We also have a very bad football team (you know, the one with the maybe-racist nickname). And yet, come July every year, I have to endure the bad football team crowding out coverage of the good baseball team. Apparently football fans can’t get enough news about the third-string long snapper. But I’m tired of it.

It’s about soccer. Yeah, you probably felt this coming, after you watched me stare at the oh-so-attractive World Cup for a month. But look what it offers: a straightforward game that runs its course in a tidy two hours (in the morning, no less, if I’m watching a Premier League game) with exactly one interruption for commercials. Case closed.

Now, if you don’t mind, I have a letter to write to the NCAA.