Culbreath: The end of the season (thank goodness)Written by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
This year’s Super Bowl is fast approaching, and I cannot wait. Mostly because I can’t wait to put what is quite literally the worst season in NFL history behind us.
Don’t lie to yourself; this season has been horrifying. On the field and off. Clearly, we can point to the start of the season where Roger Goodell saw video of a player dragging his unconscious fiancee out of an elevator, and apparently said “Eh, I’ve seen enough. Two games.” Or we can point to the end of the season, where a team going into the title game was found screwing around with the pressure in the footballs, possibly for quite some time.
(And no, I don’t think it’s that serious of a story… if it were anybody else but the Patriots.)
Oh, on the field? A 10-6 Philadelphia team missed out on the playoffs so a 7-8 Carolina team could go. JJ Watt had one of the most dominant defensive seasons squandered by a Houston team that had absolutely no idea what it was doing on offense. Prime time games were blowouts week in and week out. The Cleveland Browns once again traded up into the first round of the draft for an overhyped quarterback, and once again watched him burn out like a strip of magnesium.
Officiating? Nighmarish. There were 3514 penalties called in the 2014 regular season, 269 flags more than what was thrown in 2013. And those numbers don’t include declined or offsetting penalties! The league will tell you that it’s a good thing: in the name of safety, they need to flag illegal plays. Sure, that makes sense. But it’s also making the games impossible to watch. And even with flag throwing at an all time high, they can’t seem to call ‘em right. Just ask Detroit with the Pass Interference call that magically disappeared. Or Dallas fan with the Pass Interference call that never came.
The NFL was so bad this year that a coach left the pro league to go back to a college team. The NFL was so bad this year that Tony Romo was the feel good story of the postseason (and oh yeah, DeMarco Murray maybe had something to do with it). The NFL was so bad this year that you don’t even remember who Adrian Peterson is (Remember? Vikings running back? Likes to beat his kid with a tree branch?). The NFL is so bad this year, that two of its worse teams are considering moving… not because it’ll make them better, but because they’ll be able to suck in front of new fans. The NFL is so bad this year, that the two leading stories going into the title game are Tom Brady’s feelings and Marshawn Lynch’s non-answers.
(For the record, I’m totally Team Beast Mode on his relationship with the media.)
The conference championship games have always felt to me like the best time to end the NFL regular season. Much like how my wife likes to turn off City of Angels before Meg Ryan gets a face full of lumber (Spoiler!), I can’t help but feel like once the AFC and NFC champions are crowned, the NFL ceases to be a professional sports league and becomes a pop culture event that does not care for your fandom, because there are commercials to watch and a halftime show to produce! And even with this slog of a season, it hasn’t been as bad as this two week gap until the Super Bowl proper, where I just… want it… to be… over.
What’s weird is that I never thought I’d feel that way about football. But it’s not a feeling towards football. Just the NFL. The college season was great! Loved the College Football Playoffs! But the professional league is near unwatchable, and the powers that be don’t seem to notice. They’re the big man in sports right now, but it can’t seem to get out of its own way, and is shaking off fans as it lumbers along.
If football thinks it’s immortal, might I point them to baseball? Baseball was America’s Pastime before the television medium demanded something with a little more action. But they shook off their problems, confident in what they were doing, until they were on the outside looking in. It’s only been in the 21st century where they finally started to take a serious look at drug testing it’s players, or holding its refs accountable by way of instant replay. Heck, this year, they’re putting a pitch clock in for the International League! You’ll be able to watch a Mud Hens game in 2 and a half hours!
We’ll all watch the Super Bowl, because it’s what we do. It’s an institution at this point. But it all feels very hollow this year. Like an Adam Sandler movie topping the box office, you wonder how so many people are giving it this much attention. More and more people are starting to write off the NFL, and if the league doesn’t fix their glitches, they could be in for a rude awakening.
Matt “Shaggy” Culbreath is sports director of WSPD.