As far back as I can remember, the start of NFL training camp has brought on excitement akin to the anticipation felt the night before Christmas. Not this year.
No longer am I looking forward to training camp news or exhibition games leading up to the regular season that convince me that the coming season will be better than the last – that it will be worth the expense of my DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket subscription, which has brought me live game coverage for at least the past five years.
Not this time around. Something has gone out of the game.
Where to start?
The answers probably say more about my advanced stage in life than about the National Football League. But as Popeye said: “I yam what I yam.” And I am, among other things, scandal weary.
It’s not just DeflateGate and “Shady Brady.” There are all those other “gates”: “Spygate,” where the New England Patriots broke league rules by videotaping an opponent’s signal-calling, “Bullygate,” where a Miami Dolphins player was harassed off the team and “Bountygate,” in which the New Orleans Saints offered bounties to knock opposing players out of the game. There’s also that video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an elevator. But it’s more than that.
The sport is being reduced to vaudeville.
I certainly respect the talent and skills of professional football players. I don’t put them on pedestals as models of character to be looked up to and emulated.
I do, however, expect grown men to act their ages, not like immature, egotistical showoffs. Unfortunately, Sunday after Sunday, some players use NFL fields across the fruited plain as platforms to display an intellectual development appropriate to juveniles.
After a good catch, a hard tackle, a nifty fumble recovery or a touchdown, these exhibitionist players try to attract attention with silly, burlesque comedy routines. The end zone has become a place where some seize the opportunity to make spectacles of themselves.
The sad thing is, they don’t know that folks in the stands are laughing at them, not with them.
Frankly, I’m embarrassed for them because they are too emotionally stunted to know better.
I’ve had enough. Maybe not enough to stop watching, but definitely enough to stop enjoying the game in its present form.
So on, reluctantly, to a 2015 season – approached more in dread than in hope.
So much for Christmas.
Colbert I. King is a columnist for The Washington Post.