Sunday, September 17, 2006

Confessions From A One-Time Hardcore Football Junkie

"Are you ready for some football?!!"

Oh man, there was a time when those words made my heart race, armpits shower sweat and my testicles withdraw up into my chest cavity in prepairation for battle. I had the beer chilling in the fridge and two large pizzas on standbye. I was ready, I'd read all of the pre-season football mags, the LA Times and SF Chronicle (back when they had a green sports section) and I monitered ESPN (back when there was only one) for every scrap of information. Not just for my team, the Raiders, but for every other team in the NFL. There was a heirarchy, I updated my knowledge of the rest of the AFC West, then the NFC West (cuz I liked the 49ers too) and then the rest of the best. If the NY Giants lost to the Saints, I wanted to know why? If Atlanta's running back had a 100+ yard game, I looked at the highlights and studied the Offensive Line and how they blocked a better defense.

I was all over it.

I used to pile into the car with friends at 4:00am so we could drive 476 miles down to Los Angeles to watch the Raiders play. There is nothing like an NFL game, even in LA, which is nothing like Oakland. A Pro-Football player is HUGE, they are also FAST and the combination is awe-inspiring. The First game I ever saw in person was the Chicago Bears vs the Raiders in LA. It was Walter Payton's last regular season game and we had Marcus Allen and both put on a clinic for the fans. The the thing I'll aways remember is Howie Long breaking through the Bears Offernsive Line and chasing down Mike Tomzak (QB) for a sack, it was something out of a wildlife film where a Lion chases down a Gazzelle. I was already a football nut but this day sealed the deal. By 1989 I owned a number pro-jerseys and my room was a shrine to the Raiders. I had been given one of those special books they give the press for the Raiders that had all of the stats for the team going back to 1960 and the AFL days. I memorized everything, I could recount stats from games played in the 1970s. Every year around Super Bowl time, I cleaned up on radio-station trivia and took home crap I didn't care about. You should know that I never played football, in highschool I was a music geek and not a jock. Back then I liked the Raiders but I wasn't INTO football, I was a guitar player and I was on my way to our version of the big-leagues, the studio session player. The problem was that once I became a studio guy I hated it and I had spent 12 years of my life working hard to be one. I ended up sitting in a theropist's office one day and she suggested that I spend one day doing something else, and then she asked my what else I liked to do. I said I like to watch football and she said I should endulge myself in it. So I did, and it changed my life. Sunday I was up at 8:00am to watch ESPN's Gameday, then the network pre-game shows and this became my routine for the next 12 years. Football got me out of the house and down to the bar, not to drink but to socialize with out football-heads. I was happy and I was having fun.

Then somewhere in the late 1990s I lost stopped caring about Football.

I can't put my finger on it but I think the main reason was the salery-cap that I lost interest in the game. I can't get attached to a player because I never know if he's going to be wearing Silver and Black the next season. Back in the day, I could count on Howie Long, Bill Pickel and Matt Millon lining up for the Raiders defense, Ted Hendricks and John Matuzak before them. Those guys gave fans great football - every game. I can't name anyone on the Raiders Defense except for Warren Sapp and that's because of his great years in Tampa Bay. The guy I have to cheer for was the guy I had to hate last year. I mean I had to be flying drunk before I could root for Elway and the Broncos in that Super Bowl against Green Bay (I hate the Broncos, they're the only reason I can relate to suicide bombers, remotely that is), I would have had a stroke if Elway put on a Raiders uniform. The other thing is that when one of those star athleats gets a zillion dollar contract my cable bill goes up. Each year the NFL bids for TV contracts and then that money is charged to cable providers who have to carry ESPN 1 through 50. Then there's the ever changing network shuffle, NBC looses it's NFL contract to CBS, who'd lost theirs to FOX and now NBC has Sunday Night Football that's crewed by the old ABC Monday Night Football staff because ESPN won the Monday Night rights.

NBC does football the best, even before they did the Sunday Night thing. NBC sports has always had a great group of people. CBS has problems, they once were the NFC venue on television and then lost that contract to FOX. Then NBC lost it's AFC contract to CBS. Instead of covering the AFC, CBS goes back to covering the NFC. Half of each Sunday morning pre-show is devoted to an NFC story. The problem is that FOX is already covering the same story - BETTER. So by the time my Raiders take the field I have no idea what's going on with them. I don't know who runs things at CBS but they're promoting games played on FOX, maybe he should get a paycheck from FOX too.

So between the players shuttling between teams and CBS doing FOX's work for them I just stopped getting excited about football. I'm watching the Cowboys and the Redskins right now. While I enjoy the mechanics of the game I just don't care. In a few minutes I will switch over to Ebert & Roper to watch them review a movie I've already seen and then it's 60 Minutes. I understand that nothing lasts forever but I never thought I'd fall out of love with the game. I still love the old guys and I've found myself watching classic games on the NFL channel. I'll still make a point of watching the Super Bowl and I'll get to at least one Raiders game this season, even though they suck.

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