Every Sunday, I sit in a bar, look up at multiple TV screens and wonder, "What am I doing with myself?" People, what are we doing with ourselves?
America is in turmoil -- social, economic, diplomatic woes -- and most of our energy revolves around challenging the spotting of a ball in the second quarter of an NFL game.
Here is an actual conversation I had with a man sitting on the saloon stool next to me last Sunday:
Him: "The ground cannot cause a fumble."
Me: "But it just did!"
A couple of Sundays ago, when I was taking my weekly stroll to the Manhattan bar where I watch the NFL, a 40-ish man approached me on the street, pushing a baby carriage with one hand and walking his dog with the other. And into his cell phone headset, this is what he says:
"You keep telling me you don't like Steven Jackson, so just don't play him."
Frankly, I can't take it anymore.
The problem is this: I love the NFL. But how much longer can I sit back and hear Tony Siragusa spitting out inanities from beyond the end zone? How much longer can I listen to Daryl Johnston overanalyzing and Shannon Sharpe salivating and Chris Berman boomerizing and Gus Johnson yowling and Brian Billick bloviating?
I have half-a-mind to say, "Bring back Joe Theismann," but I fear he'd come back.
(I've actually tried to monetize my viewing vice: I contacted every NFL TV carrier, offering to be a studio commentator. Not only do they flatly refuse to return my calls, several have attempted to remove their network signal from my cable package.)
How many errant JaMarcus Russell passes can I witness? How many Terrell Owens blowup news conferences can I endure? How many dysfunctional Redskins drives can I withstand?
Sure, I still get joy from watching the Ben Roethlisberger/Hines Ward/Troy Polamalu Steelers play -- win or lose -- but that doesn't negate stumbling onto 15 minutes of any Cleveland Browns game.
Heck, I've lost 10 months of my life, I believe, to INSTANT REPLAY.
I don't want to tell al-Qaeda how to do its job, but if I'm Osamabin Laden, I would attack America on an NFL Sunday. These people could invade Chicago, and if the Bears were in the red zone, no one would know until Monday rush hour. The fundamentalists could literally remove the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty and Mount Rushmore, and the only way fantasy footballers might find out is if the news were interspersed with the stat crawl at the bottom of their screens.
It is time to reexamine who we are and why we are the laziest, richest, do-nothing people in recent Western history.
A reasonable American lifetime lasts 75 years or so. That means you are given 3,800 Sundays total, more or less, then you're dead for a month of Sundays forever.
(When I die, I won't be buried or cremated, I'll be stuffed and mounted in an ESPN Zone, hopefully with a good view of the big screen.)
If you are given only 3,800 Sundays in your life, why would you spend 15 or 20 of them each year listening to Norman Esiason?
As it stands, two-thirds of my Sundays already are gone.
Aren't museums open on Sundays?
Isn't the park accessible on Sundays?
Don't I have a family that lives with me on Sundays?
My goodness, I should bowl on Sundays before I waste another moment hearing an announcer tell me that the punter "outkicked his coverage" or that an injured player is "walking off the field under his own power."
It's time for all of us to get out. Smell the roses, or the asphalt. See the sun set through the smog. Sip a cup of real coffee as you walk past Starbucks.
Effective immediately, I'm not giving up another precious Sunday to the NFL.
Besides, I can now watch the UFL on Thursdays.
Q. Do you consider it important work to be a poker commentator? (Jeremy Powell; Elgin, Ill.)
A. Important? No. It's not as if I'm Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel -- I'm on TV talking about people playing cards. At least my 5½ years at the University of Maryland finally paid off for something.
Q.Manny Ramirez was already in the shower while his Dodgers blew a ninth-inning lead to the Phillies in an NLCS game. Might this be a hot-water issue? (Kevin Kane; Oakland, Calif.)
A. I don't understand the big deal here -- if TBS's Chip Caray is announcing the game, I'm in the shower by the fifth inning.
Q. If beleaguered Redskins coach Jim Zorn were set adrift in a makeshift weather balloon, would anyone chase after it to rescue him? (Paul Martinchich; Pittsburgh)
A. Redskins management likely would organize a search-party-by-foot.
Q. Are you really able to take it one marriage at a time, or do you find yourself looking three or four marriages down the road? (Dan Hulihan; Rexford, N.Y.)
A. Pay the man, Shirley.