This is the first season of the NFL I've missed in 32 years. I can't say I didn't miss it. I keep up with the news, mind you. I can't name the playoff teams, or tell you who the Super Bowl favorite is, much less pick my own. But I know that Tom Brady and Payton Manning had great years--and that Adrian Peterson cleared 2000 yards. It was not as hard as I thought. I used to live for Fall Sundays--it was the one day I had totally and completely to myself. Everything that had gone wrong in the week--and there was always a lot--just seemed to melt away.
But now there's the matter of time. I basically have two governing passions in my life--writing and family--and everything, somehow, ties to one of them. And the older I've gotten the more time each has taken from me. (And the more they have given back.) When I was 25 there just seemed like there was so much time. And then there's the fact that both of my passions are so tied to brain function. I don't know what I am without my writing and my family. And I don't what those things would be to me with an (more) inhibited brain.
I thought about that constantly last season. It probably goes to far to say I watched football strictly for the violence. But I certainly didn't watch in spite of it. I can't say I would have felt the same about flag football. When Ray Lewis would smash into Eddie George, I would feel an electric charge surge through me. And I loved it. I loved Ronnie Lott because he was such a big hitter. I still think fondly of Steve Atwater--like the recovering alcoholic recalling one of his great benders. But the fact of the matter is that my view of violence--ritual and otherwise--has changed in the past ten years. I hear Ray Lewis is retiring. And all I can do is worry about his brain.
Which isn't to say that I didn't miss some things. I'm mostly sad I missed the quarterback play of RGIII and Andrew Luck. I'm really sorry I missed Peyton Manning's comeback. I watched a half of one game this year--the Thanksgiving day game, so I did get to see some of RGIII's wizardry. And on that note, I caught enough news to be very happy to no longer be a Cowboys fan. On Sunday, my twitter stream was filled with people laughing at Tony Romo and Jerry Jones. It was like hearing that your lush of an ex-spouse had, yet again, made of a drunken fool of himself at the company party. You are sort of embarrassed for him. But you are also glad to no longer be attached. He'll never change.
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is a national correspondent for The Atlantic
, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of The Beautiful Struggle
, Between the World and Me,
and We Were Eight Years in Power