And I never played fantasy football, except for once, when I was ordered to by my then boss at the club I worked at, even though I explained I was completely uninterested in the fantasy game. I picked my team and kept it for the season, never making a single personnel move. By the time December rolled around, I had players on my fantasy team that had formally retired. I finished dead last. The boss never made me play again.
I just watched football. And shows about football. I read about football. I even read Sports Illustrated, whose featured football pundit is Peter King. SI apparently likes it writers blissfully, un-self-consciously fatuous. Peter King once wrote, upon the passing of Pope John Paul II, that JP2 "was a good guy and a great Pope."
He might have said "a great guy and a good Pope." In any case, Peter King sounded like he showered off in the locker room under the Pope Arena every day with the guy. I realized then that I could spend most of the week artificially inseminating yaks in the Himalayas and still churn out better football reporting than Peter King without even taking off my inseminating gloves. But I continued to read him anyway.
My path towards getting the football monkey off my back started with last year's Super Bowl, which featured two teams I couldn't stand. I refused to watch it because they both couldn't lose. Then came the bounty scandal, which featured members of the New Orleans Saints getting paid cash by their coaches to deliberately injure guys on the other team. The guy who was coaching that team just got a five-year contract extension worth millions.
Wow, I thought. If I paid someone to break someone else's leg, I'd get five years in prison.
Then Andy Reid, coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, the objects of my original football fanhood, lost his son to a drug overdose while he was in football camp. There are no more fanatical football fans than Eagles fans, who throw snowballs at Santa Claus and cheer wildly when opposition players lie crumpled and possibly dead on the field. They especially hate the Dallas Cowboys. When passing another Eagles fan on the street, it is considered at least as proper as a cheery wave or a fist bump to say in passing "F*ck Dallas."
"F*ck Dallas," your fellow Eagles fan replies and for a moment, the world glows with friendship.
When Andy's son died, the coach did not take a leave of absence from his job. He did not pause to reflect on the frailty of life, or ponder the twists of circumstance that only seem to make tragedy inevitable after tragedy occurs. Nope, he just went to the funeral and got back to coaching football the next day. Not as well as he had before, because he just got fired. He'll get another coaching job, though. Not that I care about anything the guy does anymore. Me and him are through.
San Diego is my adopted home team and right before the Reid tragedy, one of the greatest Chargers of all time, Junior Seau, put a bullet through his own head. Seau played football for what seemed like thirty years. I thought he was in his early fifties when he finally retired. Turns out, he had been hit on the head so many times that he had permanent brain damage. His last years were spent in a psychotically paranoid funk. If he hadn't shot himself, he would probably have shot somebody else. Lots of ex-football players suffer from the same mental problems for the same reason.
So I quit. Cold turkey. Sure, I catch a glimpse of the crawl once in a while on ESPN, so I'm not totally ignorant of football developments. But I try not to watch. I have Sundays off now, along with Monday and Thursday nights. Sometimes I'm tempted. I was in a home electronics store the other day while a game was on. It was the Chargers. "Hey, how they doing this year?" I asked a fellow shopper.
"They suck," he replied. Then his eyes widened, as he realized I was also a San Diego male, heterosexual resident but somehow ignorant of the Charger's current fates.
"I quit watching," I said.
Another emotion passed over his face. I'm sure it was envy.