Freedom From Football

You hear it from the more militant atheists out there. “Freedom OF religion?” they sneer. “I want freedom FROM religion!!!”

 I certainly understand the sentiment, and appreciate its correctness. They’re not offended by religion per se; they just don’t understand why other people’s belief in God should in any way affect their ability to buy a case of Bud Light on a Sunday morning.

 It also crystallizes my feelings about football perfectly. I think football is boring as hell and borderline unwatchable. It’s like watching a YouTube video when you have way too many browser windows open. You get a few seconds of action and then everything STOPS for an unpredictable span of time. Then more action and just when you’re getting into it things STOP again for several minutes.

 The advantage of the YouTube video, of course, is that it only lasts a maximum of ten minutes. Not four hours.

 And incidentally: no, it isn’t like when there’s no action in a baseball game. When a pitcher is sizing up a batter and trying to figure out how to intimidate the runner on first into staying close to the bag, things are happening. If you’re not familiar with the rules of football, any random twenty minutes of viewing would leave you with the impression that points are scored based on the style and technique of individual players’ Milling About.

 But hey, if you choose to spend your Sundays sitting down and standing up and saying the right things in the right places, that’s your business. I simply ask you: when do I get Freedom From Football?

 I was urged to finally speak of this by the “trending topics” on Twitter a moment ago:

Granted, this Twitter feature stopped being useful a year ago. I’d like to write a Firefox plugin that automatically changes the label from “Trending Topics” to “Movies, TV Shows, Products, Or Services That Have Included Social Networks In Their Marketing Plans.”
But it makes a point, anyway. I don’t care about football. I do care that it crowds out everything else on Sunday. Particularly TV shows.
“The Simpsons Treehouse Of Horror” Halloween specials might air in mid-November, or not at all. New seasons of many shows now have to start in October. Any show I like is absolutely impossible to record, if it airs on a Sunday night. Honest to God, I fell out of the habit of watching “The Simpsons” and “60 Minutes” solely because I got sick and tired of clicking Play on my DVR menu and seeing the Rams Versus University Of Wyoming In Pre-Season Exhibition Play in the middle of the third quarter of regulation play, and the fourth hour since kickoff.
Yes, part of the responsibility lies with the shows themselves; they’ve been on for so many seasons that they lose their sense of “see it now” urgency. I do manage to watch nearly every episode of “The Amazing Race” when it airs on Sunday, by padding the recording time to double or even triple what’s technically required. Probably because I know that if I miss this episode, I won’t get another chance and I’ll start off next week’s show by desperately freeze-framing Phil’s lightning-fast recap.
Still, when I become Chairman of the FCC, this all ends.
“Screw you,” — yes, that’s how the official regulation will begin — “your little action-reality-gameshow AND THAT’S ALL IT IS, LET’S BE HONEST HERE must END at 7 PM. At that instant, the network moves to its normal programming. And no freaking whining, either. If you’re scared about missing the end of the game, just tune back in after the 11 PM local newscast. They ought to be starting the fourth quarter by then.”
It’s clear that the NFL doesn’t give a damn about this stuff any more. It was bad enough as it was. Then they gave teams the ability to STOP EVERYTHING and make the referees go watch TV. It’s like the fee that your bank charges you to make a withdrawal. It’s about them making the point that they just don’t care and there’s nothing you can do about it.
No longer. Under my reign, it’s 7 PM and GOODBYE.
I anticipate whining. Oh, just stop: your tears are making your facepaint run. If you care so damned much about seeing the game, then buy a freaking ticket and go. If you’re angry that it costs so much to go, hey, simple solution: attack the stadium en masse and pull down the gates. If filthy stinking stoned hippies could do it at Woodstock, then you Packers and Jets fans have absolutely no excuse. Or are you not REAL fans? I understand that the Lions fans had the whole stadium torn down and in their pickups before the singing of the National Anthem. Are you willing to live with the knowledge that Lions fans are better than YOUR team’s fans?
Or you could finally hold the NFL accountable. “We’re not here to watch millionaires milling around, doing nothing!” you should shout to the players. “Put down the Blackberry and freaking HIT SOMEBODY, already!!!”
God bless America.

Posted via email from ihnatko’s posterous

21 thoughts on “Freedom From Football

  1. Phillip Signey

    There is a solution to your problem; move to the west coast. Football games are over by 5:00 pm, television starts at its regularly scheduled time.

  2. John Holderried

    Andy, I’m with you – I missed like a whole half-season of “King of the Hill” because Fox would drop the new episodes in order to start “The Simpsons” on time. And it’s annoying that I have to add-on 3 hours to the DVR recording of “The Amazing Race”, just in case the NFL game runs over. If there’s a petition I can sign, or some congressman I can call to prevent this, I’m in.

    But 2 things – remember the big “Heidi” controversy of the 70’s, when a TV station cut away from the football game to start the movie on time…and have you seen some of these football fans? They’re not the type of people you want to piss off by cutting to another show at 8 pm, when the game is in double-overtime sudden death.

    Can’t someone invent a DVR that can tell when the game is over, and “The Amazing Race” is about to start? We go through this same problem with the Presidential addresses too – if they run longer than 1 hour, they push all the shows back by 10 minutes, and the DVRs can’t handle it. So whatever show you were trying to tape – be it CSI or whatever – you better hope that the killer wasn’t revealed in the last 10 minutes!

    When “move to the West Coast” isn’t a valid solution, what can be done? I’m sick of this anti-East Coast bias. Don’t the powers that be know that we pay taxes too and want to see the endings of our favorite shows?

  3. Johnny

    I can’t believe you ended the story with God Bless America. As if not liking football is unpatriotic.

    I completely agree that the NFL needs to find a way to speed up the game. How about not stopping the clock every time a player goes out of bound and doesn’t catch a ball. That would help. Leave that nonsense till the last Two minutes like college.

    But its not the football fan to blame for the length of the games. That would lay on the advertisers and the NFL’s lack of creativity to find different ways of advertising. I think we should take a page out of Soccer’s playbook and put adds everywhere.

    Also, might I suggest watching your program on Hulu. Twenty minutes of commercials are unwatchable. I tried( I do mean tried) to watch Merlin live on Sunday nights. It wasn’t working. To many commercials ruined the story telling. Hulu sit down 45 minutes later I am done watching the show. No more endless commercials aimed at who they think I am cause I chose to watch this show. No pressing fast forward on my DVR to find the start. I am always just a mouse click away from getting the content I desire with a Grey Goose add thrown in to tell me to put down the Earl Grey I was drinking and be a man. Albeit a man in a fedora with many more lady friends then I have. But thats rectifiable by watching The Wedding Crashers and having a Grey Goose, or so i’m told.

    Anyways I apologize in advance for all the times this year your show will be preempted so I can finish watching the EPIC end of a game. Please note this will only last for fourteen more weeks. If your show was a real ratings getter it would be on during the week. So I suggest you tell the writers of the show to quit being lousy at what they do. I do feel your pain on this issue though. Firefly was preempted by the World Series on Fox many times and eventually lead to its canceling. Hope that doesn’t happen to you.

    -The Sports Fan

  4. Ihnatko Post author

    It’d be great if DVRs could be more digital-savvy. The digital TV stream can encode lots of information, including program data. Current DVRs are told “Tune to Channel 4 at 8 PM on Sunday and record for one hour.” With The Dream DVR, the implicit order would be “Tune into Channel 4, starting at 8 PM on Sunday, and when a show tagged as ‘Amazing Race’ starts up, start recording. And don’t stop until ‘Amazing Race’ is no longer among the current show’s tags.”

    So this one stroke would solve the problem of late starts AND shows that suddenly decide to run for sixty-FOUR minutes this one week.

    Alas, broadcast and cable TV is committed to its epic “drive all viewers away” initiative. It’ll be great in five years or so, when the default method of delivery is an MP4 file transmitted to your cable box. As it is, I’m sort of committed to designating one PC in my house as the dedicated “TV PC,” hooked up to an HDMI port on the good TV and doing nothing but acting as a Hulu, Netflix, etc. server.

  5. MfS

    Yeah, right, because “baseball keeps moving.” You mean when the pitcher walks around the mound for a minute at a time, picks up/drops the rosin bag, or tosses to first to “check the runner” every other pitch, sometimes twice in a row…yeah, that doesn’t slow down the game.

    Nor does the batter who steps out of the batters box to scratch himself every other pitch…or calls time right before a pitch…yeah, that doesn’t slow down the game at all.

    Nor does the constant trips to the mound by the pitching coach or manager to “buy time” while a reliever warms up in the pen.

    Sorry, Andy, this premise that the NFL is slow is a FAIL. You’re letting your love for baseball overshadow what you may consider miniscule intricacies of the game that slow it down to an utter bore. Ever heard of pitchers like Steve Trachsel, Jose Contreras, and others who PURPOSELY take forever when it’s their turn to pitch? Sorry, no empathy from me. I am a former MLB freak who gave up on the game in the mid-’90s and haven’t looked back for this very reason. Baseball is slow, boring, and why the hell are there 162 frakking games? I was a lifelong MLB fan until I realized all the needless stoppages of play and pointless things that made the game long, boring and unwatchable…especially on TV. Ugh. Spare me.

    I won’t disagree that the NFL can be “slow” at times, but much like you say that there’ “always something happening in baseball,” the same is true of NFL teams that grind the game out on the ground with slower, methodical drives that net points. I wish the game was faster at times too, but there are always teams that run the hurry-up offense and throw a lot of passes that keep the games moving.

    The NFL is the #1 sport on TV for a reason. No, it’s not for everybody, but to insinuate that all NFL games are boring and slow makes as much sense as you saying that there’s “always something happening” on the baseball field when all that’s happening is stalling tactics and needless ticks that do nothing but waste time.

  6. gsmittle

    Andy, you hit the nail square on the head. Too much second-guessing the refs, too many breaks, far too much Milling About. As a comedian (I can’t remember who) said years ago, “Why watch a game where 22 overgrown men fight over a ball that doesn’t roll right?”

    @Mfs: Football is the #1 soprt on TV because the league whored itself to television long ago. The whole game now revolves around airing commercials.

  7. dutch

    Football. Without going on a profanity loaded rant and sending my Blood.Pressure up I say you are darn close to describing my thoughts on it. Football marketing is directed to a 13 year old male, even though he is really some age less than 100 and greater than preteen.

    Comcast has a NEW dvr (front panel has blue pwr indicator) it is getting close to to recording live on its own. Have not tested record shows that follow a football game but when scheduling F1 race it asked if I wanted to pad it up to 30 minutes. SWAG; shows following overtimed foolishness are recorded fully — machine is HD version & buffers live so you can, pause|rw|ff or record ’cause you are dragged away. It is rolling out slowly.

    And thank you for catering to my ADD with this topic. Was trying to put nano camera quality blog entry in the can. Ha! Lost time again. You will hear from me if it gets done. Draft is live neglecting better and good enough. Fair looks tacky.
    -fairuse [Journal of a High-Tech Cat]

  8. Joe Hass

    While I appreciate your arguement, you should no longer aim it at FOX. They decided a couple years ago to simply pad out their Sunday night football-season coverage so that the Simpsons *always* starts at 8:00, barring an extra-long overtime period in a late game. We haven’t missed a Sunday-night Simpsons broadcast in two years on our TiVo.

    CBS, however, continues to push “60 Minutes” to air in its entirety at the conclusion of the late game, which means you play start time roulette.


  9. Alex

    Hi Andy,

    I can’t help you with the DVR problem, but I might have a solution for the Twitter part. Some friends and I were similarly frustrated last year with various events taking over our Twitter streams. So we built a light Twitter client as part of the 2008 Rails Rumble. Twalala filters by keyword (with both black and white lists) and will let you temporarily mute someone without having to un-follow them. It’s very handy during sporting events, premieres (and finales), and your dear dear friend’s glamorous vacation. It might also be helpful at conferences. You can find it here: Maybe it will help a little.

    P.S. I really appreciate your presence on various TWiT projects, your perspective (New England and otherwise) makes me smile.

  10. MfS


    Right; and MLB is different, how?

    Commercial breaks every pitching change, which in some innings, could mean 3-4 times? To get out ONE BATTER at a time?

    Sure, MLB didn’t sign huge TV contracts with FOX, ESPN, or anybody…so that’s VERY different.

    That argument = FAIL

  11. Steve

    Unfortunately, part of your argument is undercut by the fact that the World Series is what bumped “Treehouse of Horror” into November, not football.

  12. Paul Puri

    You want a real sport where men don’t have time to spit and scratch themselves? Look no further than hockey. Fast pace? Check. Hard hits? Check. Skilled sportsman? Check. Baseball and Football are boring to me. Too many commercials and too many nancy boy wanna be thugs.

  13. Josh

    To each their own; right? I think football is boring as all getout. Baseball is ok if you are on the 1st baseline, forget about tv. Basketball, yeah right. I’ll let you have hockey, that one isn’t so bad. My sport of choice would have to be MMA style fighting, particularly UFC.

  14. David

    What I would like is “freedom from baseball on my local AM news radio station”. They advertise “Your News, Weather, Traffic, and (team name withheld) station!”, which means for 44% of my year there is a block of time of indeterminate but minimally five hour length when I CANNOT get News, Weather, OR Traffic on the only station in my town the covers such things on a regular basis. As for football coverage on network TV, my only problem is the length of time added to each game for advertising. It is especially apparent when you are AT the game and realize how much time you are waiting on something you can’t see.

  15. Kris

    Football and baseball… Y-A-W-N… Hockey is the only sport that matters. (and maybe Roller Derby) First Bruin’s game is Thursday!

  16. Kelli

    Oh. My. God. Sports on TV stations that carry general interest programming? I never thought it was a good idea.

    Football? They stop the clock every time there’s a flag on a play. They stop the clock every time the ball goes out of bounds. And of course, they stop the clock for commercials. A game that has four 15-minute periods can manage to last for FOUR hours even without overtime.

    Baseball? There is no clock. There are rules on the books for baseball that’s supposed to keep things moving, but they aren’t enforced. Pitch signal wave-offs take time. Pickoffs take time. Batters waste time tapping the dirt off their shoes with the bat. Battery conferences take time. Manager conferences take time. And commercials take time. Heaven forbid there should be extra innings. Or a brief rain delay. Football at least is played in any kind of weather.

    Basketball is a little better. They don’t stop the clock for OB, they don’t stop the clock for ref calls, only time outs and commercials — and the most recent changes to the rules have been in favor of FASTER play (shot clocks on passing the half-court line and on being in the lane). But between free throws and the allotted time outs and ads, they still manage to take a game with 2 20-minute halves (NCAA) or 4 12-minute periods (NBA) and stretch it to three hours.

    Give me something like association football (“soccer”). The game lasts exactly as long as it’s supposed to last. The clock doesn’t stop for anything, except player injury. There are two 45-minute halves and a 15-minute break at halftime. The game therefore never lasts more than two hours, even with a couple of injuries.

  17. Caleb

    Andy, I know I’m a bit late to this but the reason Tree House of Horror is pushed into Nov is not because of NFL, it’s actually because of Baseball Playoffs that Fox broadcasts. So if you want to blame something for that being late blame your Red Soxs

  18. KD

    You’re nuts Andy! Forget that the Simpsons haven’t been watchable since the late 90’s, they were bumped out October by that most useless of American sports: Baseball. The NFL manages to keep the season interesting by limiting it to 16 games. Each one actually counts. Single elimination playoffs and a salary cap keep fans coming back year after year. Howie Long said it best: “Baseball might be America’s pastime, but Football is America’s passion.”

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