The two week hiatus between the two NFL Conference Championship games and the Super Bowl is the most painfully excruciating time of the year. During this time, football fans are subjected without mercy to cheesy personal stories, redundant interviews with cookie cutter responses, tedious game over-analysis and the worst touch football game of all-time: the Pro Bowl.
The NFL shamelessly exploits these two weeks to force mass market the big game to individuals whose knowledge of X’s and O’s is limited to tic-tac-toe. The main purpose of the biggest professional football game of the year is not to decide a champion, it is to recruit as many people as possible to watch the television commercials on game day. The long list of less than stellar pop musical acts enlisted to lip synch the halftime show should tell us as much.
One of the heart-warming stories which the Hollywood-styled media is playing up is the miraculous transformation of Baltimore Ravens LB Ray Lewis: an individual who went from being charged with attempted murder to purported sainthood status.
How many times will we be reminded by the robotic talking heads this is Lewis’ final game? It is as if football fans are a bunch of idiots who have no short-term memory. For those of us living in the frigid northern climates, we can at least use the warmth eminating from this story.
It is no secret the NFL, the media and Lewis himself want the unfortunate incident which occurred thirteen years ago in Atlanta wiped from the nation’s collective consciousness. They would prefer the impressionable masses view Lewis as a hero and an inspiration. And as we have seen with Lance Armstrong, O.J. Simpson, Pete Rose, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and many others, canonizing sports figures may not exactly be the wisest of choices.
The worshipping of flawed individuals who play a child’s game for a living is more of an indictment of society than anything else. As a collective, we are more than willing to look past the failures of athletes off the field and shower them with adoration and praise for what they do on the field. Maybe this has something to do with our own deep rooted feelings of insecurity and lack of worthiness.
If Ray Lewis was just a regular guy, he would probably be rotting his life away in some Georgia prison for his alleged involvement in the murder of two individuals. There are people rotting in prisons all across the country for much less.
Since Lewis is a superstar football player, he was able to purchase a get out of jail free card. Sure, everyone deserves a second chance, but does everyone deserve and get a free pass? Hardly. Often times, lady justice works in not-so mysterious ways.
Montreal Canadiens Hall of Famer Guy Lafleur said it best when asked about his personal life while playing: “The crowd doesn’t give a crap as long as you bring in the money.”
By all indications, the NFL also does not care much about the true character of its players. It is far more imporant for the league to use this two week promotional period to reel in as many non-football fans to watch a game they normally care very little about.
But as usual, during the mandatory two week waiting period, we will have to clench our teeth and endure a little more than just a few words from the league “sponsors”.