I Used to Love the NFL in April

| April 8th, 2011

This was an actual dialogue between my brother Jon (a die-hard Jets fan) and myself (a Chicago Bears addict):

Jon: I haven’t followed any of this labor stuff.
Me: I haven’t either.
Jon: I just don’t care.
Me: Just let me know when they play the games.
Jon: How was the US vs. Argentina game?
Me: Cold but amazing…
(The conversation then drifted off to soccer for thirty minutes.)

The NFL has a draft to hold in three weeks.  Three weeks.  And if they don’t reach a labor agreement prior to that time, the draft will have none of the excitement or juice of years past.  Without the ability to trade players on draft day, without the build-up of free agency and roster turnover, the draft will simply be a television exercise.  And a television exercise wherein no amount of Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay bitch-fighting will be able to steer the conversation away from labor.  Away from the prospect of there not being OTAs and training camp.  Away from the prospect of there not being an actual football season.  And, really, who the hell wants to sit through that?
Listen, I’m not going to boycott the NFL.  I’m certainly not going to boycott the Chicago Bears.  Even if they returned to action on November 1st there is little chance I’d be able to stay away from the television set.  But normally, at this time of year, I am clamoring for the release of the NFL schedule.  In fact, last year I called the NFL offices several times.  Normally at this time of year I am reading every piece of information I can find about the first four rounds of prospects.  Normally at the time of year I am calculating my finances to see if its possible for me to spend a month of the summer in Bourbonnais.  This year I’m not because right now, I don’t care.
And I am on the top of the NFL fan mountain – the passionate blogger who has cried at victory and broken up with women after defeat.  What is the middling fan going to do should this labor dispute be prolonged?  What is the family man with other things on his plate going to do come September without football?  What is the sports bar owner across the country going to do on Sunday afternoons when the leaves change?  There are so many questions.  I wonder if the NFL has any answers.
But only one question matters to me.  One single question.  Are they playing football?  Because until I know they are, I don’t care about the rest of it.