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NFL: The shift in focus from sport to politics

October is here. Football started five weeks ago, but as the temperature drops, people are more likely now to stay inside on Sundays and watch the games. As far as fall sports go in most peoples’ minds, this is it – we’ve waited all summer. But there’s a growing rift in the NFL that seems to be driving some of its most loyal viewers elsewhere, like *gasp* baseball, the boring sport. Ratings for the latter have rocketed over the past year and I suspect it has something to do with the tiresome narrative that’s taken over the NFL.

Whether a player kneels or stands during the national anthem is still a prevalent, touchy topic in this landscape. Our president burns team owners at the stake when they refuse to discipline their players who kneel, and he strong-armed Roger Goodell into implementing a league-wide fine for such behavior. The NFL and its players union have since frozen the rule, but it could return pending more pressure from Trump.

Between the concussion debacle and this, I’m starting to understand why some are transitioning away from football. It’s becoming a political argument to talk about the NFL, where it used to be a diversion from that kind of topic to keep things light. People talk about sports because they want to chill out. Every time the NFL comes up outside of my friend group, who’re diehard fans, the conversation swings to politics one way or another. Whether the conversation has outlived its relevant timeframe may have something to do with it.

I’m tired of the room falling silent when football comes up. It happened a lot when I visited my grandparents in Florida last semester, more than it does in New Hampshire, but it’s also a touchy subject here. For that reason, I take issue with those who say baseball is a dying sport, because at least it’s still just that – a sport. Feel free to watch it around anyone. The only argument you’ll have is whether baseball stinks and is boring.

The NFL will always entertain, will always make New England winters bearable and keep fans going through the week. It just seems like it’s drawing less excitement than it did during my childhood. I’m still ticked off about Deflategate – that’s where it started for me. In the years since, we’ve had increased concern over concussion protocol and this whole national anthem ordeal. That doesn’t help. At all.

Since I’m hinting at it, here’s my shameless plug: if you can sit through four hours of football and its stoppage time, you can’t justify calling baseball boring. October belongs to America’s pastime. I feel that this whole landscape will look different a decade from now, with football at the lower half of the totem pole.

My opinion isn’t entirely biased. This issue with politics bleeding into the discussion is a serious crutch for an otherwise praised NFL, and until that’s no longer a factor, people are going to shift away. The NBA waters are nice these days too, I’m hearing.

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