I’ll admit it. I love the NFL. I love football. I know it’s politically correct to prefer college football over pro football, but to me that’s like preferring Minor League baseball over Major League baseball. I like any sport at its very best. When in Houston, I supported my Oilers and Texans. Now living near Tampa, I’m thinking about attending the Bucs game Monday night. Tickets are just $33. Hmm . . . you’d think the NFL would learn something.
I’ll probably wait until ticket prices come down before taking the plunge. After all, according to Vivid Seats, one of the leading ticket brokers, tickets last week fell to $30 for a 50-yard-line seat in Buffalo. (I know – it’s Buffalo, but still!) So let’s go to Chicago, where tickets could be had for $20. Or the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay – the holy grail of football, where seats went for $10. Better yet, let’s jump to Pittsburgh, home of the six-time Super Bowl Champs, where one seat sold for $3.
Crowds are so embarrassing that a Philadelphia newspaper reportedly advertised for “actors, models, and talent” to sit in the stands to make the crowd look more full.
Here’s the problem. Football fans love their sport. But they love America, too. And most of them love America more. That’s why they find it intolerable that athletes who make 100 times the money as our finest soldiers will stand for the national anthems of England and Mexico – but not America.
The NFL could have followed the examples of the NBA, MLB, and NHL, which all require their athletes to stand for the anthem. The NFL could have issued a strong statement. But instead, they punted. (Forgive the pun.) They didn’t take a stand. Since then, they have taken several stands in an effort to appear patriotic. Fans aren’t buying it. They aren’t buying tickets either. In Los Angeles, a metro area with 10 million people, only 25,000 are coming to see the Rams, one of the best teams in the league. As Don Meredith used to say, there are about 40,000 people showing up disguised as empty seats.
Do athletes have the right to express themselves? Absolutely. And in today’s NFL, do football players have the right to kneel for the National Anthem? You bet they do. The league, by ignoring their own written rules, has said so. But fans have a right to express their feelings, as well. And by the millions, they are doing so.
This isn’t helping anybody – the players, the league, or the fans. Except for those of us who have been waiting for ticket prices to drop below the cost of a cup of coffee.
I’d like to take in the Bucs-Falcons game Monday night. And when those $33 seats drop below the price of parking, I’ll probably jump in. Maybe something crazy will happen at the game, and I can be one of the few who can tell his grand kids he was at the game.
For all her faults, this is still a patriotic nation. Until the NFL starts to stand up for the National Anthem, millions of fans won’t stand for the NFL.