Corporate football season begins…and I’m on the sidelines

NFL season is upon us again. Cincinnati is a passionate sports town, and the local team here is the Cincinnati Bengals. From early fall through the January playoffs, enthusiasm for the hometown team runs high.

This often means wearing ridiculously overpriced official fan attire (here’s a team jersey for a cool $179), or mouthing the phrase “whodey” whenever possible. (“Whodey” is shorthand for “Who dey think gonna beat them Bengals?” The phrase dates back to at least 1982, when I first recall hearing it.)

I have a confession to make, though: NFL football, along with most spectator sports, leaves me cold. I often feel uncomfortable, or slightly embarrassed, when I encounter a rabid fan. They want me to get excited over the Bengals. I just can’t find that particular excitement within me. 

In other words, I don’t “whodey”. Nor am I going to plunk down almost two Benjamins for a team jersey, even if it is the “Cincinnati Bengals Super Bowl LVI Game” version. (Rather than “Who-dey”, the chant should be “cha-ching”.)

I’m not against sports or competition, mind you. I’m an avid runner and something of a gym rat, in fact. 

Nor am I one of those killjoys who makes snide remarks about “sportsball”. I don’t hate spectator sports. I occasionally watch MLB baseball, and I don’t mind a hockey game now and then. Football is okay, too. I guess. But it’s a matter of degree. 

If watching a bunch of grown men play a boy’s game is your idea of high-end entertainment (oh, I promised not to be snide, didn’t I?), then have at it. I realize that I’m the outlier here. But then, I went through the entirety of the 1980s without becoming a Bruce Springsteen or Michael Jackson fan. We all have different preferences where entertainment is concerned. I get that.

What I can’t understand, though, is the fervor with which so many people approach their local pro sports team—wearing ridiculously overpriced team jerseys, flying flags, and watching each game as if the outcome well…actually matters.

A professional sports team, after all, is an entertainment corporation. This isn’t a team that you play on, and it isn’t your kid’s team, either. If the Bengals get a Super Bowl ring, you get nothing more than a sales pitch for another criminally pricey team jersey. Does no one see that they’re being played here?

Getting really excited about the outcome of a Bengals vs. Steelers game is like getting really excited over a contest between Walmart and Target. Two big corporations, facing off for your dollars.

But the average NFL player makes a lot more than the average Walmart or Target employee. And probably a lot more than you do, too. Something to keep in mind, the next time you’re tempted to give the NFL even more of your money.