As far back as I can remember, the start of NFL training camp has brought on chords of excitement akin to the anticipation felt the night before Christmas. Not this year.
No longer am I looking forward to training camp news or the weeks of exhibition games leading up to the start of the regular season in September.
No more am I impatiently waiting for the daily tidbits of news out of training camp that convince me that the coming season will be better than the last, that this is the season when so-and-so player comes into his own, that such-and-such team/coach/player stages a comeback and that it all will be worth the expense of my DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket subscription, which has brought me live game coverage of all NFL teams, every Sunday, for at least the past five years.
Not this time around. This year, I’ll just take it as it comes.
Something has gone out of the game.
Where to start?
The answers probably say more about my advanced stage in life than about the National Football League. But as Popeye said: “I yam what I yam.”
And I am, among other things, scandal weary.
It’s not just DeflateGate and “Shady Brady,” as Tom Brady is called in my barbershop. There are all those other media-dubbed “gates”: “Spygate,” where the New England Patriots broke league rules by videotaping an opponent’s signal-calling; “Bullygate,” where a Miami Dolphins player said he was harassed off the team; and “Bountygate,” in which the New Orleans Saints offered bounties to knock opposing players out of the game. Of course, there’s also that video of Ray Rice knocking out his then-fiancee in an elevator. But it’s more than that.
The sport is being reduced to vaudeville.
I certainly respect the talent and skills of professional football players. I don’t put them on pedestals as models of character to be looked up to and emulated.
I do, however, expect grown men to act their ages, not like immature, egotistical showoffs. Unfortunately, Sunday after Sunday, some players use NFL fields across the fruited plain as platforms to display an intellectual development appropriate to juveniles.
After a good catch, a hard tackle, a nifty fumble recovery or a touchdown, these exhibitionist players try to attract attention with silly, burlesque comedy routines. The end zone has become a place where some professional athletes seize the opportunity to make spectacles of themselves.
There’s nothing spontaneous about their behavior, however. Those gestures, postures and after-play antics are as carefully choreographed as dances on stage.
The sad thing is, those ludicrous figures in football uniforms don’t know that folks in the stands are laughing at them, not with them.
Frankly, I’m also embarrassed for them because they are too emotionally stunted to know better.
I’ve had enough. Maybe not enough to stop watching, but definitely enough to stop enjoying the game in its present form.
Now that I’m in full curmudgeon mode, let’s turn to our own Washington NFL team and the owner who ruined a franchise.
But first, get the business of the team’s name out of the way. As a member of The Post’s editorial board in 1992, I wrote that the team’s name was “offensive.” Thought so then, think so now. That’s not the only thing wrong with the team.
I look at the current roster of Washington football players and want to shout: “Who are these people?”
Time was, many of us knew all the players. Not personally, of course, but by name and face and by the positions they played.
We knew them because the team’s owners and coaches gave us, the fans, the time to get to know them. None of that “here today, gone tomorrow” stuff that seems to be the modus vivendi of today’s Washington team leadership.
Nowadays, the team’s coaches and managers change with the seasons. Big-name players show up at summer training camp and are gone like the wind before the first snowflake falls.
In recent years, we, the fans, have been fed a steady diet of overpaid has-beens and hyped-up new faces that morph into never-weres.
All made possible by Daniel Snyder, that well-heeled owner with a Donald Trump-scale ego who seems to bask in his football ignorance.
The rare Washington team victory is made less enjoyable knowing that it makes Snyder happy, too. (I add that uncharitable thought to the growing list of things for which I beg forgiveness.)
So on, reluctantly, to a 2015 season — approached more in dread than in hope.
So much for Christmas.
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