I was mostly successful at weaning myself from the NFL this season. I didn't renew the online viewing subscription, didn't do a fantasy league, and only watched a little bit on TV. I failed to divorce myself completely -- I did follow the coverage (albeit more casually), did a small bit of wagering at the end, and have kept an eye on the televised playoff games. The latter just reinforced the nagging thought that supporting professional American football is immoral.
Early in the New Orleans loss to San Francisco, Pierre Thomas took a hard helmet-to-helmet blow and, upon replay, was clearly knocked unconscious, the football falling out of his arms as his limp body fell to the ground, only to be buried by players scrambling for the loose ball. He got up and walked off the field, but didn't return, having been concussed. Yes, there are new rules for concussions and have been more player-protection rules. This has led to more passing, which in turn has led to commentators such as Bill Simmons to moronically decry this the era of "flag football". (Simmons is a talented writer who should know better. The frat-boy shtick and macho snideness is getting old for someone who is a father and ostensibly an adult now.) Watching guys doing long-term damage to their brains, and knowing this is a huge problem and starts at pretty early ages in the sport, makes it really hard to enjoy the game in any capacity. And there's no denying it's a brilliant game to watch on TV.
...despite the uniformly awful TV commentators. I can only conclude these blithering robots get paid by the word. They essentially spew a stream of unconsciousness so meaningless that viewers must just all spam-filter it by now. Here's a single trivial example, and know that any given game will have dozens of examples more egregious: in the New England v. Denver game, one of the announcers said, "This is New England's first third down situation." So let me ask, what does the word "situation" add to that sentence? Answer: nothing. It detracts. It muddles. It makes the dufus sound like a self-parody of someone attempting to come across as sophisticated. They should all be forced to read Strunk & White's Elements of Style, but that wouldn't help because they'd assume it irrelevant to speaking.
The brilliance of the NFL as spectator-sport on TV, in particular in HD (it really does look great, and the standards of camera work are consistently high), should also clue in the owners and commissioner of the league regarding the future of the in-stadium experience. Here's what they don't get yet and if they don't eventually get it it may be too late: the people who go to the games in person are the studio audience. This is true also for the NBA. (Not true for baseball, especially not true for afternoon games on a beautiful summer day at a ballpark in the middle of a real city, but still.) If having an enthusiastic studio audience for your live broadcast enhances the TV viewing experience, and if TV is by far your biggest and most important source of revenue, then treat your audience well, and figure out now how to attract and retain enthusiastic audiences. Steps 1-100 in this: make tickets free, or so close to free it doesn't matter. This will never happen (until, possibly, it's too late), but should.
Maybe it's just that god hates people who can't afford personal seat licenses. God seems to have a really keen interest in the NFL, at least according to the players, the most famous of which is now Tim Tebow. [Didn't Roger Zelanzy write a short story in which Death was a football fan?] Tebow has a cute little routine about praying to god whenever something especially good happens. Seems a bit inconsistent. If god is interfering, and everything that happens is god's will or part of a "plan", shouldn't Tebow stop and give thanks after god makes him throw an interception or get sacked?
This is a trite example of the incoherence of the belief that god is meddling with the world. If a plane crashes and, say, a single child survives, a chorus of credulous christian cretins will quickly claim the miraculous at work, the hand of the divine in action! Well, you can't get that without also indicting god as the murderer of everyone else on board. The only ways out of this are to decide god really does have a strict non-interference policy (yes, the Star Trek "prime directive"), or, more simply, that god doesn't exist.
But what am I saying, of course god not only exists but also interferes constantly AND loves the NFL. God clearly hates Pittsburgh but loves Boston, or is trying some tough love voodoo on Denver. Better luck next year, Broncos.