I used to pay a lot of attention to the NFL. I had fan gear and season tickets for Bears home games. I built weeks around smoking meat Sundays when the Bears were on the road. I was there both times the Bears won a game to send them to the Super Bowl. I played in multiple fantasy leagues. I had an hour-long meeting once a week during fantasy season with a similarly underemployed friend. I knew the point spreads and had … views on them. (This was many years before anyone bragged in ads of being “the official sportsbook of the Chicago Bears,” a brag that still boggles my mind to hear.) I followed the off-season news, had thoughts on the draft, and celebrated the opening of training camp.

Eventually, though, the league got around to accepting that brains were something one maybe oughta look out for and made reasonable and righteous rule changes in the name of safety. Wanna be clear: I’m for them. Brains are important. I do not wish to watch football through my fingers, and I now wince at big hits where I might once have roared.

I would hope none of the kids I love plays football. I cannot cheer for defensive plays without feeling as if I should disclaim my intentions to the fans around me. (“When I said ‘Knock His Head Off!’ it was all in fun, of course. I wouldn’t want to see *anyone* take a hard hit to the head. I’m not a psychopath. DEE-FENSE! DEE-FENSE!”)

These welcome and overdue rule changes have, however, largely rendered the game unwatchable for me. I have no interest. I liked football as a game of thunderous power and superhuman feats. As a game of complex movement and precision timing — basketball on grass — it’s just not nearly as compelling.

Or maybe it’s the ongoing incompetent apathetic rancidity of the Bears. I can, right now, with confidence, name one Bear. I used to be much tighter with that team. I believed all the stuff about sticking with the team through fair and foul. Only a person of low character would give up on a team just because they’re not very good. You gotta stand by your guys. Fans are part of the team. Loyalty matters and we’re all in this together. That’s what family is all about.

You ever notice nobody says stuff like that about restaurants in decline? “This place was so great 40 years ago. We keep coming here to eat every week hoping they turn it around. I know we got food poisoning a bunch of times, but then they come out with a new menu item and we know that’s the one that’s gonna bring this joint back to culinary greatness. We can’t give up on ’em now; they’ve been here for us as long as we can remember. They take our money and provide a substandard dining experience, and we keep paying and hope they’ll turn it around — despite abundant evidence indicating that they’re not capable of anything better than this — because that’s what family is all about.”

So I don’t pay much attention to the NFL anymore.

Except when something terrible happens to Green Bay. Anytime the Packers choke away a playoff game or Aaron Rodgers smarmily reveals that he is both smug and dumb — two things that occur with pleasing regularity — it is time to pour a snifter of something nice and settle in for a few quality hours reading packers.com. Including the comments. Maybe especially the comments.

And I didn’t even watch the game they lost (To Detroit, lol). The purity of my hatred is such that last Sunday when Google showed me some stories Google thought would interest me, they nailed it most cleanly with “Lions Comeback Costs Pack Playoffs”. Darn right that interests me, Google, and may this flame burn forever.

Alan Brouilette, a Forest Park resident, writes a monthly column for the Forest Park Review, a Growing Community Media publication.

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