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July 23, 2010

“Following an extensive review process, Northeastern University has elected to discontinue its intercollegiate football program.” – November 23, 2009

With those words direct from the press release, seventy years of football at my alma mater came to a close.  The call was made just days after the team’s regular season finale, a 33-27 win at Rhode Island.  Lack of on-campus and alumni support combined with intermittent success and the escalating cost of competing at even the I-AA level made the decision a no-brainer.  Later, Hofstra made the same decision to ax their program (reportedly for less concrete reasons).

What followed was a swell of surprise by numerous moderate and mainstream media outlets, stunned that a school would proactively decide that having a football program just wasn’t worth it.

“You can’t cut football!  It’s America’s favorite sport!” argued one Boston morning show host.

“America’s” favorite sport…

By every measurable demographic utilized by market researchers, I should be a football fan.  I at least fall right in their ideal target demographic.  Male, aged 18-49, middle-class, white, born in major metropolitan TV market, tech savvy.

Once my university cut the team which held my most direct affiliation and interest, what was left to cheer for in football?  Like many fans who get married and decide to start a family, I started to take inventory.  What was the great landscape-changing moment left to pull for?  At 28 years old, I’d seen plenty of Super Bowl wins (2 by the Giants, 3 by the Patriots) and attended my share of games across the country.  I asked myself, “What do I value most about my sports experience?”

The answer: return on emotional investment.

There are only a handful of realistic achievements I feel I need to enjoy before the final horn sounds: A New York Mets World Series victory, a U.S. appearance in a World Cup final, and a Northeastern Men’s Hockey Beanpot win.  The New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup victory in ’94 was the formative sports moment of my youth; their victory brought astonishment to every male member of my family, united all of the students at I.S. 34, and gave kids an idea to strap on some roller skates and get out of the house with their friends that summer.

From this year’s Super Bowl through the NFL Draft, I sought to find a hook to keep me connected.  ESPN certainly does more than enough to speculate and gossip to keep you talking until the game.  Perhaps that did it; too much hype, too little action, not enough return on emotional investment.  The recent influx of coverage of NCAA investigations of the powerhouse schools which will end in merely ceremonial sanctions put me over the top and triggered an action I’ve been considering for a few years.

Starting with the Hall of Fame on August 8th through the 2011 NFL Draft, I will attempt to avoid any and all contact with American football.

Is it possible to be a sports fan in the United States without being exposed to the game’s hype machine?  As a heavy consumer of electronic media there are a great deal of obstacles in my way from the grand (The ESPN Cartel) to the hyper-local (Facebook comments), but it is my hope that the sports landscape is vast enough to fill in the gap.

My goal in making this public is to share my experiences in sports, both personal and professional, in order to present a unique snapshot of the prevalence of sports and hype in American society.  I imagine that this will be an exercise in restraint as well as a case study for the reach of American football in this country.  Any comments, suggestions and recommendations are welcomed and appreciated.

I’ll lay out my strategy and goals in the next entry, including how I’ll manage to make a complete and unequivocal break from the ESPN Cartel.


One Comment
  1. Brendan O'Dowd permalink
    July 23, 2010 6:02 PM

    I don’t think you’ll have any problem at all, soccer and hockey can easily fill up the gap.

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