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Day 264: The End For Me, The Beginning For You

April 28, 2011

This is the final day of my Year Without Football.  I set out to last the entire 2010-2011 NFL cycle with no pro, college, or high school American football, and in doing so transformed my basic understanding of the costs of following sports at this stage in modern history.  I started with the Hall-of-Fame Game in July and conclude with tonight’s NFL Draft.

In short summary, I didn’t miss the hype.  At all.  Excising all the unnecessary analysis and hype was extremely liberating.  I was rejuvenated by the chance to follow a new sport in Australian Rules Football and experimented with team handball, while simultaneously surprising myself by subconsciously losing track of international soccer.  I encountered some wonderful people who were genuinely supportive and intrigued with the endeavor, and was surprised to receive moderate media coverage, which was both satisfying and validating.  After all was said and done, over 10,000 people stopped by here to see what the big deal was.  That will buy quite a bit of dog food for the SPCA.

Around the time I kicked off Year Without Football, life came knocking as my wife and I became expecting parents on Day 2.  On March 26, we welcomed Hollie to the world a few weeks early.  The record will show that her first official televised sporting event was the incredible upset by Virginia Commonwealth, knocking off Kansas to advance to the Final Four.  Hollie has watched her first Red Sox/Angels games (all Boston victories) as well as playoff hockey (Stanley Cup AND NCAA Frozen Four) plus games featuring the St. Kilda Saints (Aussie Rules).

Hollie’s arrival, I imagined, would considerably alter my viewing frequency.  Wonderfully, I find that I now have a new partner to watch the games with.  In the coming years, these moments may become cherished bonding memories: notches on the timeline of her childhood.

The big question of course, as the NFL appears headed to complete shutdown this season, is this: How did you do it?!  As I explained my project to a class of 8th graders today, half the students projected an audible gasp when I told them of my project.  They, as many still do, wonder “Is it possible?”

There’s no set path to follow; just know that it is most certainly possible.  You WILL survive.  Life will move on.  You’ll get your weekends back during some of the colder parts of the year.  Remember a few things:

1) There ARE other sports.  You may toss around a joke or two about the ratings for other athletic events, but they’re still there for you.  Give yourself a chance to watch a full post-season baseball game or an opening day/Winter Classic NHL game.  If possible, attend a game live to reconnect with the experience.  If you decide to follow another sport online, such as European Soccer or Aussie Rules Football, the best way to go about is to pick a team and follow JUST THAT TEAM.  Keep it simple and familiarize yourself with their style in order to get used to the finer points of the game.

2) Plan a major project during those refunded hours.  Even though the college game will continue unobstructed this season, you will find yourself with a full week-and-a-half of free time if the NFL season does not take place.  Ask yourself “What have I always wanted to do that I can accomplish with an extra six-to-eight hours free a week?”  The possibilities are ENDLESS.

3) Get conservative with your money.  Reassess exactly how much you’re spending to watch the games you can’t see.  Go with a plan to to cut back and you could actually SAVE some cash by eliminating Sports Packs or by forgoing an NFL Sunday Ticket subscription.

4) Go straight to the source.  If you’re committed to following a team or league, start your browsing/daily info dump there.  Go straight to the league or team’s website to catch up.  You’ll be amazed how much lower your blood pressure will be once you eliminate talking heads with diversionary agendas.  I can honestly say that even though I removed the voluntary parental control block for the Frozen Four, I haven’t stopped to watch a non-game telecast on the ESPN Cartel for a single minute.  The urge simply isn’t there.

My modified intention headed into Super Bowl Sunday was to avoid learning the score and winner for as long as possible.  That dream died the following night.  While watching WWE Monday Night Raw, I witnessed Vince McMahon kick off the program by congratulating the crowd on their victory last night.  As I noticed the telecast originated from Milwaukee, I knew my quest was finished.  (To my credit, I lasted until this past week before learning the winner of the BCS Title Game.)  I still don’t know the Packers’ margin of victory or the final score, but that will come tomorrow.

To ceremonially close the Year Without Football, I’m going to sit down and finally watch this year’s Super Bowl.  Nearly 3 months later.  Because I haven’t watched a game all year, I’m curious to see how out-of-touch I’ve truly been.  It may be a return to reality, but I may permanently be on the outside looking in regarding my relationship with American football.

DR

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