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…and why it should matter to churches and other organizations.

This has been quite the summer for the NFL.  More players found doing drugs. More domestic violence.  More discussion about how violent the sport is and ways to make it safer.  More talk about Tom Brady.  More over promises from Rex Ryan.  More recently talk about Micheal Vick.  More, more, more, more.

American football has become a black hole that sucks the life out of everything within its gravitational pull.

I’m done with the NFL because I’m tired of more.  I can’t keep up and I don’t want to.  I have a life to live.  For the past several years I like playing fantasy football because it was a way to stay on top of what’s going on in the sport.  But this year I decided that the “sport” isn’t about sports anymore.  No, instead football has become something more than sports.  It happened awhile ago, but I was stubborn and didn’t want the reality to burst my bubble.  American Football is a business.  And not even a good business.  It’s more like the mafia – always demanding more.

I’ve been a life long Buffalo Bills fan.  Yes, a glutton for punishment.  I remember the four Super Bowls.  I stuck by the team.  I’ve been with them through the years of wandering in the wilderness season after season.  As a seminary student who did an exchange year overseas and is now on internship, we’ve done a few moves in the last couple of years.  When we unpacked this time, I opened up some of my Buffalo Bills stuff and decided it was time to get rid of it.  I took a moment to reflect on childhood memories and then got rid of the items.  It was surprisingly easy.

Maybe it’s just that I’m tired of supporting a losing franchise year after year.  Maybe it’s the addition of Rex Ryan.  With Ryan as coach, I’ve seen the team dynamic and culture change in ways that I don’t think are healthy.  Plus I don’t like loud mouthed salesmen, which is what Ryan has proved himself to be over the years.

Maybe my being done with the NFL has to do with the unsurprising tossing of Brady’s suspension.  Maybe it has to do with the NFL being a non-profit organization (look it up, it’s true).  Maybe it has to do with billionaire team owners demanding that cities and taxpayers pay for stadiums.  Maybe it’s the unending push for people buy more crap to show “support” for their team.

Maybe it’s that American Football has changed from a sport to more of a religion.  What else would you call devotees who gather Sunday after Sunday to hear the good news and feel hopeful, share food together and are sent out back into the world to proclaim the good news that their team is the best and that football salvation can only come through their team’s star quarterback.  Don’t worry, they will be sure to pass the collection plate.  And don’t worry it’s for a good cause – the NFL is a non-profit remember.

Maybe I’m over-reacting to all of this.  Or maybe I’m just tired of it all.  Or maybe I’ve lost my first naiveté with the sport and realized what it’s really all about.  Or maybe it’s just not fun anymore.  There are too many people who take it way to seriously.  And they should for the amount of time, money and energy that they have sunk into the sport.

I’ve got lots of reasons.  I’m sure some of them are purely irrational.  And when I reflect on them, I realize, the underlying, unspoken reasons of what I stated are the same reasons people leave a church, or a job, or a brand, or a political party, or a country for that matter or anything that they given a portion of their time, money, and energy to.  It’s no longer about the fan, or the community, or the supporter.  It’s about propping up the organization, or the team, or the empire.  It’s not about the core essence of why the thing started, it’s now about maintaining power and profiting from it.  It’s not about truth and people, it’s about manipulating people’s emotions to keep them coming back for more.

And so I say farewell American Football.  It’s been fun.  You might see me at a Super Bowl party, or as I call it – the Easter Vigil of football.  Super Bowl parties can be a lot of fun.  But the fun comes from being around other people who are looking forward to having a good time.

And if you enjoy football, great.  I’m not asking anyone to change.  I’m not interested in starting a movement to ban the game or anything.  I’m just done with it.

It’s my hope, that as a future pastor, I remember these things so that I can avoid them in whatever church I am called to serve.  And I hope that my future parishioners will remind me of these things often.