I prefer college football. But that's just me, more Rose Bowl than Pro Bowl, more 'Noles-Gators than Whizzinators. Golden Dome? Love it. Edward Jones Dome? Not so much.
But evidently I'm a minority of one. The Cowboys are America's Team. The NFL is America's Game. The league's logo--in essence, a football on a flag on a shield--is an American holy trinity, its appeal universal. On Friday, I watched a man alight from a helicopter outside Giants Stadium, then board a limousine for the final 200 yards to the gate. And I watched another man alight from a van, with flames climbing up from his rear end. (I pray to God that was a tattoo.)
As for that vast America in between these two men: Where do I fit into it? We NFL agnostics have become the sports equivalent of blue staters, made to feel vaguely un-American for not sufficiently loving America's Game.
If only that game weren't quite so self-important, so humorless, so needlessly complicated. Quarterbacks wear tiny speakers in their helmets, have the Dead Sea Scrolls laminated to their wristbands and study more film (to less purpose) than Ebert & Roeper.
Owners wear French cuffs and starched collars on Sundays. Coaches, fearing lip readers, cover their mouths with manila folders, so that they all appear to suffer, self-consciously, from chronic halitosis (when surely only some of them do). Commissioner Paul Tagliabue recently asked those coaches, in a leaguewide memo, to loosen up. The Giants' Tom Coughlin tried to smile. But his face cracked and fell away like wall plaster.
Exiting the Jets game on Friday night, amid a smattering of fans in Joe Namath jerseys, I began to compose a series of cheap and uncharitable Carnac the Magnificent jokes:
A: Throwback jersey.
Q: What would a fisherman do after catching the Garden State?
But I quickly realized that resistance is futile. Calling, as it does, every Monday night (and thrice on Sundays), the NFL will inevitably wear me down, like the diabolical telemarketer that it is, and I'll one day switch my official allegiance from NCAA to NFL.
Until that day, however, I have but one thing to say to Hank Williams Jr. and Mel Kiper Jr. and Kellen Winslow Jr.: No. I'm not quite ready for some football.