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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

August 16, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

ColumnsThe Hot Stove

The Hot Stove: Renouncing my NFL fandom

I’m going to try to channel my inner Neil Sedaka here because breaking up really is hard to do.

I’m talking about being a fan — more specifically, a New England Patriots fan. The Patriots have always been my favorite of the four major Boston sports teams to watch. The earliest I remember watching football is when the Patriots lost Super Bowl XXXI when I was just 3 years old, and I have seen them win three Super Bowls, but I’ve come to a crossroads.

I finish what I start, so I will watch Super Bowl XLIX between the Patriots and Seattle Seahawks and cheer for the same team I always have. But it will be the last game I watch as a Patriots fan.

Now you’re probably thinking this is about the Deflategate nonsense or that I’m just a self-loathing sports fan, but it’s not. I refuse to call myself a fan for any team in the National Football League because I cannot continue supporting a league that has spun out of control.

From player safety to domestic violence and all things in between, the NFL has too many problems, and it is losing credibility by the day. I’m not giving up on the league entirely, but I want to participate and lead these discussions as an up-and-coming sportswriter. To do this, I feel obligated to give up my “fan card” of sorts. I’ll still watch games, especially since it might be a professional task. If the Patriots continue to win, great, but for so long, I’ve really wanted to break free and not be so preoccupied by the final score of the games.

However, proclaiming myself a fan makes me more reluctant to properly criticize a team’s actions. I’ve been surrounded by Patriots fans during this recent Deflategate scenario along with Spygate and even the Aaron Hernandez murder trial. Almost every Patriots fan had the same knee jerk and optimism as I did — we begged that none of this was true.

Even if the Deflategate scandal is being blown out of proportion, it’s another example of arguably the NFL’s biggest issue, and that’s a lack of integrity coupled with its inconsistent disciplinary system. The winning-at-all-costs message is detrimental to the sport, and intentionally breaking any rule no matter how significant speaks to the character of the people involved in this game.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the NFL isn’t entirely at fault for the issues we have seen. I believe professional sports can bring out the worst in people and media figures alike, but as much as the league has mishandled certain incidents, we’ve all jumped to conclusions much too quickly.

I understand and accept that pro athletes don’t have the same innocent-until-proven-guilty privilege because they are public figures playing under a policy where poor behavior can lead to suspension and release without a trial. But, as reporters, we have the responsibility to filter the noise from all media and find, report and confirm the facts — nothing more, nothing less.

We don’t need more media personalities turning this issue of deflating footballs into a 24/7 portrayal of “The View.” These reporters have a tangible responsibility to stick to facts and put aside the extra noise and gossip that circulate.

Stephen Mosher, sport studies coordinator and professor, has said multiple times that professional sports are a soap opera for men. But, without worrying as a fan, maybe I’ll give these soap operas another shot.

At least the performers in “The Young and the Restless” acknowledge that they’re just actors.