Complaining about what’s on television and what’s not is dangerous territory. You’re immediately besieged by e-mail from do-gooders who humbly suggest reading a book, running a marathon or getting a life.

Well, tough. When I’m not busy working, hitting the gym, paying bills or solving a domestic crisis, which leaves about 23 minutes per average week, I choose to rot my brain by any means necessary.

That means watching TV, and hello, have you watched network TV lately? It’s turned into a giant karaoke party. Or a huge sting operation to entrap pedophiles. Noble stuff, I suppose. But I choose to achieve my limited dose of daily, digital nirvana almost exclusively through sports.

With apologies to everyone over age 75, “sports” from the first Saturday in August until the first Sunday in February is loosely translated “football.” And “football” in the greatest country in the world and the only democracy I give a damn about is exclusively translated “NFL.”

Not sure if you’ve heard, but the NFL has its own network these days. No, really. With real studio anchors and former players who can dish out complete sentences without sending the viewers on a frantic search for subtitles, and everything. It’s one of the best-kept secrets this side of the fact that Fred Thompson and Bill Richardson are running for president, but you’ll have to trust me on this one.

There was a football game Sunday night, too. Did you hear about that one? The team that every front-runner in America adopted two years ago (Pittsburgh) knocked off the team that every person in America with a heart adopted last season (New Orleans) in the Hall of Fame Game, 20-7.

You didn’t hear much chatter about that on ESPN’s Sunday brunch shows, did you? Naturally, because they didn’t have a stake in it. That annual rite of early summer was the exclusive domain of the aforementioned NFL Network, a channel available to roughly 14 cable subscribers from sea to shining sea.

Last September, Time Warner Cable had a public falling out with the NFL over the network’s demand for a higher premium. The cable operator professed no possibility but to pass that higher fee onto subscribers and ultimately pulled the plug on the network, instead.

Now really, what would it be: A buck on top of the hundred-plus per month I’m already shelling out, pay-per-view boxing not included? Consider it done. Given that the NFL is far and away America’s most popular televised team sport, I’m guessing there are a few fans lined up behind me.

The league and its media tentacle had every right to spike their going rate last summer. After two or three years testing the waters with 24-7 doses of NFL Films, NFL Network began broadcasting meaningful games last season. No, not the Hall of Fame Game. The third game in the Thanksgiving tripleheader, and regular Thursday and Saturday games throughout the December playoff push.

Are wild card playoff games far behind? That’s a frightening thought, since there’s a home-and-garden channel occupying the hole where my NFL Network should be.

In addition to an extensive daily studio show that puts the rival’s softball “NFL Live” to shame, NFL Network has a camera in every training camp and broadcasts every meaningful football press conference, around the calendar. It has become virtually impossible to be an astute fan of the league without it. And I, like thousands of wannabes in the tri-county area, am without it.

Please, Time Warner, I beg you: End the holdout. Please, fellow Time Warner subscribers who love the greatest game God ever allowed to be invented, I beg you: Back me up on this.

Write those letters. Make those phone calls. Allow me to spend those 23 minutes with a smile on my face.


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