If you think crooked politicians and misbehaving celebrities are bulletproof, able to save face and able to prosper professionally through the worst of circumstances, be assured that they have nothing on the National Football League.

Seriously, what could kill the NFL? It’s the zombie that represents every form of evil in society yet is unstoppable by human hands. Against all odds, contrary to all common sense, it shall outlive each and every one of us.

It is a monster of our own creation. We can’t turn away, or at least we won’t turn away. What were most of us doing this weekend while we weren’t shoveling snow and shoveling French toast into our grill for breakfast, lunch and dinner? Watching the playoffs, against our better judgment.

Why? There is no logical explanation. The overall quality of the game is down, to the naked eye. It’s run by a commissioner who swats flies with a sledgehammer while letting grizzly bears and wolves roam freely.

Players have been exposed as murderers, domestic abusers and habitual drunk drivers. The officiating is random, awful, and subject to lengthy delays for Big Brother’s correction at every turn.

Hollywood is against it. The president is against it. Brain surgeons are against it. Worst of all, mothers are against it. Heck, no other nation in the world even plays it without American-born participation (I see you, Canada).

Every year the public relations campaign against the game of football gets more nightmarish. Yet look around and tell me, with the exception of David Bowie, that there were any bigger rock stars in our society this past weekend than Tom Brady, Larry Fitzgerald, Cam Newton and Peyton Manning.

Twenty days from now, two survivors of this tournament will collide. We will use it as an excuse to throw or attend the most elaborate party of the year that doesn’t involve blowing up stuff in the backyard.

Whether or not the New England Patriots are playing is irrelevant. It won’t matter if the halftime entertainment is Bruno Mars or Bruce Willis howling his 1980s album “The Return of Bruno” in its egregious entirety. Few of us will pause for two seconds to ask ourselves if all this merriment gives our unintentional approval to PEDs or CTE.

This selective outrage fits our profile when it comes to everything else. It’s cool to complain about things and then behave in a way that doesn’t produce one scintilla of change.

If we really dislike Republicans and Democrats and believe that they’re equally beholden to special interests, why do they continue to comprise the vast majority of our elected leadership? If we are truly exasperated with the quality of music, movies and television, why do we consume it ravenously while the entertainers laugh all the way to the bank?

Our behavior relative to football follows the same pattern. Consider Patriot Nation, which its detractors rightly if bitterly point out didn’t exist until 2001. By the tens of thousands on Saturday evening, we purchased tickets ($250 and up, I’m guessing), or watched on big-screen TVs ($200 or more) with the help of cable or satellite ($100 plus add-ons), both of which we probably only purchased for access to live sports, while wearing officially licensed jerseys ($99, if you don’t order the cringe-worthy extra of your last name on the back).

I’m inclined to adopt the George Carlin philosophy here. It’s counterintuitive, but if you “vote” in favor of the NFL, you lose your right to complain, myself included.

We’re willing to accept the baggage. We’re good with the chest-thumping, excessive celebration of every minor on-field accomplishment, and sweeping under the rug of off-field shenanigans. We’re not overly concerned with forced, cursory concern for the health of past, present and future players. We’re fine with rules that are enforced inconsistently by the guys in striped shirts and at the whim of the overmatched boss in his ivory tower.

I’ve asked a litany of rhetorical questions because I don’t know all the answers. What I do know is that the NBA, NHL, MLB, NASCAR, MLS and even NCAA would give anything to receive such undying affection from the public, irrespective of performance.

Kalle Oakes is a staff writer. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @oaksie72 or like his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/kalleoakes.sj.


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