Football free in the 55103 (that’s my zip code)

Cam Newton got drilled late in the NFL’s Thursday-night opener. It was a helmet-to-helmet hit (there were several) that came on the game’s last drive, as Cam was being cut low by a second Broncos defender. Brutal and intentional, it drew a penalty flag.

No shit, that’s a penalty.

Unless, apparently, the quarterback intentionally grounds the football before getting his head bounced off the field turf, as Newton did. In that case, the penalties offset, and the offense gets to replay the down with its concussed QB.

So this is how the NFL plans to step up efforts to protect players from brain injury.

The Frontline documentary “League of Denial” made me feel dirty for watching pro football. But I could still justify following — OK, enjoying — the NFL because I don’t buy tickets to games or pay attention to its TV sponsors.

But that Thursday-night game felt like a tipping point.

Maybe it’s the $1 billion Death Star that swelled up like a goiter on the skyline of my neighboring city. Certainly, the Electronic Pull-tab scheme crafted to pay for it didn’t help. And who could ignore the mouth-breathing Trump voters burning 49ers’ jerseys on Facebook Live lately?

Anyway, I haven’t watched football since. And I don’t much miss it.

As beautifully as the game translates onto the TV screen, the product on the field stinks in nine games out of 10. Teams have become so universally risk-averse, with coaches looking to limit turnovers and “shorten the game,” that nothing seems to happen of consequence until the final two minutes of either half. (Like basketball, except with fewer fast breaks and more field goals.) It’s boring – unless …

Unless you play fantasy football. Or gamble. Or drink beer, especially at a bar. And I do all three!

I particularly like the latter two activities, and while I expect the baseball playoffs will provide some opportunity to make bets and occupy bar stools for the next month or so, I anticipate falling off the football wagon sometime around Thanksgiving.

Maybe distance will make the heart grow fonder. But for now I’m living clean and loving every minute of it.

Skol!

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