Friday, December 15, 2017
Sports

Here's why you'll forgive the NFL for all its many sins

The Saints and Giants played a game Sunday afternoon in New Orleans that explains why the National Football League gets away with it. The league can willfully ignore the heinous damage football inflicts on its players. It can employ and empower people who abuse children and beat women. It can tap-dance around the hypocrisy of bleating about the integrity of an enterprise built on gambling and beer advertisements. And damned if it doesn't deliver on Sunday.

The NFL dares you to look away, and it knows you won't.

In New Orleans, Drew Brees tied an NFL record with seven touchdown passes, and because Eli Manning matched him pass for pass, the seventh only tied the score late. The Giants could not get out of their own way on a late punt, which allowed the Saints to line up for a game-winning, 52-yard field goal. Kai Forbath booted it through. Saints 52, Giants 49 — a push for the bookmakers, a party for the home crowd.

The result tightened playoff chases in two divisions, invigorated a star quarterback's career and showcased Odell Beckham Jr., one of the most exhilarating athletes on this big, green planet.

Neither defense offered more resistance than a stiff breeze, but we're talking about entertainment. The NFL lets you down in so many ways, but in the most crucial way it holds up its end of the bargain. It provides point spreads and fantasy football fodder and breathtaking athleticism and fascinating strategy. The NFL is a drug. The product brings you back.

As Forbath kicked the game-winner, another game, Falcons-Buccaneers, pushed deeper into overtime. Three other games that started at 1 p.m. had been decided on the final play. The Seahawks-Cowboys game in Dallas had just kicked off, with woman-beating defensive end Greg Hardy ready to rush the passer a week after a sideline outburst and an embarrassing no-comment session with reporters. It was the national game of the week on Fox.

It should be a league so easy to discard. It just spent eight months trying to suspend one of its best players, Tom Brady, for allegedly putting too little air in the football. The process that culminated with the NFL getting its reputation stomped on in federal court for the third time in a calendar year. The episode was farce, but also tame in comparison to the league's other sins. In some cases, the game literally kills its players. Former players still have to pull teeth for fair health insurance.

It is also a spectacle. In the predetermined span of about three-and-a-half hours, you could watch Brees's pass sear through the Superdome's stuffy air, or you could flip the channel and watch sensational Rams rookie running back Todd Gurley gallop into the secondary, or check out No. 1 overall draft pick Jameis Winston and Tampa holding off Atlanta's furious comeback and triumph in overtime. You could track your daily fantasy team, root for your office pool picks and be justifiably awed by the feats of the players.

You hear a lot about the possibility of football's imminent decline or even death. All of the arguments are legitimate. But there's also the RedZone Channel to watch and DraftKings lineups to pick and a couple beers to drink on the couch. The appeal is as inherent as the harm.

On a day like Sunday, during a game like the Saints and Giants played, NFL football can make you forget how guilty you should feel for liking it. The Saints and the Giants played a harebrained classic, a smorgasbord of offense conducted by two star quarterbacks. It was a game you had to watch.

No matter the score, the NFL wins.

— Washington Post

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