Maybe sports will feel worth more like watching by the time Kyler Murray and Aaron Rodgers get to work tonight, but after the first half of the week, Thursday seems like a good day to give it a pass. To give it all a pass, really.
Oh, maybe Hawks-Wizards might be worth an effort, or Bulls-Knicks. The NBA didn’t do anything wrong this week that we know of. But since Monday, we found out that the NFL, NHL and MLB stopped even bothering with tidying up the optics of shameful deeds and moved to the new default position of “Yeah, we’re lying to you, you know we’re lying to you, so stop asking all the questions that make us lie to you. We did it, we’ll do it again, and we don’t expect any of you to do anything about it ever. Now give us your money, shut up, couch up and remember your place.”
Roger Goodell threw victims of the Washington Football Team’s corporate stance on women in front of the train that demands justice for those women through exposure of the crimes against them. Rob Manfred said with a scolding tone that, yes, race pandering is the new marketing. Gary Bettman offered a minimalist response to Chicago finally being forced to acknowledge its multi-headed cover-up of sexual abuse reports. Soccer has had its scandal with the near dissolution of the NWSL because of a legion of coaching dismissals and game cancellations due to sexual coercion, but that was three weeks ago, plenty of time to pretend that everything is fixed and that the business of pay for play could resume. The Jon Gruden firing happened, the Raiders won their next game, and life was good on The Strip again. We do transition from horror to entertainment quickly, you have to give us that.
This week has felt like clusterbombing a village that had been targeted every day for the last month. Frankly, the only good news yesterday was that the Blackhawks lost their game last night before their lowest crowd in 13 years, which means that 426 fans might have been chastened enough by a decade of denial to skip the game. But it might have been the World Series that kept them home. Who knows? You can’t ask a chair why it doesn’t have a person in it.
But this all feels to me like watching a game today, given what we now know about the people who present them, is not just an act of passive-aggressive denial, but third-generation approval. Disgrace is hitting sports more as a steady drumbeat than as isolated explosions. A day without a covered-up outrage is the new off-day in the schedule.
So why exactly is Packers-Cardinals still compelling? Answer: It isn’t. You can miss it in the same way the NFL can refuse to produce documents related to the Washington Football Team—without consequence. They held a whole year of sports without you turning up or tuning in, and they’re all back to normal—yes, even the criminality part. If you want to miss anything or everything on the NFL, NHL, or NBA calendars because the week has been such a relentless ass, you’ve passed the test of having a soul. ESPN has no college football game so compelling that you need to turn your brain off to the horrors of the rest of the week. Besides, Nick Rolovich and Ed Orgeron. Need we go on? Yeah, probably. But let’s not.
This is not a call for a boycott. You can all think for yourselves, you sheep. This is not a call for better behavior, because what’s the use of yelling down a well you know is empty? This isn’t even a demand that organized sport do a better job spacing out its villainies, because the news cycle is what it is. This is mostly just an acknowledgement that there is a law of diminishing returns in feeling like an unindicted co-conspirator that neither Kyler Murray nor Aaron Rodgers can overcome.
This week has taken brazenly unrepentant suck to a new and more clinically depressing place, so you all do what you want. I’m taking the rest of the day off. Besides, the World Series resumes tomorrow and Tottenham–Manchester United is Saturday, and we all need all our reservoirs of strength to resume ignoring the horrors provided seemingly daily by our largest entertainment providers. Sometimes you just need a little time off to hate yourself properly. Maybe someday it’ll be so horrible that we never go back. Or as we call it in the biz, a market correction.