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Sayonara, NFL. And Go Patriots, forever

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Dear NFL,

Much like spitting into a headwind, this isn’t going to go anywhere but perhaps back on my shoe where only I can see it, but hey, the heck with it, you need to know anyways.

Growing up, I was always a fan. Watched all your dumb, meaningless games deep into the night when I had to be up for school or work some four hours later, but darn it, how can I miss 4-7 Oakland against 5-6 San Diego on Monday Night!?

More than that, I liked about how pro football sort of brought people together. College sports have limited appeal even though they’re great and more organically passionate, because the majority of folks who get into them have ties to the actual college. That’s not everyone. Pro sports are able to bridge more gaps, which is always a good thing.

Anyways, NFL, I don’t like you anymore, and for this year (and maybe more), I’ll boycott you aside from my dear New England Patriots and their games, because they shouldn’t lose loyal fans over your despotic, bigoted, jealous control vetted out as football socialism against those who win too much.

The funny thing about winning is that everyone hates winners, yet all most people do is sit around and think about how to win while reviling those that do. It’d seem to make more sense to figure out how and why they do it than cut them down, but hey, misery loves company, eh?

I’ve been a Tom Brady guy long before anyone else was. Loved him at Michigan when I barely knew who he was. I was a teenager marveling at the fact that here’s this guy with a fraction of the physical skill as on-team competitor (Drew Henson) was supposed to have, and nobody wanted him on the field other than his family. But, so it goes, he wouldn’t leave.

Just like he wouldn’t be cut as a low-round pick. Just like he wouldn’t let the job be taken back over by Drew Bledsoe. Look, we all know the story. Then, he started winning. The Patriots started winning. And kept winning while everyone else lost.

Eventually, people got sick of it, so conspiracy theories came out. The “Spygate” thing was more arrogance than anything, and the punishment didn’t work. The only time the Patriots were kept out of meaningful title runs were seasons when Brady out (missed playoffs) and back off of that injury (lost in first round of playoffs badly).

So it only made sense that if you’re going to get them, you’d best go for the head, the one thing they’ve struggled with missing when they’ve had to.

Brady’s always been more, though. He’s red letter perfect but imperfect off the field. Back in the day, whenever he’d do a commercial, he’d demand his offensive line be in or he wasn’t doing it. By all accounts, he’s a good dad off of it, and if you talk to people who actually have met or have dealt with Tom Brady in any way, they say nothing but good things about him as a deeply caring person.

But he wins, and the NFL came for him.

I bleed 1 Patriot Place, but when the ole Wells Report came out and I read the beginning, I sunk my head like everyone else. I mean, I have Patriots wallpaper in my place. Surely I had to take it down if this was true, no? Look, humans make mistakes, do things wrong, make odd decisions that seem to make no sense. “Guess I’ll read it all,” I said to myself.

Then I read a few scientific journals on the topic. Then I read Brady’s self-attestation of the events under oath. I read about how badly the NFL wanted the phone … but neglected to realize that text messages work two ways, they had printouts, and they had e-mails.

I read about how he actively gave the refs the rule book with the PSI level highlighted so they’d know what he wanted them at, legally. Bank robbers don’t go to the Sheriff’s office and tell them the code to the safe at PNC before heading out to fleece the joint.

Then I read some comparative legal cases regarding arbitration and unions. The text from Brady’s interview with Roger Goodell. Got way too familiar with the opinions of sports legal guys like Ian Gunn, Daniel Wallach, Stephanie Stradley, and Michael McCann, to name a few.

If I’d tried this hard on any topic in college, I’d have easily had a 4.0. I asked a few people I trusted who’d have even piecemeal ideas on how it went down, just to self-validate, and came to the conclusion that many other have … that it was a witch hunt. If something happened, Brady wasn’t spinning the scepter making it happen, and that it honestly didn’t actually happen.

Unfortunately, I lost a lot of respect for people I used to really enjoy reading because they were so hard lined on an agenda, and probably the vitriol some of my own fan base wrongly slings at them, that character assassination pieces popped up over Ideal Gas Law.

I’m old now, but I sort of wish sports writers who go the character assassination route would have to meet that person and explain to them why they hatcheted someone they’ve never met over something so trivial. But life isn’t a “I’ll see you at the end of the bar at 11 and we’ll “discuss” this out” anymore.

At any rate, when people who have power want something enough, things like facts and people’s feelings become arbitrary next to the wants and desires of those in power. That’s why we don’t normally let people have Utopian power.

The other thing I got into was Brady’s spirituality, specifically The Four Agreements stuff by Don Miguel Ruiz. The one that stuck out and made a lot of new sense was the part about people not doing things because of other people, but people doing things because of the perception of something they have within themselves.

Well, then I reached out to DirecTV, and bless their souls, they gave me a nice discount on Sunday Ticket when I told them what frigging rubbish it was that I should have to be on the hook for four games that aren’t being played fairly. What do you know, they agreed.

So I’ll go ahead and watch them, because they haven’t done anything wrong near as anyone can actually prove. But the rest of the NFL is out. Actually, since the Brady thing got handed down, most sports have been out. The upside is, you get more stuff done around the place, work more, and your golf game gets better.

So Go Patriots this year, and yeah, I get it … one viewer or patron won’t matter to the Goliath that is the NFL. The league won’t always be strong, though it won’t be because of this or people like me individually. It will be because enough people are turned off with the product that doing stupid stuff means one more like me pops up. Then 10 more. Then 500 more.

Boycott for me means that the NFL won’t get my money the one or two games I normally may take in within a given year, money I may spend going out to watch a big game, and whatever merchandise I otherwise would purchase.

I believe Tom Brady, and always will. It’s a world of reality and proof to do so, and until there’s anything past vitriol, doctored experiments, hyperbolic hatred, and the inability to unearth a smoking gun, nothing will change the mind.

You lost a viewer and a fan for at least a year, but probably more. I tend not to come back, and eventually, there will be enough like us.

Remember, everything ends badly, otherwise, it wouldn’t end. Even for you, NFL.

For the boys from New England, it’s always windy at the top. We should all remember that, should we ever get there. The easy lesson here is to learn how to get up where the wind is, rather than contribute to the blowing.

Thanks DirecTV, and thanks Patriots. Onward and upward, maybe to that fifth Super Bowl.

We Are All Patriots, and we’re nothing else come 2016.

20 years it’s been waiting for this moment. Go Blue.

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“Jalen Rose takes the ball at the elbow. Dribbles once. 3…2…1…shot goes up…it’s IN!!!! IT’S OVER!!! MICHIGAN WINS!!!”

Back when we were kids, we’d run up to the courts or meet up in a driveway on a crisp summer evening, world way more ahead of us than behind us as it is now. Maybe stop at the local gas station on a run there if we didn’t have a ride to blow part of our allowance for doing chores on sugary soda pop and Sour Patch Kids.

Then we’d run up there and pretend we were the heroes we watched on television, never really putting it all together that we’d be college kids wondering how or why anyone would look up to us. One of us Jalen Rose. Maybe someone else was Jimmy King or Ray Jackson. Man, those were the days.

Been around the game, and been a Michigan Man for a long time, that University coursing through my veins with every maize and blue garment bought for me by my family. The first basketball game I ever watched was Michigan vs Seton Hall, the 1989 National Championship. My dad still has that game on VHS, and it’ll still send chills down your spine when Rumeal Robinson does what Rumeal Robinson did once, and because of it no one will ever forget Rumeal Robinson.

Then came the Fab Five. I’ve read Mitch Albom’s book upwards of 10 times, and end up sort of misty eyed every time I finish it. Michigan was cool. They changed basketball, marrying defiance, hip hop, and basketball in ways that changed the sport forever. I don’t think I’ve worn white socks or shorts above the knees since.
This weekend is surreal for us, the Michigan Men (and Women). Kansas controlled us. Everyone knows that. About 4:37 left in the game, I laid down on my stomach near where my brother was. Kind of that “alright, maybe moving off the couch will in some stupid, superstitious way help us go on a run.” Fans think like that.

Then all of the sudden it happened. A three. A loose ball lay-up when 0.5 seconds longer and it’d have been a pile driving jump ball turnover. Then a missed free throw by a guy who hit our center in the jejunum earlier. Then Trey Burke, from the parking lot by way of Ann Arbor. When he hit that three (and I don’t need to even be any more descriptive. It was that iconic.), I jumped up so high, you’d think I wasn’t white, and was 17 all over again and yelled “Oh my God!”

And then it was OT. And then it was over. Michigan lost a basketball game ostensibly on a half court shot at one point this year. Yet two decent Kansas looks to win wouldn’t go. It felt every bit of the Fab Five’s epic win over Kentucky in 1993. My brother and I hugged so hard, I’m pretty sure someone’s spine snapped.

And then there was Florida, from the allegedly awful SEC but with one of the most prideful, if sometimes delusional fan bases in sports. They were a shark forced to swim with minnows, we were told. They were always here in the Elite 8. Birthright stuff. This time, they’d get it done.

But it was never a game. Somewhere, Florida Gator Guy had to be saying, “oh, so THIS is what Ohio State felt like in 2006.” It was about as close as me and my first girlfriend. And we (thankfully) haven’t spoken in well over a decade. Final Four. Cut down the nets. Feels like it’s the early 90s. Come on, Florida. All that wise you crack about SEC football? This is the B1G. You really think you’re getting through on one of their elites? Pfft…

I ran outside and screamed a good, hearty Easter scream. The neighborhood kid was across the way working on his car, and turned around with a look on his face like there was a Unicorn drinking from his toilet.

Being a Michigan fan is easy. We win at the important stuff…football and basketball…a lot. Sure, it’s been since 1994 that we’ve been to a Sweet 16, but in my calendar lifetime I’ve witnessed a national title, now three Final Fours, and the first B1G tournament championship. Imagine rooting for Northwestern you’re entire life. I’m getting shingles just thinking about it.

But this is awesome. It’s juvenile to be this old and care this much, but it’s awesome. Michigan feels like it did growing up. To be Michigan basketball is to be “cool” again. And to win in Atlanta, man, it’d be all the more epic. Once upon a time, I revived my life down there. A place the Wolverines may this time next week, do the same.

So the Victors are again two wins away, coming off a weekend that conjures up memories, all of them, of the black socks, baggy shorts, Geto Boys music, and a culture shift that has withstood the test of time since. Basketball was never the same because of Michigan. Twenty years later, we’re reminded of that.

Somewhere, there’s a kid calling up his group of buddies, imploring them to scour every aperture of the couch to scare up enough loose change for some gummy worms and Jolt. And then to run down to the courts and fire up a few shots as the sun goes down and the spotlights come on. Years take our youth from us, but the dreams carry on, recycled forever.

For once upon a time, we were all Jalen Rose or Jimmy King, nailing last second shots with stars in our eyes. A generation later, they’re Trey Burke or Tim Hardaway Jr. Times change, but the dreams never do, just the names. Somewhere, there’s a kid…

“Trey Burke takes the ball at the elbow. Dribbles once. 3…2…1…shot goes up…it’s IN!!!! IT’S OVER!!! MICHIGAN WINS!!!”

Shut your windows Monday night if it all goes as planned. I’m not hitting jumpers in the park at 11 p.m. But I still can sing pretty loud. And not well. Hail, Hail, to Michigan…