It was after the Big Game when I began telling people, “Think I’ll take next season off.” The 2016 NFL season was hard on me, with all the ups and downs the Seahawks went through, capped by a championship game where I had very little rooting interest, but still managed to get riled up over. As the season closed, I was forced to admit something to myself: watching football is bad for me.
There is much talk these days about the dopamine loop––that cycle we put ourselves through by taking copious “hits” of media from our mobile devices throughout the day and often at night, when we should be readying for sleep. Most agree that dopamine looping has some very negative impacts on the human brain. I’ve come to discover that, for me, watching football impacts me just as negatively, by putting me through an adrenaline loop. Isn’t it strange how that works? Long ago, the human body developed this mechanism in order to help us survive––something that injects a magic chemical into our bloodstream, granting us supernormal strength and speed. Adrenaline is the stuff we developed in our hunter-gatherer days so that, in the event we encountered something dangerous while hunting or gathering––say, a bear or a wild boar or (worst of all) another human not of our tribe––we might have the speed to run away to safety, or the strength to fight that dangerous thing. Adrenaline was there on the quick, and just as quickly, it was meant to run its course and dissipate.
Nowadays, we conjure adrenaline differently, and we utilize it differently. Just by watching other people run around and hit each other, we can get massive doses of adrenaline. It’s like my stupid lizard brain thinks those huge men might pop through my television screen and try to tackle me. And it goes on and on for three hours or more, assuming I only watch one game, of course. I’m faced with the reality that watching football has a terrible physiological affect on me. And so, just as I’ve made other decisions to improve my overall well being––quitting soda, cutting down on sugar and fatty foods––I’m now cutting out something that’s bad for my brain. It may be for just one season; most likely it will be much longer.
That’s where it started for me. And the more I’ve thought about a life without football, the more I’ve thought of all the positive that will come as a result, not the least of which is more time. I find there is only room in my life for a few things to care about. When I watch football, I am fooled into thinking I ought to care a lot about what happens on that field, so much so that I feel I should listen to people talk and talk about what they think might happen on the field before it actually happens, and then I should listen to people talk and talk and talk about what already happened on the field, and what could have been done to make what happened on the field more closely resemble what should have happened on the field. It’s ridiculous, really. I care for just a few things. I care for people, my family especially. I care for Story, and telling stories that can shift human perspective. I care about communing with the divine. Those things alone are about all I can handle.
I could say more. I could talk about the moral implications of supporting a sport that capitalizes on the objectification of human beings, but I’m still sorting through those ideas, and I don’t mean this to come across as an indictment on the many of you who enjoy watching football, and are able to do so without the negative effect it has on a guy like me.
I will say this: if football is a positive part of your life, then watch at will. But if you find watching football makes you feel like shit, I am here to say there is a way to feel less shitty. Just don’t watch. If I can not do it, you can not do it as well.