By Howard Robertson, Special to The New Tri-State Defender
I watched the 2019 Stupor Bowl. I have been watching Super Bowls since I was fourteen years old back in 1967. That was the very first one, by the way.
I don’t blame the Patriots or the Rams for their offensively anemic performances. Although I’m not a fan, I certainly don’t blame New England for doing their job and becoming Champions, yet again. I don’t even blame Gladys, Big Boi or young Travis for performing and doing their jobs.
People, businesses and organizations are often tone deaf. My mother was a church organist and Lord knows, I’ve been around too many choir members that could not hear the right notes no matter how many times she played it. That’s ignorantly tone deaf. Conversely, there are notes that musicians dare not play together because they clash and create dissonance. But sometimes the dissonance is what the musician wants. That’s being intentionally tone deaf. That’s what the NFL has become.
So, it’s Super Bowl Sunday in the ATL, one of the blackest cities in America, during Black History Month. Well of course, they’re going to recognize Dr. King and civil rights icons like Congressman John Lewis, Ambassador Andy Young and others. These were the soldiers who protested, marched, sat-in, broke laws, were bitten by dogs, beaten with nightsticks and buffeted by fire hoses. But thousands of other deserving souls weren’t honored that day because they were the nameless, faceless folk who were hung, burned alive, shot, castrated or died broke and broken.
How is it that the NFL was intentionally tone deaf to the dissonance of rightfully honoring revolutionaries of the past while wrongfully castigating a current revolutionary named Kaepernick and others of like mind who didn’t break any laws or create any disruption?
And what representation of Atlanta was made during the Adam Levine, Maroon 5 Halftime Show. Sure they trotted Big Boi and Travis Scott out for quick cameos to give the appearance of keeping it real. But there was no doubt whose show it was…topless, tats, intentionally tone deaf and all.
But wait a minute. Maybe the NFL is crazy and tone deaf like a fox. We’re talking about a lot of money here. In 2017, the NFL grossed somewhere north of $13 billion (13,000 million dollars) with a workforce that’s about 70 percent African American. Last year, of the Top 50 television shows watched by the biggest audiences, 40-something of them were NFL or NCAA football games.
Life’s really good right now for NFL Czar Roger Goodell and all the rich, old white dudes (and dudettes), average age of 70.1 that own pro football teams. Life’s going to stay good too…in the near term at least.
For a symphony of reasons, the NFL’s future looks bleak. Studies show that fewer and fewer families are allowing their sons to play tackle football due to the potential for concussion and brain injury. That means fewer next generation players and fans are being created. While fewer middle and upper income kids are playing football, more lower income kids of color are playing football because it may be their ticket out of the projects, to college and beyond. Football is predicted to become a “Gladiator” sport…like boxing.
But that won’t happen for 10, 12 or maybe 15 years. Meantime, they protect the brand. NFL powers just have to hold on, keep raking in that money and stick some of it in their ears while singing, “la, la la la la I can’t hear you.” They’ll remain intentionally tone deaf and they’ll keep playing to their base audience (not really us).
They’ve done the math and they know, they’ll die before the National Football League does.
Howard Robertson is the co-host, along with Larry Robinson, of “R&R on Sports,” which is available on the Sirius XMnetwork, iHeart Radio, Apple Podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, Tune-in Radio and other podcast providers.