The Orioles haven't won the AL East since I was 15 years old. By the time I write my next Camden Chat post, they'll probably do so, or be right on the cusp of doing so, for the first time in my adult life. This bizarre, lovable squad, that lost its biggest stars for long stretches and had its premier free agent turn into a pumpkin, is about to win the AL East. The franchise's recent history explains an awful lot (along with America's changed preferences) about how I've just become accustomed to turning mostly to football as soon as the calendar hits September. It's been a long time since I had September baseball that mattered, 2012 aside. Now, the Orioles are awesome, and I'm starting to drift away from early season football, even as America went through its normal Week One rituals a few days ago.
Let me start this out by stating it right up front: If you watch football games, you are not a bad person. You are not a direct enabler of domestic violence, or racism, or post-concussive disorder, or whatever else breathless bloggers would have you believe in order to get pageviews while there are sensationally horrible things in the headlines as this year's NFL season kicks off. If you want to watch professional football, the NFL is the only game in town, and it's perfectly reasonable to want the league to shape up and get serious about its many flaws, without jumping to an all-out boycott.
However, let's also be real about this: The NFL makes virtually all of its money from selling national TV rights. If you watch the NFL, you are perpetuating its success at a time when it could maybe use a little bit of humility and reflection. When you add it all up -- the willful ignorance of the aftereffects of concussions, the deliberate avoidance of a meaningful conversation about the Redskins' name, the completely bungled handling of the Ray Rice incident at every turn -- you start to develop a picture of a league with the kind of hubris that would probably make Bob McDonnell shake his head.
By the way, if you believe the official version of events -- that neither the NFL nor the Ravens saw the inside-the-elevator video until the same time you did, and then acted decisively, because it was the right thing to do based on heretofore unknown information -- please contact me for an amazing selection of bridges, available for immediate delivery at incredible prices.
The Orioles are going to win the AL East for the first time since 1997, and it's going to be awesome. Even after they clinch, they'll be playing for playoff seeding. And when they make the playoffs, they'll play some October baseball on Sundays, Mondays and Thursdays. So whether you're a Ravens fan or a Redskins fan (oh, and spoiler alert, they're both pretty bad anyway), or a fan of some other team entirely, maybe this isn't a bad year to let the NFL wait for your viewership until the Orioles win the World Series, or get knocked out of the playoffs if we can't have such nice things.
On Sunday, I made a somewhat conscious decision to skip Week One. The NFL has always been my secondary interest (and slipping even further in recent years), but usually I'll start flipping back and forth between football and baseball on Sundays. This year, I decided to just watch the Orioles play the Rays while I did some other things. It wasn't a great game, but the Orioles won, thanks to one-man wrecking ball Nelson Cruz, and you know what? I didn't really miss the NFL very much at all. And I felt pretty OK about not giving them my viewership.
Sure, "Blogger feels good about self for sports viewing habits" isn't going to change the world or make the NFL change its ways. And it's not a revolutionary sentiment.
But give it a try. The Orioles are really good, in a way they haven't been in a really long time (2012 might have been more exciting/unexpected/magical, but this year they're just dominating) -- good enough, for the first time in a long time, to argue that they're worth ditching football for, even temporarily. Timed along with the unconscionable foolishness of the NFL on a lot of fronts, maybe it's not a bad time at all to try out some September and October Sunday afternoon baseball.