The National Football League’s 32 overlords have been made increasingly uncomfortable by the pressures between its now dual purpose – putting on demonstrations of entertainment and being a prop for patriotic symbolism. It is a dance that rich men in their upper 60s and beyond aren’t really very well equipped to do.
But that’s what happens when you try to be all things to all people – at least all people who have the money to afford it. Eventually you find yourselves staring back at yourselves and wondering what the hell you’ve done to yourselves.
Put another way, this has gotten a lot bigger than Colin Kaepernick not having a quarterbacking gig. In fact, it has probably made the minimal notion that some owner would consider doing so that much more remote. Putting aside the rightness or wrongness of signing him, no owner in these profoundly uncertain times for the business is going to take on a new “burden.”
And there’s a part of me that wonders whether that is actually a bad thing in the end.
Not because he shouldn’t have the opportunity. If football is a meritocracy, and nobody can explain why he isn’t one of the 64 best quarterbacks in the nation, he should have a place somewhere. If he wants to play, and there is no evidence that he doesn’t, and the need for his talents is there, and it seems to be, any owner whose team needs a quarterback and chooses to avoid Kaepernick because of his uppity knee is committing a political act.
But we also know that football is essentially a dangerous pastime for people with heads and brains, and there is something slightly off-putting about us wanting that level of long-term danger for someone else. As we learn more about the cost of playing the sport, maybe our wanting him to play isn’t the best thing for him.
In other words, Colin Kaepernick should be someone’s quarterback by virtue of the level of talent at the position. He should chase his football desire without having to abandon his conscience.
But the essential lunacy of him having no quarterbacking job is, at least for me, balanced by the knowledge that football is in large part not good for a human head. And I kind of like where his head is at these days.
So if he never plays again, I will shake my head at the absurdity and rigidity of the people who run the sport, and revel in their ongoing discomfort because they conflated economics and politics and paid the price for that misjudgment.
And I will feel okay with him never playing again, just because if I have to choose between brain health and my Sunday amusement, I'll take option A.