A very Patriot colleague has alerted me to the fact the NFL Super Bowl would be played over this weekend, so I thought it's a good opportunity to discuss some of my opinions on the NFL (and I will avoid my general distaste with having armies of fortune killing steroid induced players on all sides).
My first exposure to the NFL took place when I was around 10 years old and my father, who worked in New York at the time, gave me a New York Jets shirt. At the time I had no idea what this team was about, it was just nice to have a shirt with a jet on it. [By the way, that shirt played a big role in my life later, but that should be the subject of another post]
Next came high school, and there my friend Uri, always a big fan of anything American, has hyped the NFL quite a lot. For a change, we were actually able to watch the action on a Lebanese TV channel (albeit with some very poor reception), so we could live up to the hype. It was then that I first watched NFL and it was then that I noticed just how boring it is: interesting action takes place for a few seconds, and then you get minutes of waiting until the next action bit is on, and on top you need to add tons of commercial breaks.
Move ahead in time to 1999, the year in which Haim and Ossant got me my Sega Dreamcast (I'm still thankful). With the console I got the Sega NFL game, a game I still consider to be a standout. It was so well done! After a few lessons from Uri I actually managed to understand what was taking place on the field and really enjoy it. It got me so much into it that I even watched a few NFL games on Israeli cable and even admit to have enjoyed them, albeit not half as much as I've enjoyed football. However, with the waning of my enthusiasm with the Dreamcast came the waning of my enthusiasm towards the NFL. Still, I find it interesting to mention that I always played the Sega game with my team, the Jets.
Move ahead to the current day and time. My team, Arsenal, is doing very well this year. In fact, this weekend they recaptured the Premiership's top spot, although I still believe the title belongs to Manchester United.
As I have explained recently on this very blog, I have become very indifferent to my team's success. Sure, I enjoy watching them play (they're quite the performers) and I like it when they win, but I am also very much aware that their prime motivation is money making and that they are owned by private people, some of which are of a rather dubious nature.
Which brings me back to the NFL. A couple of weeks ago I have learnt through Dorfan's excellent sports blog (Hebrew warning!) that there is an NFL team which is not there to make money for its owners. At least not directly.
Apparently, the Green Bay Packers are a team that is owned by some hundred thousand share holders from the community of Green Bay (meaning, people like you and me). These people vote and choose the people that run the club for a given duration, the team invests its profits back in town, and thus you can say that the Packers are a genuine team of their people - in much the same way as football's Barcelona or Real Madrid are run (they're probably even better at minimizing political corruption).
I like the idea. For a while I have maintained that teams should belong to their supporters, without which they have no justification to exist. And therefore I shall declare the following declaration: From now on, my NFL team is the Green Bay Packers. Sure, I will still sympathize with the Jets, and I will probably visit New York several more times in my life but never ever come close to Green Bay, but the Packers are the ones I will identify with.
Obviously, no one cares which NFL team I support. I hardly even care myself. The real question is whether I will change my allegiance in football if some team other than Arsenal decides to use a similar ownership model.
So far, the answer would have been no. After all, Barcelona is a club I have always liked, and they have always been using the democratic model (or at least for as long as I can tell), but still - when Arsenal played Barcelona, I was always pro Arsenal.
Would I switch if another top English club made the grade, though? There are now rumors that Liverpool supporters are organizing to buy the club off its current American owners. I have to say that would be tempting, but I suspect I would still maintain my Arsenality.
An Alex Ferguson led Manchester United becoming a democracy? Now that would be tempting.