Football fans and reality shows are natural enemies, a situation not helped by TV commentators' tendency to promote Dancing With The Stars in the middle of a crucial game-changing drive.
"They're going for it on 4th! He takes the snap...
now here to talk with us about Dancing With The Stars is Emmitt Smith."
The dirty little secret is that even though most football fans consider the reality/soap world of shows like The Hills and celebrity gossip to be, in their vocabulary, "gay", deep down those worlds are a lot closer than you'd think.
A few years ago I started dating a guy who watched football, so I started watching football, because I don't have a mind of my own. I still barely understand football (is a safety a guy or a play?) but I find myself watching every week.
Because it turns out at least half of football isn't about football at all, it's about drama. Cheap, nasty, drama. It's the same as how nobody who watches Survivor gives a shit about surviving, and people don't tune in to Hell's Kitchen to learn about food, they tune in to watch Gordon Ramsay take arrogant cooks down a notch by calling them stupid donkeys.
NFL games are only played two days a week, usually. The rest of the week, football fans that would turn up their nose at soap operas, reality shows and celebrity gossip will cluster excitedly around the water cooler to discuss the latest Tim Tebow faux pas.
Of which there are many.
Here's some things any spectator can watch while eating popcorn, even those who don't know a third down from, I don't know, a cat maybe?
#6. Cartoonish Heroes and Villains
You have to start with the villains here, as some of the most popular reality shows (and "reality" shows) are all villains, like The Hills and Jersey Shore, which apparently people watch by the millions just to stare at people they hate.
The same reason Grey's Anatomy promos keep promising you one of the characters is going to die.
This why people from around America will watch a Dallas Cowboys game, in the hope that someone gets hurt. Dallas is consistently the most hated team in the NFL, a phenomenon I have explored scientifically using charts.
All the stars aligned a few years ago when the NFL's most hated concentrated mass of douchiness, Terrell Owens signed with the Cowboys. When not publicly insulting his less famous teammates, or publicly outing the guy who throws him the ball so he can continue to make millions of dollars and who isn't gay, Owens is well known for classy touchdown celebrations like hurling snow at the fans, tearing down fan signs and dumping a fan's popcorn into his helmet. If this were reality TV, you would have immediately assumed it was staged.
And taking a nap on the field.
But the "showboating big-mouthed attention whore" villains are just the start. There's "frat boy bully from a movie" Philip Rivers, for instance.
Hey you guys, I heard LT used to be poor.
Seriously, just look at that face. When he isn't taunting opposing players, officials, or fans, he can often be seen yelling at his own teammates, because, according to many commentators, he is a real "competitor." I understand. You can't swear on the air. He is probably one of the biggest "competitors" in the NFL. But that's just my opinion, and opinions are like "competitors," everyone has one.
The point is, reality TV makes you wait an entire season to see Snooki get punched in the face. You get to see Rivers get crushed by multiple 300-pound men on a fairly regular basis every week and no one gets arrested.
Of course, it wouldn't be TV for stupid people without the heroic side of the overly simplistic and exaggerated morality play. Take the Saints in last year's Super Bowl, who got the same weepy, soft-focus, treatment that on reality TV is reserved for the last two people left on American Idol (and probably done by the same video production team.)
It's pretty simple, you add one lens flare for every hardship he has overcome.
It was a great story, but you don't need to single handily heal the wounds of Hurricane Katrina to get the hero treatment. Before the Saints, you had Kurt Warner, whose supposed true life story of personal struggles, dark tragedies, repeated rejections and persistence got boiled down to one retarded sound bite: "A bag boy dreamed hard enough that he became a quarterback one day."
"Attention shoppers! Our quarterback has just been injured! Can anyone here throw a football?"
#5. Heroes That Become Villains
Scientists have postulated that the juiciest celebrity story is when a once-beloved hero becomes a villain, as evidenced by the way every celebrity news outlet jumps on every landmark of Mel Gibson's descent into madness.
Brett Favre spent 16 seasons as the Green Bay Packers' quarterback, and giving white males between the ages of 18 and 65 a weekly boner. Then he decided to retire, and after everyone had gone through the five stages of grief, he decided to unretire.
After retiring and unretiring approximately 50 times over the next two years, while jumping teams and constantly making passive-aggressive comments to the media about his current and past teams, the one time hero was starting to come across as a real "competitor." It didn't help that the sports media, a notoriously risk averse bunch, fellated him verbally and jumped obediently to attention every time he said he was thinking about retiring or unretiring again.
A brief summary of Favre's career.
Not that we can blame them. Favre's return to Green Bay, as the star quarterback for their hated rivals, drew more viewers than the simultaneous World Series baseball game. He was booed heartily, at the stadium and through television screens everywhere, but unfortunately won.
Audiences were satisfied, however, when he lost to (and was injured by) the Saints in the NFC championship game. The only way it could have been more perfectly scripted was if Farve had revealed at the opening Coin Toss that he was Saints Quarterback Drew Brees's father.
#4. Sex Scandals
I know it's stupidly obvious to say that celebrity followers love a scandal, but the thing is, there are so many scandals these days that they've got to have that extra layer of stupid to get any attention. Like finding out that Jersey Shore's stereotyped Italians aren't even Italian.
Yeah, Chilean. I know, the once proud nation of Chile can't believe it either.
But the NFL has the best scandals. The best. And here "best" means "most ridiculous." Just when you've decided you don't want to read about any more football players running over people, buying hookers, or being arrested for drugs, someone like Plaxico Burress draws you in by getting shot in the leg. Oh no, not by someone else, you see, he was at a nightclub, and he of course had a gun in his sweatpants. It started to slip down his leg. So he had to catch it. And it went off while pointed at his leg. You know how it is. Could happen to anyone.
Even this level-headed fellow.
He learned his lesson: Don't wear sweatpants to a nightclub, you lazy slob. But he also had to serve time for carrying an unlicensed gun, and everyone knows prison can be tough, so he hired a prison coach to get him up to speed. Seriously.
But of course the real gold in the world of celebrity scandals is the sex scandal, and holy shit does the NFL deliver. You may remember the 2005 Minnesota Vikings "Sex Boat" (also a 1980 movie). The title is a little inaccurate, there were actually two boats. Seventeen Vikings players rented two boats and a metric ton of hookers, took the hookers on the boats and had a lot of sex. It was a simple plan.
The police first heard of it when a nearby homeowner called to say that "seven black men" were urinating in her yard. The team and NFL yelled at them a lot but all that came out of it was some fines and misdemeanor charges.
And then you have the lovely sideline reporters. Now, I'd never suggest that the NFL employs these women purely to facilitate sexy scandals, but it certainly hasn't hurt.
Sideline reporters are mostly women because football watchers are mostly men. Sideline reporters stand on the field near the players and ask them insightful questions during the game, like "How does it feel to be winning?" or "How does it feel to not be winning?"
Worst case scenario: male viewers have a nice-looking lady to look at. Best case scenario: a drunken NFL legend tries to kiss the reporter.
More recently, former sideline reporter Jenn Sterger was allegedly the victim of Brett Favre sexting, which blew up big time despite fairly sketchy evidence, because there was a sexy lady (yay), there was Brett Favre (boo) and there was the thought of someone sending someone else pictures of their dong while wearing nothing but Crocs (haha).
I bet you'd want to send a text message to that, amirite? I don't know. I'm just guessing here, I'm not a guy.