Sean Beckwith: What’s worse: Facebook or the NFL?
February 12, 2019
There's a game in college we'd play called "Would You Rather." Essentially you would pose two hypothetical scenarios — both of which are terrible — and force your friend to pick the least awful option while incriminating himself in the process. It's a pretty juvenile game, however, I've recently found myself playing a real-life version of it.
Instead of two made-up situations, it's two widely popular and widely scrutinized staples of American culture: Facebook and the NFL. And instead of trying to decipher which one I'd rather waste my time on, I've been trying to decide which one is worse.
So, welcome to the part of the column where — like a bad action movie — I say the name of the piece in the article.
What's worse: Facebook or the NFL?
Let's start with everyday use. When you go to flip on a game, one in which the Broncos aren't playing, how long before you take out your phone and check Facebook? Is it the commercial timeout after the extra point or following the ensuing kickoff or during any one of the 15-minute long challenges?
When you're on your phone, scrolling through highly viewed videos and pictures — none of which are of your friends or family but rather what Facebook's algorithm dictated — how long before your attention switches back to the game? Is it before or after Dennis Leary yells at you about Ford F-150s?
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Other than your team, it's hard to watch most NFL games. I haven't watched the past two Super Bowls mostly due to Patriots fatigue and a hatred of their opponents. (Finish paying for Edward Jones Dome so the fine people of St. Louis, Missouri, don't have to, Stan Kroenke, you miserable, soul-sucking clown. Oh, you didn't know that the owner of the Avs and Nuggets tanked football in St. Louis so he could move the franchise back to Los Angeles? Yup, same guy. I mean why else would he employ Jeff Fisher for four-plus years?)
No one who watched that 13-3 yawner of a Super Bowl said a positive word about it, other than Pats fans or those loosely enough tied to New England to root for them.
Although penalty flags fall like confetti due to rules changes, it seems like the NFL is more concerned about figuring out what is a catch rather than making the game safer. It's akin to Facebook trying to better its news coverage rather than acknowledging it shouldn't be an outlet for journalism.
As long as the older demographic can't tell the difference between a Russian-run propaganda website and a credible news organization, Facebook should get out of the news game. The social media juggernaut started off as a way to share photos and update people about your life. Regardless of how you felt about your neighbor's new grill, I think we can all agree we'd rather see a shiny new Weber than his take on the Kim Jong Un-Donald Trump summit via his love of sharing Sean Hannity clips.
Politics have infiltrated the NFL, as well. The #MeToo movement probably doesn't gain as much momentum if not for NFL players' constant involvement in domestic abuse, sexual assault and rape cases. The president turned players protesting police brutality into a hot take on respecting the military. If Broncos fans thought John Elway's evaluation of quarterbacks was questionable, they should avert their eyes from his fall election endorsements.
The most frustrating part of both entities is how complicit we all are in their success. We relentlessly bag on Roger Goodell and Mark Zuckerberg, but when fall Sundays come around or we're the slightest bit bored, the orange jerseys and cellphones come out.
I deleted Facebook off my phone — and if an account wasn't required for work, I'd wipe my existence from it entirely. I'm not sure if there's still a national De-friend Day where you go through Facebook and delete fringe friends, but we should start a Delete Facebook Day. It would give me great pleasure to watch that stock drop as, one by one, people realize their time is better spent staring out a window than at a deluge of s— memes and questionable news stories.
Facebook is one of the most popular places businesses go to for online advertising. If people no longer frequent their feeds, those ad people will go elsewhere, and hopefully it's a website that won't look the other way after a foreign power uses it to alter a presidential election.
It will be nearly impossible to get fans to stop watching the NFL, though. Fantasy football, game-day traditions and gambling will always have a place is American culture. However, the movement of foisting social responsibility onto players, coaches, management and owners is a trend that I can stand behind.
That same energy should pertain to advertisers and business partners, aka the people who empower the NFL despite the fact it continually gets scooped by TMZ when one of its players beats a woman in a hotel. NBC pulled legendary sports journalist Bob Costas from its Super Bowl coverage because he had the audacity to state facts like playing football leads to brain damage. Far be it for me to question NBC's sports coverage, but one would think a guy who uses Emmys as paperweights would make the cut.
As far as my overarching question of which is worse, Facebook or the NFL, I don't know. But I'd rather do something else than figure it out.
Sean Beckwith is a copyeditor for The Aspen Times. Reach him at email@example.com.