NFL Season Opens as World Burns

Last night in the opening National Football League bore-fest, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 in front of a standing room only crowd of 62,435 at Soldier Field in Chicago, who were, no doubt, very tired when the game ended.

What does this have to do with climate anything?

I suppose we could add up all the carbon expended by the cars that drove, the lights that shone and the hot dogs consumed but everyone gets that. Putting a number on it engenders a yawn.

No, for me, the NFL season-opener, with a packed house and a national TV audience is indicative to me that ordinary life will, of course, continue until it can’t.

The Amazon, Central Africa and the Arctic are still burning. Just because the news editors got bored with the story doesn’t mean the disaster stopped. It’s just that here in the US, we have a sexier disaster occupying our screens – Hurricane Dorian (Dorian? What’s next, Hurricane Hortense?) which was most likely turbocharged by climate warming although if you missed CNN’s 60 seconds with Dr. Michael Mann you probably didn’t know that.

India and Africa continue to run out of water. The permafrost continues to melt, and methane continues to reach Heavenward to hasten our demise.

But the NFL Will Go On. (yes, go ahead and sing it in your best Celine Dion accent)

I’ve been a football (US version) fan all my life. The present-day NFL only dimly resembles the game I remember as a kid in the 70s, but I still watch, out of habit (and rooting for the Steelers) more than anything. I used to live and die with the results, especially of my hometown Cleveland Browns when I was growing up, but when my adopted Pittsburgh Steelers lose, I feel about five minutes of disappointment, shrug, and see whose on Twitter.

That’s a good thing I guess. I would chalk it up to maturity, but I think it’s more likely the dulling of the senses from anti-deps that have done the job. I stare at the TV when Trump is on. In my head things happen (very bad things) but I don’t move. I look at my laptop screen – same thing. I stare at things, I disassociate, I have that dumb thousand-mile stare so many Americans have.

I know what is happening with the Sixth Mass Extinction. I know what is happening right now all over the world. And yet, there it is: football on TV just like last year and the year before and the decade before and so on. In fact, the NFL celebrates 100 years of existence this year. I know it won’t go another 100 years, but it’s here again.

It’s reassuring. To me, to millions of Americans. The NFL only cancelled two weekends of football ever – 9-11 and JFK’s assassination. And Commissioner Pete Rozelle always regretted his decision of 1963 – the nation needed football to heal, he said.

What might be the first sign in NFL-land and in fandom, that something was amiss?

Lightning shows ARE becoming more common at football stadiums.

Well, flooding could halt games at the stadiums close to the water. The perfect candidate would be TIAA Bank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The stadium sits about 500 feet from the St. Johns River which runs to the Atlantic. However, being Jacksonville, the rest of the league may not notice it. Levi’s Stadium, home of the ‘Santa Clara’ 49ers, sits one foot above sea level.

Perhaps, and just as likely, it might get so hot at the University of Phoenix stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play, that, despite the roof, electrical circuits could fry, and one might risk heat stroke just walking from the blazing parking lot.

It might get too hot to play in many open-air stadiums – Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, many others.

But I would say that unless and until fans start routinely seeing games rescheduled because of weather-related events, most Americans will sit comfortably in their chairs and dream of Super Bowls. Baseball won’t count since it’s played in the summer. But the NFL, the acknowledged number one sport in the USA, start turning out the lights there (power outages would do it too) and people will finally sit up and take notice.

They’ll be mad as Hell, but they’ll take notice. Of course, it will be way too late at that point to do anything about it.

Of course, it’s sad. Sad that until the entertainment is interrupted most Americans won’t care. But as long as all of the usual distractions go on while the rest of the world burns and floods, this is the way it will be.

And when we reach that point in time in America, all Hell will break loose.

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