Is my love affair with the NFL over?

If you read the headline to this post, it looks an awful lot like clickbait. Is my love affair with the NFL over? Click this to find out if it is!

But I’m actually asking the question because I honestly don’t know: Am I heading toward a breakup with the NFL?

The signs are definitely concerning. Sunday was the first time all season I’ve been at home and had a chance to watch the games, since I’m normally on the road at a NASCAR race somewhere.

And yet…I didn’t watch a minute of football on Sunday. Not one. I don’t really have a firm reason why, either.

Before you ask — no, it’s not because of the anthem protests. That has nothing to do with it. And it’s not because I’ve somehow reached a tipping point with CTE/concussions.

But it’s sort of alarming how fast it’s happened, and so I’m trying to figure out why. Football used to be my favorite sport — even above racing. I’ve seen games in 24 of the current NFL stadiums as a fan (my goal was once to see a game in every stadium) and I used to obsess over all things NFL.

Suddenly, though, I just don’t have the same passion for it. Why is that? What happened?

A few theories:

— I cut the cord and no longer have the Red Zone Channel. Now that I watch TV through the DirecTV Now app on my Apple TV, I don’t have access to Red Zone. Maybe I got spoiled by Red Zone, because that’s how I would consume games 90 percent of the time when I had a Sunday at home in recent years. Red Zone had no commercials, the action was constant and it kept things entertaining. Now that I can’t see it, it’s hard to get invested in a normal, three-hour game. Expecting me to sit there and just watch Jets-Chiefs straight through is asking too much.

— I stopped playing fantasy football. I used to run a fantasy football league up until last season, but it got to be too much of a time suck. And since I was on the road at NASCAR races and couldn’t watch the games anyway, I ultimately decided not to play fantasy football. And WOW, does that change things! When I don’t have a player in the Thursday night game or Monday night game or whenever, it removes so much of the reason to watch. And I know there’s always DraftKings, but even that seems pointless without Red Zone or Sunday Ticket.

— My team blows. I’m a huge Denver Broncos fan — that’s the team I care about the most in all of sports — and they suck this year. They’re completely out of it. So there’s no reason to try and find their games on TV or make an effort to follow the AFC West division race, which normally might have kept me interested on a Sunday.

In general, teams aren’t greatAs much as I love parity, it doesn’t make for attractive viewing. After Sunday, 14 teams are within one game of being .500. That’s nearly half the league being incredibly average. And a lot of the “good” teams this year are recently good, which makes it harder to have any feeling toward them. For example: The L.A. Rams are somehow 9-3 and the Vikings are 10-2 (I have no idea how that happened because I haven’t followed it much). A game between a 9-3 team and 10-2 team would normally sound quite interesting — but if they played next week, I probably wouldn’t watch. I’m sorry, but I just don’t really care at the moment.

Check back with me when the playoffs start and I’ll probably care more. Otherwise, there are a lot of other things to do on a Sunday — even if the weather isn’t nice outside — and the NFL just doesn’t have my attention right now for whatever reason.

This all is very surprising to me, because there’s no particular reason I’d suddenly lose the passion for what was my favorite sport. I just don’t feel the NFL is giving me a reason to consume its content. I haven’t been checking scores, watching highlights or following the standings much. I see people make reference to the games on Twitter and post GIFs, but that’s about it.

I’m not bragging about this, because it’s not like I’m happy about it. I’d like to get invested in NFL Sundays again. But the more I think about it, I’m not sure I really miss it.

How to enjoy your favorite sport when it feels like no one else is

I’ve been feeling a little down about NASCAR today.

The crowds at Richmond International Raceway last weekend were, quite frankly, terrible. There probably weren’t more than 5,000 people in attendance for the Xfinity race, and the local newspaper estimated the Cup crowd at 30,000 — tops.

Then come the TV ratings, which were down once again. They’re always down, it seems.

And what’s scary for everyone is NASCAR hasn’t even hit the bottom yet. Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s impending retirement is certainly going to make the numbers look even worse in 2018.

So if you love NASCAR — and especially if you’ve loved it since before everything seemed to be trending downward — it’s all really depressing at times. And that’s not supposed to happen with something you voluntarily follow for enjoyment.

The question is: As a fan, what do you do?

The closest I can come to answering this question is to use one of the things I’m most passionate about: Electronic dance music, or EDM.

In Oct. 2015, there was an article from Forbes titled: “The $6.9 Billion Bubble? Inside The Uncertain Future Of EDM.”

The story had some of the same themes we hear about in NASCAR. “Once a fast-growing industry, EDM’s build up has slowed considerably as the market matures,” the story said.

I remember that was the first I’d heard of any potential downturn in dance music, and it honestly pissed me off. I thought, Screw you! I still like it! And I don’t care if other people don’t like it!

The truth is, I’m still going to enjoy the music no matter how many other people like it. And my sense is most of you feel the same about NASCAR.

When you hear about the TV ratings and the attendance and people leaving the sport, you sort of shrug: Oh well, their loss. Unlike your favorite TV show that loses viewers, NASCAR isn’t in danger of being canceled. The fact IndyCar still exists (it pulled in a 0.27 rating this weekend!!!) shows NASCAR can go on in some form indefinitely.

At the same time, NASCAR can’t sustain itself as a major sport if things keep heading this direction. The concern from people in the industry — drivers, NASCAR executives, sponsors, teams and media — is palpable, and I can assure you it’s the subject of many private conversations.

Those conversations end up becoming part of the public dialogue, because people who work in NASCAR generally love racing and want to improve it. Everyone wants to figure out what will stop the bleeding. They want to ask you, the fans, what you want.

The irony is a lot of you just want to stop talking about it. You want to get back to enjoying racing again, not spending time being frustrated about every little thing that happens.

Sure, you have opinions on what would make the sport better, but you watch NASCAR because it’s entertainment. It’s an escape from the many problems of the real world, and it’s no fun to have your remaining spirit drained by the very thing you love.

People in the NASCAR world are scrambling and scratching their heads, trying to figure out where to go from here. I want to make it better, too, and I’m not going to stop writing about possible solutions.

But that doesn’t mean you as a fan have to get sucked into the negative energy. You follow NASCAR because you love it, not because you have the answers to save it. If you don’t want to participate in all the hand-wringing, then don’t let it ruin a good thing for you.

My advice? Put your scanner headphones on, block out the noise and smile. It’s only five days until race day.