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RedZone Angst

“And the Panthers line up for the field goal. The kick is good… Let’s take you to Foxboro where the Patriots face a third-and-two on Buffalo’s sixteen… We’re joining Saints and Lions in progress after a Jimmy Graham catch put the Saints inside Detroit’s ten… Three game action now as we also join Philadelphia and Washington…”

The flurry of non-sequiturs isn’t some mix-tape version of NFL highlights, but a peek into the world of the NFL’s RedZone Network. And while the most pressing question associated with it is when exactly host Andrew Siciliano can run to the bathroom, the channel unsettles me.

For the uninitiated, the channel provides a CliffsNotes version of the action on an NFL Sunday. The intended goal is to make sure viewers are able to see every score of each NFL game. The channel cuts to a live feed of any game as soon as one team has the ball inside their opponent’s twenty yard line or any other scoring play.

I’ve tried to appreciate the channel for its immediate gratification and the control-center feel it lends to one’s living room. But I’m not Don Ohlemeyer and don’t need an abundance of scoring plays to present to the audience. The channel feels cheap, somewhat dirty. Why should I have the opportunity to watch a live score if I didn’t endure the seven-minute drive, two penalties, and in the torturous case of two fan bases on a weekly basis, Tony Siragusa’s ability to simultaneously chew and remind his viewership a field goal is worth three points?

RedZone makes me feel like I’ve skipped the first three chapters of a book and only check in on the storyline, the shifting motives of characters, and plot every thirty pages or so. I might as well wait for the movie to come out, or in the case of the NFL the “Year in Review” specials made about each team at the end of the season.

The goal of the network is to create Mecca for fantasy football fans. They can see all scores in succession and watch the miraculous nature of their “team.” A team cobbled together by wisdom and intuition that will make them the envy of all their imaginary friends who really do give a shit their squad of make-believe.

Bless you if you can enjoy football that way. You don’t care about some 326-pound bowling ball of a guard pulling on a counter to blowup whatever linebacker or defensive end stands in his way. You don’t care how an offensive coordinator calls plays on a longer drive. As long as the sausage is made, who cares what went into the casing?

And that’s fine. The sport and its popularity created a subset of fans many years ago from the fantasy football world. That along with the ease of betting on games (the two coincide) brings a whole different level of fans to the game and satisfies the instant gratification thirst we need to quench all the time.

I can pick up more of the game and get a better feel for its nuances and quirks if I stay with it through the duration. I don’t say that as some football snob who decries fantasy football and the culture of fans that the Redzone Channel produces, but someone who enjoys the long-form story of the game instead of clips, blips, highlights and last-second field goals in a matter of “here’s where we are” that leaves my head spinning.

The appeal of the channel is not lost on me, but I’m a football fan, not a fantasy football fan. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my teams suck on an annual basis and people whose opinions I respect on the sport champion watching line-play. That’s a tough thing to adjust to throughout the game if you’re viewership is being ping-ponged from Philadelphia to Green Bay to Denver.

The schism between the two types, football and fantasy football fans exists because the latter cares little about the journey, only the final destination. With such devotion to the RedZone Channel, might as well rip out huge chunks of any paperbacks you have on your bookcase.

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