Just as I typed that title I got a new notification about the Cowboys’ kneeling status for the national anthem on Monday Night Football. Instead of a notification about injury updates or fantasy football last-second tips, I am seeing another team kneeling, or not kneeling, or locking arms, or whatever during the national anthem.

Of course I have my own opinions about the protests but I’m not here to ruin the best part about sports and Sundays. I am here to beg and plead for football Sundays to return. It’s a tense political atmosphere right now. Most people don’t feel comfortable voicing their political opinion in public, or to friends, because they are afraid of backlash from one party or another.

There is a lot going on in the world. There are a lot of opinions and more places than ever to find and put those opinions.

But football is the one place where everyone can come together and root for their team. Sure, you have the opposing side just like in politics, but no-matter how much you like your favorite team and hate your rival, their fans are often your friends, family, and coworkers. Throwing jabs about the opposing QB or touting the superior brain-power of your team’s coach compared to your buddy/girlfriend/brother/sister’s coach is fun and innocent. It gets those primal competitive juices flowing in a healthy way.

25-30 years ago, a new wrinkle was becoming popular. A statistic-heavy game where you focused on player stats, no-matter the team affiliation, was starting to gain real momentum. This game called fantasy football was giving football fans reason to watch other NFL Teams beyond their own. Fantasy football would blow up with the rise of the internet and mobile devices, while spring-boarding the NFL into atmospheres once never expected or imagined by NFL Owners, coaches, players, and fans.

Football on Sundays was quickly becoming America’s new favorite pastime. The action and violence was unmatched. The head-game between coaches was palpable. It is an easy game to understand but a difficult game to master.

I am 28 and haven’t lived in a world where fantasy football and Vikings’ Sundays weren’t practiced like a religion. Luckily for my Dad, church was offered on Saturday evenings and early Sunday mornings, allowing him to get home, make sure his lineup was set, and food/party details were taken care of before people started arriving from 11-Noon. The Vikings were always the #1. Everyone’s Fantasy football team took a backseat to the Vikings’ success.

The conversation rarely ever parted from football. Between fantasy experts giving advice both on the TV and in the living room, and conversation on whether the Vikings offense could carry the defense or vise versa depending on the decade, there was no time for anything else. No matter how animated my uncle John was about how bad the Vikings were, or how early my Dad left because the team was losing late and he couldn’t handle watching any longer, we had fun.

And the good times….. oh the good times are what grew your love for the game every Sunday. The feelings of joy you get, as a real fan of an NFL Team when success is experienced, is unmatched. It starts when everyone in the room slowly raises off their seat. Daunte Culpepper just released that beautiful, spiraling deep ball as it barrels toward the Metrodome ceiling before gravity pulls it down toward a sprinting Randy Moss. Adrian Peterson just busted through his offensive line and approaches that safety that stands between him and the end zone. Time doesn’t stop but it definitely stalls and slows as you watch and wait for what happens next.

Then, when the ball finally shifts angles and falls softly into its target’s arms or that safety is run over and nothing but open air stands between your favorite Viking and the end zone, you turn into the guy at the horse track that just bet his house on the race-leader. You scream at the TV as if your yelling can will him to run faster. When the play is over and the points are on the board, pure joy is realized. If you haven’t jumped into another person’s arms, connected with extremely aggressive high-fives, or screamed for joy at a TV, then I question why you are reading this…

Football is that escape to so many.

But this week, Sunday football wasn’t about football. It wasn’t about matchups. It wasn’t about fantasy football. It wasn’t about my favorite team vs. your favorite team.

Sure, it was all still there. The games were played. Nobody was injured by protests. Life will go on.

But, today I turned on my favorite twin-cities sports station during 3 different shows and landed on kneeling and national anthem protests every time. My phone alerts weren’t about a big-time Vikings victory or Dalvin Cook blowing up the fantasy world on both of my teams. Nope. I got a list of who kneeled and who didn’t…

So here I am. I believe I stand with the average NFL fan. I am pleading with NFL owners and players. I plead with the media outlets that carry sports both nationally and regionally. I plead with the President of the United States.

Please give us our Sundays back.

I know politics have been a part of sports for a long time. They have been sprinkled in. But today, things are so divisive and there are so many outlets and so many ways to voice your opinion. Is there an outlet that will be a better platform for your cause? Because this platform has much, much, much more awareness on who and when people are kneeling, not what they are kneeling for.

And media outlets, can I get the football talk and notifications back? I miss those.

And President Trump, can you leave the NFL alone? They didn’t want you when you wanted to own a team and they obviously don’t want you opinion now.

Again, I’m not mad at those who are protesting. The first amendment is a beautiful thing and what this country was founded on. I’m also not a left-winged Trump hater.

This is me pleading for my football Sundays back. In a political climate where it is near-impossible to escape, please give America its greatest escape back. I don’t care how it happens. I don’t care who wins the political argument.

I just want football to revolve around football again.

Please.

Eric Strack
Minnesota Sports Fan @RealMNSportsFan