Over the years, the NFL has undergone many changes that have caused some fans to stop watching the game.
Whether it be the over-the-top political activism or rule changes that have completely altered the game, many aren’t happy with today’s NFL.
And that includes this NFL legend who says today’s NFL is simply “hard to watch.”
Love him or hate him, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis was one of the greatest defensive players in NFL history.
His love and passion for football fueled an incredible 17-year-career in which he won two Super Bowls, was a two-time NFL Defensive Player Of The Year, 10-time All-Pro, 13-time Pro Bowler, and was named to the NFL’s 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.
Needless to say, he was one of the greatest to ever play the game, and knows a thing or two about good football.
But Lewis recently revealed that he had to turn off this year’s Super Bowl, mainly because today’s game is just too “hard to watch.”
“I can’t watch it,” Lewis said of the Super Bowl. “I’ve seen this before; I don’t want to watch this.”
Lewis was referring to the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs were flagged eight times in the first half by the officials, all because the NFL has changed their rules to benefit the offense and take away what made the game great in the first place.
“It’s a league that makes it hard to watch from a defensive player,” Lewis admitted. “The art of why the game started, you know, tackling, you know, the big hit, the change in the course of a game, changing the way players from the offensive side think about the defensive side when you got to attack Dick Butkus or Mike Singletary.”
Lewis said he believes most fans share his view of today’s game, and also believes the only thing keeping most engaged in today’s NFL is fantasy football and gambling.
“You can’t go nowhere and that’s not the conversation,” Lewis said. “The only thing to me . . . that’s saving the game or making the game, you know, the ratings, so high is fantasy, right? The gambling.”
When Lewis retired, he was the final member of the Ravens inaugural 1996 team still with the franchise 17-years later, which is a level of loyalty to a team and city he believes is missing from today’s game as well.
“Like there’s no loyalty in sports,” Lewis said. “The game used to be about loyalty. If you’re a Ravens fan, you’re a Ravens fan.”
He also believes that players today don’t understand what type of legacy can be built through loyalty, and that they allow small issues to ruin their relationship with management and force them to bounce around the league.
“When you think about Baltimore when you think about the city, you think about one person. That’s the legacy,” Lewis said. “I don’t think [the players] even think that far. Sometimes I think they get mad at management, and they get mad at owners and they just want to do it their way. And it’s like, well, I want out and I get it. I get it.”
“And I could have said that you know, we went three, four years, you know, without having a winning season,” Lewis continued. “But, I wouldn’t leave my city because I wanted to walk on the other side of that when the game was over . . . But, you know, maybe I’m a unicorn, one of the last ones.”
It’s hard to argue with any of the points Lewis has made.
The NFL has all but removed the defensive element of the game, opting instead to produce high scoring offensive shootouts that do seem more geared towards fantasy football and sports betting.
On the one hand, it’s produced exciting offensive football, but on the other, there aren’t many of the same great defensive playmakers who could change the tone of a game with one hit.
Furthermore, we’ve seen firsthand this off-season with numerous top players in today’s NFL that getting their “way” is far more important than building a legacy or loyalty.
Fans can’t have the same lifelong connection to a player like many Baltimore fans have to a Ray Lewis.
The game has changed mostly for the worst, and the ratings are starting to show that as more and more Americans choose to not watch the NFL any longer.
And if the NFL wants to reverse that trend anytime soon, they’d be wise to listen to the fans, and guys like Ray Lewis.
Sports with Balls will keep you up-to-date on any developments to this ongoing story.