Why I Hate The Red Zone: This Football Wife and Mom Just Wants to Watch the Game

So I remarried a football fan.

No problem, I thought, when we first got together. I like football! I enjoy having the games on TV in the house. It reminds me of how I grew up. The Giants games were usually on, my dad ensconced on the couch, occasionally looking up from his pile of work at the sound of sportscasters getting super excited. We would all gather around, cheering at the occasional touchdown, and then going about our business. When the game ended, my dad just switched the channel over to the news. Game over.

Check out the helmets!

My first marriage brought similar football habits. But first, I converted to being a Broncos fan. That was easy, mostly because I really like the color orange. So all good there. My kids became such huge Broncos fans, though, that my son still has a Broncos shower curtain. We watched the Broncos when the games were broadcast in New York and when they weren’t, we didn’t think about football.

When I got divorced, I had a moment of spiritual angst: did I have to divorce the Broncos too? Could I still sleep in my favorite Broncos t-shirt and wear my Broncos hat or did I have to go skulking back to the Giants the way I’d reclaimed my hastily discarded maiden name?

My favorite Broncos shirt. I can’t part with it.

Luckily, when my new husband, Kyle, came on the scene, I realized he was a Broncos fan too. He also liked the Giants. And the Rams. Actually, I soon realized, he loved all the teams. All the time. And the college teams. At least it wasn’t hockey.

My husband at age 5. Go Giants.

The first time Kyle turned on the Red Zone, I couldn’t believe the channel even existed. What?! A whole channel that only shows what happens near the end zone? A channel that jumps from game to game so quickly that as soon as I figured out which teams were even playing, a new game was on. It was like listening to the radio when it was stuck on search: you might like a song, but two seconds later, it was on to another station, then another.

How could anyone focus on this? What about the whole experience of watching the game together, getting up during commercials, wading through the boring stretches when nothing happened to talk or work or eat or whatever? That’s part of what made the touchdowns and field goals so exciting: the fact that they were unpredictable, sporadic and hugely celebrated moments. I could go from lounging on the couch, picking the blue M&Ms out of the bag and chatting casually about what to order in for dinner, and then the next minute, bam! I’m on my feet, watching the athletes sprint to the end zone, cheering them on, high five-ing everyone in the room to celebrate this long-awaited moment of collective ecstasy, the cheering bonding us all together, making the endless drives and fumbles and interceptions worth it.

His lucky game ball.

The Red Zone changed that whole equation. It’s always exciting. There is no one team to root for through thick and thin. You could conceivably spend six straight hours on your feet cheering for that final rush. It’s like manufactured excitement. The Dolphins one minute. The Panthers the next. Wait, now the Bears? Sorry, where are the Chargers from again? Come on, I can’t keep up! I feel like the Red Zone is responsible for the rise of ADHD in America. Certainly in me. And come on, how many times a day can we analyze whether the guy’s foot was over the line or not. Did he have control? I don’t know, honey, did he have control? What do you think? Ahhh!!!! This is why NFL viewership is down 9% this year. 150 million fewer viewers of actual games. Forget the protests: it’s the Red Zone killing the league!

Kyle at the Rams game in sunny CA.

But when I try to gently suggest not watching the Red Zone, my husband says no way.

“Come on, I don’t want to just watch one game,” he says. “I want to see all the games.”

Kyle is the kind of guy who can tell you every player’s name on every team, which team played in the Super Bowl in 1987 and which number draft pick that middle linebacker on the Bengals was. He picks which college players will become the next Tom Brady. (Chosen Rosen, I’m watching you.) We have football helmets in our den organized by AFC vs. NFC and then, each row by some other important division. He is currently freezing in ten degree weather at the last Giants game of the year. Possibly Eli’s last game! How could he not go?! And I’m cozy, ensconced on the couch with the Giants game on, glancing up from my laptop when the announcers get excited about something, just like my dad.

Kyle and his best friend in 11 degree weather today at the Giants game.

Yeah, I get it. It’d be nice to simultaneously watch 57 episodes of “Downtown Abbey” always at the most exciting moments of the show. (“What? Matthew died!!”) But that’s not how entertainment is supposed to work. Like life, you’re supposed to suffer through the highs and lows. You’re supposed to have to wait patiently until something exciting happens. It would be like watching the “Golden Globes” in 17 minutes, just one award announcement after another, boom boom boom, without hanging in there for the death montage or costume design honors. That’s what makes the big awards at the end of the five hours so nail-biting. Will there soon be an Award Zone channel that only shows people accepting their Oscars, Grammys and Country Music statuettes without the rest of the show? (Uh, actually, if anyone wants to do that, call me: I get a 50% stake in the business.)

My son now wants to watch the Red Zone with my husband on Sundays. No way. Pick a game you want to watch, I tell him, and slog through it. Watch the commercials. Chat through the boring parts. Eat some blue M&Ms. Stand up and cheer at the touchdowns. Stick through it for a whole game. That’s life. It’s not always fun and exciting every moment, but that’s what makes the special moments that much better.

Red Zone: I’m turning you off. Game over.

Kyle’s baby gift. How could he not be a football fan?