Editorial: We’re ready for some football

Thursday, September 07, 2017

It’s officially football season. Tonight, the New England Patriots will unveil the team’s fifth Super Bowl banner before taking the field against the Kansas City Chiefs.

America could use a little fun, so let the games begin.

Like the world it inhabits, football has its share of problems. The more we learn about the long-term effects of concussions on NFL players, the more difficult it is to cheer the vicious hits that are so much a part of the sport. The apparent blackballing of controversial quarterback Colin Kaepernick hurts even more because of the state of race relations in the United States. And the problem of players committing acts of domestic violence, and the way the league handles it, persists.

The problems outside of the football world are greater. Houston is just beginning the long recovery from Hurricane Harvey, and Florida is bracing for a new threat in Hurricane Irma. Kim Jong Un continues to play nuclear chicken with the United States and the world. Donald Trump is still president, doing Donald Trump things. And those are just the above-the-fold headlines.

But tonight, for a few hours, the Patriot fan’s world is reduced to X’s and O’s, touchdowns and tackles, heroes and GOATs. (For the acronym-challenged, that’s “Greatest Of All Time” quarterback Tom Brady and head coach Bill Belichick.) Tonight, for a few hours, politics takes a backseat to a glorious confrontation on the Foxborough gridiron.

As much as we believe it’s important for people to stay engaged in local, national and world events, moments of escape are necessary, too. The simple act of watching a sporting event, and cheering (or suffering) along with people who may not share your politics, economic status, race, gender or religion, creates a bit of harmony – and that’s no small feat these days. Tonight, for a few hours, this increasingly chaotic world will have the appearance of order: two teams, four quarters of 15 minutes each and the team with the most points when the clock runs out wins.

The Patriots game also comes at time of embarrassment for another beloved area franchise. We learned on Tuesday that the New York Yankees have accused the Boston Red Sox of stealing catchers’ signs and relaying the information to hitters with the help of a trainer’s Apple Watch. This game within the game – that is, decoding a catcher’s signals so hitters don’t have to guess what pitch a pitcher plans to throw – has long been part of baseball and isn’t against the rules. What is against the rules is using technology to more quickly disseminate the pilfered information. The Red Sox have admitted to the transgression but made a counter-accusation that the Yankees use a YES Network camera to spy on the opposition, a claim the Yankees deny.

There are plenty of Yankee fans who are fuming and calling for the Red Sox to essentially forfeit the season. Our advice to them is, lighten up. As Ken Davidoff wrote in the New York Post (hardly a Sox-friendly publication) on Wednesday, “Let’s establish, first of all, that this is both good for baseball and hilarious at a time when our country could benefit from frivolity.”

He also said, and we agree, that the Sox should be punished – if for no other reason than they were sloppy enough to get caught. His suggestion – a $500,000 fine and the forfeiture of a 10th round draft pick – sounds about right. The Sox, like every other team, will still try to steal signs, but the penalty should be incentive enough to get better at it.

We’re looking forward to seeing what the Sox do – covertly and otherwise – during the final stretch of the regular season. And we’re really looking forward to seeing whether this Patriots team is as good as the football experts think it is.

Tonight, for a few hours, the world will be a game – and that’s not a bad thing.