By Colin Dunlap
It hooks you.
It grabs you.
It seizes you within its clutch and doesn’t let you escape, owning a part of your existence and making you put just about everything else down for long stretches at a time.
It’s addictive as can be with a clench as unrelenting as an ocean full of shark teeth.
Heck, it owns a whole day of the week in this country.
Yes, people, make no mistake — it sure feels like the NFL is the strongest drug in America.
That’s why it is funny to me, especially in the wake of the latest twist in the ongoing Le’Veon Bell saga, to hear from these, “I’m-done-with-the-NFL” people and the similarly-minded, “I’m-getting-sick-of-the-off-the-field-nonsense-and-might-stop-watching” people who love to ring up sports talk shows and voice an opinion.
You are going to stop watching?
I don’t believe it. I don’t believe it for one second.
I think your nose is growing.
Know why? Because you are hooked on this drug and just cannot get away from it.
Last season, CBS averaged 19.1 million viewers for its NFL telecasts, up from 18.7 viewers the season before. The knockdown, drag-out game in the AFC Wild Card round between the Steelers and Bengals where the two teams pretty much beat each other to a pulp averaged 31.2 million viewers. Last season, The NFL Today average 4 million viewers, the highest viewer average in the 18 seasons since CBS got the league back on its air.
What do all those numbers mean? The NFL isn’t going away anytime soon and, more important, you cannot look away from it. You won’t look away from it; it has you captivated.
That’s why I chuckled on Monday morning as we were going through some phone calls on The Fan Morning Show and a few people called in to vent frustration with Bell and how he’s handled his suspension as a result of a violation of the league’s substance abuse policy.
There were people who called — and tweeted — that they were done. They were finished. Kaput.
They had had enough and this was the final straw. They were insistent that off-the-field player behavior had drifted far enough from acceptable that they won’t consume the Steelers and/or the NFL product anymore.
I’m here to tell you that you will.
You can’t help yourself.
Between a couple bucks that you lay down on a game with Bernie the Bookie from Bloomfield or that fantasy team you play with the guys in the office, you can’t help yourself.
Because of a general birthright we have here in Pittsburgh to follow all things Steelers, you can’t help yourself.
Really, I just snicker when I hear those who say they are swearing themselves off the NFL. It isn’t happening. You can’t and won’t do it.
The NFL is too strong of a drug and you are enveloped too tightly in its grip to ever go cold turkey off of it.
It just isn’t happened.
You’ll keep watching.
Colin Dunlap is a featured columnist at CBSPittsburgh.com. He can also be heard weekdays from 5:40 a.m. to 10 a.m. on Sports Radio 93-7 “The Fan.” You can e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out his bio here.