- - Monday, October 9, 2017

The reality is, plenty of folks could use less football in their lives.

The same energy, passion and devotion they generate for the NFL could be used elsewhere, for more meaningful matters like family and community. If real-life issues rose to the same level of importance as football for some people, the world would be a much better place.

Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an NFL game Sunday.

Good for him!

I’m sure he had more pressing business that required his attention. He shouldn’t have been there in the first place, considering he flew from Nevada to Indianapolis for the game, only to fly back west to California. That was a waste in more ways than one; he knew he was exiting after the national anthem and the Los Angeles Rams played at home the same day. He could’ve saved a lot of time and money.

Football fans in L.A. are doing Pence one better. Instead of leaving before kickoff, they’re not showing up at all. A combined 81,993 attended home games for the Rams and Chargers in Week 2. That was less than the USC Trojans drew a day earlier — 84,714 — for their tilt with the Texas Longhorns.

Giving up the entire weekend for gridiron battles clearly was too much to ask. Angelenos made the responsible decision, rooting for college kids instead of the carpetbagging pros, which left Sunday free for housework, reading, or quality time in places more intimate than the Los Angeles Coliseum and StubHub Center.

L.A. is a perfect case study for life without attending NFL games. Residents of the nation’s second-largest city somehow managed to thrive despite not having a franchise for two decades. They went to the beach, played golf, or watched the best possible slate of TV games, unencumbered by mandatory broadcasts of a home team.

Speaking of broadcasts, TV viewership is an ongoing concern for the league. Again, that’s a good thing.

Regular season TV ratings fell by about 8 percent from 2015 to last year and continue to be off this season. People simply aren’t tuning in like they used to. But as Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic noted recently in the Los Angeles Times, “sitting is more dangerous than smoking, kills more people than HIV and is more treacherous than parachuting. We are sitting ourselves to death.”

In other words, NFL Sundays spent on the couch are bad for your health!

A well-balanced life is a mixture of work and play, education and entertainment, rest and relaxation. Sports can play a part, just like movies, plays, TV, festivals, libraries, concerts, etc. Putting too much emphasis on one facet of life while neglecting others can be harmful to your self-development and interpersonal relations.

Football produces some of the biggest culprits, who elevate the NFL to near-religion on a day set aside for worship.

Roger Goodell and team owners don’t want to hear this, but perhaps the nation would benefit from taking a step back. The reason doesn’t matter, even if it’s as irrational as opposition to protests during the national anthem.

Knees and raised fists have no bearing on 60 minutes of running and tackling, but, whatever.

Most folks I know who are boycotting don’t have anything against the players. On the contrary, they turned away because the NFL blackballed Colin Kaepernick. He tried to show his respect, after conferring with a veteran, by kneeling instead of sitting during the anthem. But the change of posture didn’t improve his position, leaving him out of the league without justification.

Me? I’d likely watch less NFL this season, too … if not for … you know … the mortgage and two kids in college.

The point is it’s OK to turn the channel or go someplace besides a stadium on NFL gamedays. Even if some of the outrage is based on a manufactured culture war —fueled by crude dog whistles appealing to base impulses — there are productive options for spending that time.

Learning more about the protesters’ reasoning is a great place to start. But some people disagree.

“While everyone is entitled to their own opinions, I don’t think it’s too much to ask NFL players to respect the Flag and our National Anthem.” Pence said in a statement.

I don’t think it’s asking too much to realize that the flag and national anthem are incidental expenses. The biggest charge refers to the nation’s supposed ideals of liberty and justice for all.

If getting that part right damages the NFL and its $14 billion-dollar industry, so be it.

Our society’s well-being is worth far more than football.

Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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