Americans are reeling from a shocking discovery about the NFL. After the second season of disrespecting the flag, accusing average Americans of racism and imagining that team unity is more important than national unity, Americans have discovered yet another shocking secret:

The NFL doesn’t matter.

This weekend, all across America, hot dogs and burgers were still grilled. Ice-cold beers and ice tea were drunk without the aid of play-by-play announcers. We talked and argued with each other without need of slow-mo replays. We found we don’t all have to line up at the bathroom during half-time.

Many Americans discovered that colleges besides Alabama have football programs. Bama fans remain unconvinced.

All in all, we made it just fine. As it turns out – the NFL is entertainment. Who knew?

Certainly, no one who watches the bios and videos of player’s amazing accomplishments. They are characterized as brave and superhuman. Their back stories are heart-rending and heroic. Their theme music is regal. We are left with the inescapable impression that they represent the highest and best of humanity.

They make us feel good about ourselves, which helps us overlook the smaller headlines that reveal these are some of the most highly-paid, spoiled, obnoxious, violent, immoral demi-gods ever video-edited into existence. We let random players get away with it because we assume there’s always one bad superhero in every comic book.

But Sunday

Sunday changed things. Players and owners formed up lines, not against each other, but against us. Before our eyes our heroes turned petty.

The one true hero of the day says he’s not a hero. Decorated veteran Alejandro Villanueva, a West Point graduate, gave up his shot at the NFL because he said, “I just couldn’t stand by on the sidelines and watch other people do the work.” The now-retired Army Ranger officer and paratrooper stood outside the tunnel where his team hid as he sang the national anthem with his hand over his heart.

He was rebuked by his coach for destroying team unity, as if that were a thing in the mercenary world of professional sports.

This actual hero was made to feel sorry and later apologized, which was not out of character. He also apologized for not saving the life of one of the three wounded soldiers he rescued from a village in Kandahar under enemy fire, for which he received the Bronze Star. He felt responsible for not keeping a soldier under his command safe, even in battle.

The Howling Cry

They inform us that the players have the right to protest.

But, as it turns out, all NFL players sign a contract and can no more turn the workplace into a political event than a Walmart cashier can protest by refusing to check out your groceries and hope to keep their jobs. Players have even been fined and fired for actions that happened off the field.

But we don’t need such explanations. It’s all too clear here in the real world. A world filled with heroes.

We are suddenly seeing Facebook posts of marines dumping team jerseys into toilets. Season ticket holders are burning their passes. Congressmen are urging withdrawal of federal support. States are reviewing the NFL’s millions of dollars in tax breaks.

Wait! Uber-rich, elite team owners aren’t paying taxes while we are? For the sake of a little entertainment?

The Cost

Meanwhile, last year the NFL celebrated their vaunted Super Bowl 50 achievement with a ring holding 212 diamonds. Typically, teams spend more than $5,000,000 on the commemorative rings.

No one knows how much last year’s monster cost since they have not published the information. But here’s one thing we do know.

In 2004, The Washington Times requested the information about the Congressional Medal of Honor, given for exceptional combat gallantry in wartime. The Times wanted to know if it was made of gold. Instead, they were told it is mostly a brass alloy.

The typical cost of the medal is $29.98, plus the life of the recipient.