D.L. Stewart web exclusive: the NFL or PBS?

With no dawg in any of the previous Super Bowl fights, I always have had trouble generating a rooting interest in the game. Some years I just give up and spend the evening watching PBS.

But this year is tougher than most.

On the one coast there are the Seattle Seahawks, with a running back named Marshawn Lynch, whose job it is to eat up yardage and spit out touchdowns. Like most professional touchdown scorers, he is in the habit of publicly expressing his adoration for himself by celebrating his accomplishments with an end zone performance. In Lynch’s case, a recent celebration involved grabbing what is euphemistically known as his “groin.”

For previous acts of groin-grabbing the NFL fined Lynch $20,000, an amount he probably could come up with by checking for loose change between his couch cushions. But if he grabs his groin on Sunday — during the game that is — the league has threatened to penalize his team 15 yards. If Seattle is flagged for 15 yards in a close game, his coach and teammates would be plenty upset. If they’re leading by 30 or so points, they probably won’t mind at all.

I really don’t care to watch groin-grabbing while I dip into my guacamole, so maybe I should root for the New England Patriots, even though that Deflategate thing has become the most tediously overblown “scandal” since Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl fallout.

But the Patriots have a defensive back named Brandon Browner, whose job it is to prevent players such as Marshawn Lynch from having the opportunity to grab their groins. In an interview with ESPN, Browner was quizzed about playing against two Seattle players, one of whom injured his shoulder and the other of whom injured his elbow in their last game. He replied that he would specifically target those injured areas and would encourage his teammates to do the same.

“I’m gonna tell my teammates, ‘Go hit that elbow. Go hit that shoulder. Most definitely. Try to break it if you can,’ ” he declared.

Whatever else it may be, pro football isn’t just a game. It’s not high school kids being taught the values of clean living and teamwork. It’s not college players trying to win one for the Gipper. It’s grown men, competing for fame and fortune; earning a living so they can put a roof over their mansions and caviar on their tables. Still, intentionally trying to hurt a competitor is repulsive and drags football down to the level of boxing.

So those are my choices. A team with a groin-grabber against a team with a bone-breaker.

The good news is that there’s a new episode of “Downton Abbey” scheduled for Sunday on PBS.

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