Colin Kaepernick flummoxed the NFL in a way that it had never been flummoxed before when he protested the national anthem last season.
Kaepernick got an NFL franchise one in a cartel of businesses that uphold themselves as beacons of Spartan egalitarianism, guided by Football Reasons to make a personnel decision by Clap-o-Meter.
That was the NFL, making fistfuls of money while, more and more, getting players to capitulate to owners and selling a product that has, for a couple decades, been boring and basic and largely what you expected when you flipped on the TV.
Last season, Kaepernick was the biggest story of an NFL season in which football was a side show in America.
The football was the same as always; in fact slightly better by one metric: It featured the most regular season games decided by seven points or fewer in NFL history.
We’re entering a season in which, for the first time in a very long time (ever?) it feels as if players have shaped the league in their image more than owners have shaped it in theirs, even if only slightly.
An NFL that actually lets players be people isn’t that farfetched.
NFL teams like the Seahawks, Falcons, Colts, and 49ers have all begun embracing newfangled things mindfulness training and the idea that individual mental clarity can be a means towards achieving team goals.
A league that knows that it can have fun and engage its players as individuals along the way towards completing its very important business seems new and good.
Oh, the Jets, Browns, Jaguars, 49ers, Rams, and company will make sure there’s still putrid football to watch (I mean, look at this), but the assumption that players will stoop to the NFL’s stodgy, outmoded way of things forever, I think, is wrong.