Sunday is Day 75 of the NFL lockout. If you don't care or you forgot about it because you're having fun Down the Shore or you're busy living life, that apparently makes you a terrible person. It might even mean you're anti-American or a terrorist or a thug looking to rob an unsuspecting rube.

You might think that's madness. I think it's madness, too. There are people, however, who evidently believe it, and some of them have even managed to say it on camera with a straight face or write it down without adding, Nah, just kidding, that's madness.

The NFL has always taken itself seriously. It's big business, and that's what big businesses do. But the lockout has somehow overinflated the sport's already bloated sense of self-worth. During the labor dispute, the NFL has morphed from America's favorite league to something - according to the hyperbole - that's the most important anything in the history of everything.

I'm waiting for Harold Camping to predict that if the NFL doesn't return, the rapture will go down in September. Pretty sure that's next.

In the interim, plenty of other ostensibly reasonable people have been more than willing to raise the crazy quotient in the absence of offseason football. Who knew that workouts in shorts and helmets were directly linked to rational thought?

Most recently, Ray Lewis - you may remember him from such public productions as Baltimore Ravens football games and "I didn't stab anyone" court appearances - went on ESPN to implore the NFL and the players to come to an agreement because, he said, the lockout affects "way more" than owners and athletes.

"Do this research," Lewis said. "If we don't have a season - watch how much evil, which we call 'crime,' watch how much crime picks up, if you take away our game. . . . There's too many people that live through us - people live through us. Yeah, walk in the streets the way I walk the streets, and I'm not talking about the people you see all the time."

According to FBI reports, crime tends to drop in September. Lewis no doubt believes that's because the evil love to tailgate on Sundays, and if anything can get criminals to come together it has to be fantasy football. Still, the FBI reports point to more crime in the summer because the days are longer, the weather is better, and schools are out. Seems like specious reasoning. They're the country's top cops, but if they knew what they were talking about, wouldn't they be on SportsCenter?

Either way, linking football to crime prevention is fairly benign compared to those who think the NFL has something to do with acts of terrorism and/or patriotism. NBC's ProFootballTalk.com ran this headline not long ago: "Bin Laden's death could raise stakes in the lockout." From the piece:

"The finality that has come from the completion of the protracted mission to capture or kill bin Laden makes it even more important that the NFL properly commemorate the 10th anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history. . . . With bin Laden gone, September 11, 2011, will have an even more powerful impact on our country, and the sense of indignity to the American people resulting from a lockout that wipes out the 9/11 games will escalate."

ProFootballTalk.com's non sequiturs and loops of difficult-to-follow logic were traced by ESPN reporter Sal Paolantonio. He sent this e-mail to ESPN Radio's Mike & Mike in the Morning, and it was read on air:

"Now that bin Laden is dead, the 10th anniversary of 9/11 is going to be a day of somber national reflection," Paolantonio wrote. "The NFL better make sure there is football that day. Empty stadiums on that day now will be an unsettling example of greed and selfishness."

Well, yeah, empty stadiums would be a fairly obvious symbol of greed and selfishness, but what that has to do with remembering and mourning what happened 10 years ago is anyone's guess. Americans everywhere will observe the anniversary with proper respect regardless of whether or not they have 12 pregame beers in the parking lot before heading past the ticket-takers to watch grown men in uniforms tackle one another.

Aside from the bizarre thought process, I'm curious about something else: How did PFT and Sal Pal stop themselves from employing the old "If there's no football, the terrorists win" construct? The self-control there is astounding.

And on and on it goes. (This next part in sotto voce.) With Memorial Day weekend upon us, how are we expected to honor our veterans and their fine service if players aren't allowed to report to team facilities and get in early-morning workouts? And what of the Fourth of July? The absence of meaningless football mini-camps will undoubtedly be seen by someone somewhere as an insult to the Founding Fathers. It might even counterfeit the Declaration of Independence.

Pray for the Republic. These are dark days indeed.

Contact columnist John Gonzalez at 215-854-2813, gonzalez@phillynews.com or @gonzophilly on Twitter. Read his past columns at www.philly.com/philly/columnists/
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