In two weeks, America will be healed...for about three hours. Reds will sit with Blues, the vaxed with the unvaxed and those who shower before work among those who shower after work or not all, will sit on their couches, up to 111 million of them (us) plus another 30-50 million overseas to watch the Super Bowl.
Fandom is a phenomenon. It is not the same as being an athlete. An incorrigible fan, as in fanatic, has a passport to an alternative universe in which he gains the illusion of control or, at least, second-guessing. He ponders. He mopes. He parties. His behavior is almost indefensible, and yet a fan experiences an existential moment as he lives or dies vicariously. Lifetime fans will say their knowledge of sports was likely the first thing they knew that their parents did not, giving them a sense of individuation.
Of course, a large chunk of viewers are not fans at all and might call it the Stupor Bowl with more interest in the ritual as a communal experience, a stab at reconciliation. Their attention will be paid to the commercials and halftime show.
Thanksgiving with its turkey and pass the chardonnay will meet its match with pizza and pop open a beer. This is how we make America grate again. We put on our game face, our fangs, to vent our hostility. We cheer and we jeer in the great tradition to appease our reptilian brain as if it hasn’t been assuaged enough in these times of upheaval.
I submit football has been unfairly maligned. True, concussions happen, ligaments snap and bones crack. If I had a son, I wouldn’t let him go near a pigskin. I’d teach him the joy of backgammon.
However, the game is really not all about brawn. Football is closer to chess albeit with stretchers. We have twenty-two men on the field, each with a special assignment to execute. Each player has to memorize a thick playbook which can change at the line of scrimmage if the quarterback senses the play must be altered. Meanwhile the coaches on the sideline are anticipating the defensive alignment as they are desperately managing the clock.
I suspect I haven’t persuaded anyone. Look at it this way. Much as we try to contain our aggression or, at least, our competitive urges, we have failed. Team sports allows us to sublimate that belligerence. Have another beer. Better a brainy, semi-brutal conflict than the real thing. A few aches and bruises are far better than bodies fertilizing Flanders Field.
Note how the players embrace after the game. It is theater, after all. They know it even if we have forgotten. A human drama has been enacted with neither rehearsal or certainty of outcome. Maybe a few bridges will go up between us and them in commiseration or jubilation. In any case, it’s a great day for pizza deliveries.