Sunday, September 23, 2012

You Can Make a Coin Toss seem like Armageddon

" Why did football surpass baseball? Because football is perfect for the TV screen, which is actually shaped like a football field; because football is at once the most intellectual and the most brutal game in the world, in which the coaches think while the players bleed; because we love to see people knocked silly. But also, perhaps even primarily, because football mints the kind of uniquely vivid images that the Sabols could spin, over and over, into a Kip­ling poem about war." - Rich Cohen

If you're not a football fan, you probably hang around some of the 64% of Americans who watch NFL or the 200+ million who watch NCAA Football. Now, if you've been around a TV with a NFL game on,  you've noticed all the teams commemorating Steve Sabol, who died this week. Sabol apparently, made football into what we know it as today. Before it was just another sport. Sabol groomed it into a "never ending drama" (Producer Ken Rogers). Drama is the correct term, but not in the daytime television sense. Football imitates the grand epics of Beowolf and the Illiad; the narrator lauds the heroes as they enter the battle field, describing their previous victories and losses, their backgrounds, and their special gifts. The bard sings an anthem of previous heroics as the new heroes mentally prepare. Then- kickoff. The narrator continues to objectively explain the battle, postulating strategies of the generals/coaches, giving insight to warrior/player's emotions, and questioning the gods/referee's influences on the outcome.

However as Rogers said earlier, the epic in football never ends. It continues with new heroes cycling in as the old ones fall out of favor. Both college and professional football continually engage their followers- there's never a point of 'well that's settled.' Rivalries between teams, coaches, players, owners, etc deepen the drama of the games, and therefore get viewers emotionally invested in their outcomes. It's a tit-for-tat system that will never end. Such sentiments are well illustrated in this recent George Tekai post:

It's a bit silly. But football is not just a silly thing that a lot of Americans like. How many times have we heard people roll their eyes and say 'its just a bunch of guys running into people.' I was once one of those people. Then I went to a SEC school and saw thousands of people participating in this bizarre ritual every weekend.  Not two or three thousand. More like eighty thousand. And that's just people in the stadium. People go the campus and just hang-out watching TV outside. Football is a silly thing that A LOT of Americans LOVE. 

I suspect this American romance follows the same mentality I explored in my Olympics post. This group is better than that group because these few individuals are athletically and mentally superior. Unlike the Olympics however, the team is more important than the individual. Yes, quarterbacks get all the advertisements, but I'm pretty sure fans of the Carolina Panthers, Denver Broncos, or Philadelphia Eagles would not say that the teams victories and losses' rest solely on the actions of Cam Newton, Peyton Manning, or Micahel Vicks. Fans understand that victory is a group effort, and fans believe they contribute to the victories as well- they are in fact a part of the team. 

Tailgating, going to the games, watching every games, and doing weird rituals aren't just conspicuous consumption. It's a way of identifying with other people and coming together to cheer on your side. And if a fan is one of those people who doesn't hang out with other people and instead watching football alone all weekend long- he's still part of the team. No lonliness. 

It's true! Kentucky Football fans exist!

Yes, football is a fabricated Reality of rivalry. Fans are Zombies (blindly buying into/following their team, despite the odds). Players are Astronauts (sacrificing their bodily health for the entertainment/success of their fans). All so that BEARBULL (advertising and NFL ownership) can influence more of individuals' lives. But, at least it's not the City. Football gives people something to believe in (maybe, just maybe we can win), and to look forward to (there's always next season). Zombie fans coming together in this way is not a bad thing. Its one of the few times Americans actually go hang-out with each other. 

Football isn't opera or an gallery opening or a natural history exhibit, but it's where many American's find relief from their true reality. It's not a television show or movie that points out how they're not a Cowboy or Astronaut. It's a community who accepts them as long as they like the team. 


If you want to know more about how Football became America's sport, I recommend you read this article:

1 comment:


    Hah! Check out the rhetoric in these Tide commercials.