Don't get me started on football. Now, don't take me for a sports-hating communist just because I don't think football is the greatest thing since bottled-beer taste in a can. My momwas a football nut, for chrissakes. I grew up in Wisconsin, where people pray facing Green Bay. And the Packers are about the only team you know will never, ever leave it's home town for sunnier pastures, a bigger stadium, and more payola. Which is nice.
Sports fans have this granfaloonish imaginary connection with their times. It's always "We beat the Bears," not "The Packers beat the Bears," as if they had anything to do with it -- kind of like "We bombed Iraq." I was safely in my chair the whole time. I didn't throw any bombs; I didn't drop any bombs.
To me, most sports teams, other than the Packers since they're publicly owned and have a real connection with their city that will never be peddled like so many whorish teams do, are just another company. I'd no more root for them than I'd root for Skippy over Jif. I buy generic peanut butter by the 5-pound bucket if it's available; I am just not that brand-conscience. True, my wife has got me buying from Old Navy now, but that's only because of the happy convergence between quality and price, not because of how nice it sounds to say, "I'm wearing old navy underwear."
The problem isn't the game itself; it's the way our society treats it like it's God, America, apple pie, and concentrated testosterone all in one. Colleges have been reduced to being the minor leagues for the NFL. Look at college football and basketball in contrast to college baseball. How many universities are bogged down in kickback and rape cases involving their baseball players? You don't see schools wasting everybody's time pretending that baseball players need a college education, yet look at all the dumbing-down of courses, squeezings of curves, and pressure on professors so that football and basketball players can keep their G.P.A.s above NCAA minimums, at least on paper.
And look at high schools. Most high school jocks will never make a college team, and most college players never make the pros. As career choices go, welder/flashdancer is a more realistic choice. But on we go, encouraging teen-age males to neglect their studies and bulk up on steroids in the hopes they'll get a contract before their knees go. But in all likelihood, they'll end up as police officers in the same podunk town they grew up in. No offense to law enforcement in general, but the bad ones always seem to be doing some serious overcompensating. Yesterday's high school football hero is today's underpaid, bitter cop. A guy who thinks the best years of his life were back when he had a curfew and couldn't legally drink is not a man with a good attitude. Give him a gun and a little authority and you've got a recipe for trouble.
Yesterday's high school football hero is today's underpaid, bitter cop. A guy who thinks the best years of his life were back when he had a curfew and couldn't legally drink is not a man with a good attitude. Give him a gun and a little authority and you've got a recipe for trouble.
But back to the ho-mo-sexual thing. Football is really just an elaborate ruse to make it socially acceptable for men to touch each other's butts in public. Look at set-up for the hike. Two men, bent over and squatting, with one man's hands cupped behind the other man's buttcrack. The quarterback's cupped hands couldn't be closer to the guy's ass if he were delivering a turd into the world.
Don't get me wrong. Whatever 22 consenting men want to do with each other in the privacy of a football arena -- that's between them and their sponsors; I really don't care. But the sooner we all recognize the subtext, the sooner we can all get back to our regularly scheduled programming.
Here's my recommendation. Boil down the week's worth of butt-touching, squatting, and wrestling (now there's a "sport" that doesn't even pretend to be platonic) to a weekly half-hour homoerotic roundup. Announcers will crack out cliches like, "Now that guy really knows how to touch. He really came to bond today." John Madden will draw diagrams illustrating how the physical contact was perfectly innocent and intended only to display friendliness in an area not covered by padding. Marv Albert will shout, "Yess!" at all the appropriate moments.
© 1999 Randel Shard