It is that time of year again. The weather remains sunny and hot but the days are growing shorter. The first hints of autumn appear: yellowing leaves, an occasional shower or an overcast day breaking up the pattern of one sunny day after another. This is nature’s way of telling me football season has started.
I realize this means nothing to many of you. Football, or for that matter sports of any kind, are for some a matter of indifference or even abhorrence. I understand that. Sports, organized games, physical activities constrained by arbitrary rules are from a certain perspective pointless. They celebrate the physical over the cerebral, prioritize group-think over the individual, and seemingly reward disproportionately achievement in meaningless contests above excellence in more objectively important endeavors. They revel in war metaphors, rejoice in naked brutality and organized violence. They engender divisions, create tribal affiliations of enthusiasts who despise one another for no reason other than supporting a particular team of ball players. As if we need one more reason to hate each other.
To all of which I say – phooey. I like football. I like the visceral, second-hand thrill of watching my team make a remarkable play. I like the glow of a victory. Even the despondency of a defeat adds a certain bitter seasoning to life.
I like stories, drama. But too often with a novel, movie, television show I have a pretty good idea of what will happen, the beats, the ‘surprise’ twists. Football, sports in general, provides unscripted drama. I truly have no idea what will occur. And this spectacle often comes accompanied by beer and chicken wings. So there’s that.
Football, and to some extent baseball, lend themselves to viewing while reading. These are episodic sports. The duration between plays, between pitches, generally provides enough time to get through the average length paragraph. Basketball, soccer, and other sports in which the action is mostly continuous lack this multi-tasking aspect.
And let’s address the tribal division concern. Stipulated that competition is inherently divisive, both for players and adherents. One need only consider the riots in Byzantium caused by followers of the chariot teams, the blues, the greens, etc. But there is another side to this coin. Comradery. The fellow-feelling between two supporters of the same team can bridge divides. A bond can exist between two strangers at a bar pulling for the same team to win. And that’s a good thing. Hell, Hunter S. Thompson and Richard Nixon found common ground discussing football.
So, I don’t mind if you disdain or enjoy football. I understand both positions and my attention is not to convert anyone to my point of view. But I’m utterly content right now. Let the games begin!