Football season is well underway and it happens to coincide with the launch of this blog. While I am hesitant to dedicate the first sports post to football—the so-called “America’s Game”—it provides a perfect opportunity to start this section off on the right foot. Or the left foot, whichever you prefer. The reason being that the phrase “America’s Game,” something I used to cringe at, is now a perfect metaphor in which both football and the United States of America share an alarming—and hilarious—number of parallels (at least until the neo-Confederate dream of NASCAR overtaking the dominance of football comes to pass).
Let me begin with a confession: I like to watch football*. OK, I love to watch football. Whether it is college or the NFL, you can usually find my anything-with-a-ball-obsessed ass planted firmly in front of the soft glow of a football broadcast emanating from a needlessly expensive, flat-screen television each and every Saturday and Sunday. And when the opportunity presents itself, I am no stranger to witnessing a football game from the oft-frigid seats of an actual stadium.
* apologies to my international friends who may mistake this term for what we Americans dismissingly call “soccer”
Like any football fan, I can mindlessly go down the list and check off everything I like about not only the game itself, but about the general atmosphere and experience of “America’s Game.” Many positives of the football experience transcend the excitement of watching oversized physical freaks violently moving (or preventing) an oval-shaped inflatable piece of pigskin across painted white lines. More importantly, the game serves as a venue for (mostly) males to come together in celebration of the very principles we as modern Americans hold near and dear.
Football provides the perfect environment in which to practice the myriad of behaviors and indulgences that are granted to us by birthright. During football season, you have the right to:
Freely consume copious amounts of meat and other fatty snacks
A football game at a friend’s house that features less than two pounds of meat per person is not a football game, my friend. It’s called a baby shower. It’s like having an American flag without the red stripes, which to many, symbolize the tender juices seeping from a medium-rare ribeye—guaranteed to all Americans in Thomas Jefferson’s implications about “the pursuit of happiness.” Football as we know it may not have existed in our forefathers’ time, but we recognize that their keen foresight was indeed 20/20 in regards to the importance of meat and sporting events, as well as the urgent need to stockpile weapons in our households to keep the King of England from meddling in our affairs throughout the 20th century and into the new millennium. In a nutshell: football and meat, good. Tofu and tennis, bad.
Real life parallel: Take a look in the mirror and take a look around. It is no wonder we, as a nation, are against whaling. Any other stance on this issue would likely result in 34% of our adult population ending up as the catch of the day in Japan and Iceland. Nevertheless, we are not only adhering to this principle of fandom and Americana ourselves, we are instilling these values of overindulgence within our young. Football provides another vital outlet for laymen to try their hand at competitive eating and we proudly exercise our god-given right to gorge on delectable morsels of animal protein in full abundance. The term “sausage fest” also skyrockets to new heights each and every autumn weekend.
During football season, you have the right to:
Ignore your girlfriend, spouse and/or family for at least six hours on game days
Admit it, guys—football games are fairly entertaining to watch in their own right, but the real reason we look forward to Saturday and Sunday is to ditch the woman, ditch the kids, and shun responsibility altogether so that we may watch the game with the boys.
Real life parallel: Self-explanatory. How many men do you know jump at any chance to shirk their duties to wife and family? Only the end results vary in these scenarios, from opting to work late so as to “miss” a dance recital, to fleeing to Mexico to escape mounting alimony and child support payments.
During football season, you have the right to:
Drink heavily on Sundays
Depending on where you live, this ritual can commence as soon as one arises from a hazy stupor, especially for those of you living on the West Coast, where NFL kicks off at 10:00 in the morning. For many, football season only extends their weekend binge drinking—beginning on Friday evening at 5:00pm sharp and continuing into the wee hours of Sunday morning—by 12 hours. But what a difference a half-day of fully imbibing can make. An exceptionally “exciting” Sunday doubleheader has the added potential to produce an acute inability to attend work on Mondays. For die-hards, this only provides yet another opportunity to get smashed in preparation for Monday Night Football, which almost always rolls over into an unproductive Tuesday (if you make it to the office at all).*
* Said scenario is duly dubbed the “Football Fourstep” in honor of the hallowed four-day weekend.
Real life parallel: Easy—Super Bowl Sunday. This is where the football experience spills over into real-life consequences. On the Monday following Super Bowl Sunday, America’s newest holiday, 1.5 million Americans will call in sick, with an additional 4.4 million arriving late. The cause? It’s not directly related to four hours of viewing 300-pound behemoths wearing helmets and tights grapple with one another, or the vomit-inducing knowledge of the cost of a single Super Bowl commercial, so much as it is a strict observance of the rites of that accompany this uniquely American holiday in drinking one’s self into oblivion. The solution? Declaring the following Monday a national holiday in place of lesser holidays like Columbus Day and Easter.
What We Learn from Football
“As in sport, so in real life.” There are always lessons to take away from the microcosm of life as manifested in the world of sport. Here are some of the real-world applications we glean from the football experience.
Violence can solve problems, and solve them well
Americans, overwhelmingly more so than our fellow citizens of Planet Earth, gain satisfaction in the belief that the solution to any of life’s problems is best achieved through violent struggle. In fact, our entire national dialogue in solving any problem almost always employs allegories that allude to winning a war. We have declared outright war on drugs, terror and poverty, and have more recently—and less directly—declared war on logic, common sense and unity (read: American politics).
Football, my friends, is no different. Violence on the football field abounds and is usually celebrated by players and fans alike with high-fives and mocking of the opponent as he lays motionless–and in immense pain–on the artificial turf. As a fan of any team, it is also commonplace to hear and use battlefield jargon like “you’re either with us, or you’re against us,” or “we must win the battle in the trenches to impose our will on the opposing team.” Even our old pal George W. could have learned from football that you must “fight the battle until the final whistle blows.” The mission is certainly not accomplished at halftime.
Men love to watch other men
For an entertainment option that caters almost entirely to heterosexual men, many of these male fans would never admit to enjoying a television program in which the synopsis consisted of the following:
“In tonight’s episode, John, a brawny 350 pound brute clad in tight, silky pants bends over to pass an oblong leather object through his legs to Brett, star of the show, whose hands anxiously await the exchange mere inches away from John’s undercarriage. Subsequently, Brett gets gang-tackled by an opposing group of sculpted, muscle-bound madmen. Feelings hurt, Brett’s fortunes begin to look upward after receiving a supportive pat on the behind by colleague Visanthe—Brett’s trusted target and confidante when it matters most. His outlook becomes even rosier as he realizes the importance of chemistry and camaraderie in the locker room following the contest, vowing allegiance and promising to remain a loyal bosom-buddy for one more season.”
Sure, there is violence in football, as mentioned in the previous section. But there is a soft underbelly to the madness that most people overlook, and that almost always involves the unabashed love that male spectators shower upon football players. And when you take the concept of “fantasy football” into account, you really wonder why gay marriage is still illegal in most states.
Women belong in football as eye candy only
Evolving from the point above, men have been hesitant to allow women into their beloved realm of football. In an act of compromise—or an attempt to mask blatant misogyny—women have been allowed onto the sidelines of football games in recent years to provide pivotal analysis of bench activity and obligatory interviews-in-passing with head coaches as they storm off the field at halftime. Roles that were once dominated by male stalwarts like Lynn Swann and Solomon Wilcots have given way to female hussies that include Erin Andrews, Melissa Stark and Pam Oliver. Certain networks have even bestowed the grave responsibility of providing up-to-the-minute Brett Favre retirement/unretirement updates to women like Rachel Nichols.
These women are to sports what Sarah Palin is to politics—high on looks, short on substance, and having absolutely no business being in their chosen profession. But in life and sports, there are certain things that escape logical explanation. However, men can rest assured that they will have the last laugh as they assuage the concerns of feminists and proponents of equal opportunity employment alike at the same time they mentally undress the next token twenty-something failed-fashion-model-turned-sideline reporter.
All of the above, mind you, while enjoying a rare steak, ravaging through a 30 pack of Coors Light, and watching grown men bludgeon other grown men with nothing but their bare hands in the company of close friends.