Friday, September 5, 2008

Nothing but Fools in Love

The NFL season started tonight in New York city, in a shit-storm of overdone pomp and circumstance symbolic of America's #1 sport. Football's hegemony over the rest of the sporting culture is curious(to me) but uncontested. Am I un-American if I raise the question of why? In the spirit of Big Firm's exciting entry into political commentary I'd like to share my thoughts on the NFL, America's true religion, it's dominant political party, and it's jingoistic pride and joy.

I love football. I'm not here to rain on anybody's parade by making a pompous argument about how soccer or cricket or tennis is a more elegant, beautiful, somehow more deserving sport to watch and support. I will be in front of my television every Sunday like everyone else, then will spend the rest of the week, like some but hopefully not most of you, reading, watching, and agonizing over the week that was and the game that is to be. I'm a fan, a disciple, a kool-aid drinker. Well, maybe a kool-aid sipper, but a big fan nonetheless. I look forward to the NFL season, I'm giddy when it arrives, and so on and so forth. Just wanted to get that out of the way.

But......

I have issues with it. With the game. With the league. With the fans. Let's work through it.

Why So Popular?
This appears to be simple: lots of people say football is violent in its nature, brutal in intent, and this primal concoction of non-lethal warfare appeals to us Americans as if pre-destined from the hand of God. This could be true. But hockey is arguably more violent, with actual fighting, and Americans would rather watch almost anything. If violence is all we want then boxing wouldn't be dying a slow death, and Jerry Springer would still be beating Oprah's ass in the ratings. There's gotta be more.

Another common view is that football is the perfect television sport, best appreciated at home with dozens of replays and camera angles, non-stop commercial breaks to fetch food and take a piss, all presented to us via the ubiquitous but still inspiring high-def screen. This could also be true, but in a way it's also a way of saying this: in person, watching football kinda sucks. You go for the energy in the crowd, not for the actual game on the field. Not including playoff games or a regular season game with dire playoff and/or rivalry implications, if given the choice between paying hundreds of dollars to attend a game or watching at home for free and it's not a tough call: I'm staying home. So how come the least satisfying sport to watch in person is the most popular?

The Real Reasons:
1)Parity
This means most teams are competitive and any given year most of the fans in the country think their team has a shot to be good. This is important and unique to football. With the other leagues I can tell you right now which 20-25 teams have no chance at winning it all, but in the NFL it's easier to rebuild a bad team and make a surprise run. The NBA, MLB, and the NHL all have franchises that continue to suck year after year, cities where attendance is weak if not abominable, and fan bases that really don't give a flying Frankie Faizon. Besides the Arizona Cardinals, I having a hard time thinking of a team and a city that doesn't outright ride the dick of its football team to the point of sixty-year waiting lists for tickets. Most teams are competitive and a lot of fans are kept excited, which matters. Just not as much as.....

2)Gambling
Motherfuckers love to gamble in this country. Football, from what I've gathered, is by far the best gambling sport. So, one huge reason football has a grip on our citizens is this: families, quite literally, depend on football for survival. If daddy has a bad week of picks you can bet it's gonna affect little Lucy's baby formula. With so much money riding on games every week there exists a zealous paranoia and fear(which only gambling can provide) that lends the NFL some extra pep in its step. And let's not forget....

3)Fantasy Football

We live in a world we try desperately to escape. We watch reality tv. We go to the movies. We join pathetic fantasy sport leagues that make us feel like important quasi-GMs and feed into our already itchy instincts to gamble and win money on sports. But when we really wanna escape we go back to old reliable.....

4)Drinking!!

Yes yes, the real reason for footballs dominance. It is perfect. We can tailgate(aka drink) all morning and afternoon before the game. We then enter the stadium, or living room, and continue to drink. As we drink we get aggressive and agitated, which combined with the hundreds of dollars we have riding on the game makes us borderline unstable, which is encouraged to fester as we watch commercials for the Army and SUVs or stand next to racist psychopaths at the stadium and listen to a steady stream of offensive commentary. We're drunk and angry and scared and the action on the field is hardly soothing. It stops and starts, sputters about in quick bursts of action and long stretches of inaction. We simultaneously are keeping track of the money we have on the line, the fight three rows down between eight drunk lunatics wearing afro wigs and Mardi Gras beads, our fantasy stats for the day, nabbing the beer man, and the game on the field. No wonder we love football, it makes us want to kill somebody!!

Add It Up:

You've got a game that thrives on physical depravation and bodily harm in a league that is balanced and competitive, thrives on the added intensity of gambling and fantasy leagues, transfers perfectly to television and is played on a day when almost everyone can drink for twelve hours and be applauded for it. I get it. Football has it all. But still, I have one more observation about the actual game.

Nobody Knows Anything:

By nobody I mean fans and probably a good amount of the coaching staffs. Simply put, we fans have almost no idea what is happening on the field and why. More specifically, we A)don't know what plays are called or what they are supposed to look like. B) When the play is being executed we have no idea what each individual player is responsible for doing. C) We have only minimal ways of deciding whether or not a player was successful at his particular duty. D) In general we can't even see the vast majority of the players on the field anyway. What I'm trying to say is this: with so many people on the field at once(22), and with such highly developed coaching strategies being used, we fans are incapable of understanding a GODdamn thing. Yes, Mr. D-Lineman put pressure on the quarterback, who threw an incomplete pass. But maybe Mr. Linebacker blitzed up the middle, diverting the offensive lineman responsible for Mr. D-Lineman, and maybe the receiver ran the wrong route. So perhaps the linebacker is the star of the play and the receiver the silent culprit. This happens one-hundred times a game, sequences we think we understand but don't. Why am I bothering to point this out? Because I think it's weird. Like Black Republicans. We revere a game we could only fully grasp if we watched game tape with a coaching staff so they could point out who did what right and who fucked up and why. But, as my lawyer friends say, I digress....

I'm sorry this is so long and has no funny pictures. Next time I'll have tons of Sarah Palin pics and Cindy McCain jokes.

8 comments:

  1. An excellent anthropological look at foosball, if I do say so myself. Maybe Mama in the waterboy was right. "Foosball is the debil!" Still, I love the birds, though I must admit that when I missed a shitload of games last season due to being a nerd, I didn't really MISS it. I missed getting to chill with my homies during the games, pigging out, and being a useless piece of crap on the couch.

    Ah Frankie Faison...Despite his top-notch credits in such films as "Coming To America" and "C.H.U.D.," sadly, I remember him best as Ron on "True Colors" and the river-rat-eating-bum in "Freejack."

    I worked on a film this morning with Giancarlo Esposito...Other known as the fake Lawrence Fishburn who plays the FBI agent in "The Usual Suspects."

    Also, welcome back, Taddy. IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIII-Guuuuuuuuuuuuuu-chiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!

    Geauw Phils.

    Geauw Burrrds.

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  2. What.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UfpQs2fawfo

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  3. Football and ESPN are kind of like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-ceegnWSENQ

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  4. Football is the greatest thing going in all of sports. Anyone that does not love American football is just plain stupid. I love the Birds I love the NFL and I love college football. FOOTBALL RULES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  5. The first birds game came and went with total destruction of the Rams, the Phils are in a fight for their playoff lives, other members of the Dodgers are donning Manny predator hats... Yet nothing from the DR staff.... For shame (I exclude Big Firm and Chief Naka from this chastising).

    PS. Why is Bubak Brad Penny? :
    http://dodgerfan.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/06/penny.jpg

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  6. I know everything that is happening with every player during every play of every NFL, college and high school game. I really know a lot about sports. Randall Cunningham is going to lead us to victory this year.

    Drew says I should complain about the scarcity of posts. I look at this blog once a month so it seems plenty to me.

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