Monday, September 10, 2007

"The violence, I think, is what fans are drawn to."

-- Buffalo Bills QB J.P. Losman

The Simpons rerun on yesterday was one where Lisa falls in love with soccer, only to find herself diving to get Homer, the ref, to call phony fouls, and generally giving away her dignity. At last she comes to her sense before the sport made her completely insane, "like it did the continents of Europe and South America."

Sports make people crazy, and more importantly, short-sighted. Which brings me to the NFL.

I never grew up with a specific pro team, but was nursed on Nebraska football and needed something to watch on Sunday. From what they say, anyway, the NFL lords as king shit of the sports universe. I understand. It never drew passion out of me, but I can see where it would.

I watched the Packers last year because they were on every Sunday. More than one person has remarked that it's a good year to come to New England, beause the Patriots are pretty clearly the head of the class. So I thought about watching again, perharps taking on the Pats as I had the the Brewers this summer. Both teams were on simultaneously, allowing me to change back and forth, and oh how I love TV multitasking.

By halftime, though, I found I just wasn't interested. For one, I just don't find the play as wide-open or interesting as college. Two, there's this sort of aesthetic ugliness around football -- the boasting after every play, the redundant stadium chants, the tacky intro videos and song numbers. And don't get me started on the commercials. Last year, it the Miller Lite man-law table, establishing rules like "fruit in your beer if for girls and fags." Meanwhile, they hock goat urine that only exists because Americans are too soft for real beer or too sedentary to drink it without getting fat. This year it's those VISA ads where life moves at warp speed with swipe cards, until someone tries to use cash and the world falls apart. In a new one, fans are mindlessly buying NFL gear until a guy in a pink shirt tries to buy tennis balls with cash. If the symbolism is lost on you, I weep, but let me tell you that more importanly, the US Open final was beginning right around the same time I saw this commercial on Sunday. The internationals around my dorm were gripped by watching as perfect an athletic creation as Roger Federer. Except, oops, wait, I forgot, tennis is for queers and football is the only true macho sport.

All that's a lark, really, because what's really eating at me is this kid Everett from Buffalo. I looked him up -- he's two years older than me, and he'll never walk again.

I remember once when I was in high school, watching some otherwise forgettable NFL game, when some player was seriously laid out. I believe he only had the wind knocked out of him. But my father, who is not a sports guy, commented to the effect of, "Well, they praise them and cheer when they make these huge hits, but then its a tragedy when someone gets hurt." A heavy football fan at the time, I dismissed this. But it's the kind of obvious reaction that only someone with no emotional investment in something can make. Watching ESPN News last night made me kind of sick -- they paid the story due respect by leading with it, but then after a little "you hate to see that" handwringing moved right along to other highlights.

It's their job, I know, but it's so sick. Our old national pastime is marred by guys taking drugs to build muscles, but our new national pastime is marred by someone who was instantly paralyzed. I like international soccer, which has caused fan riots that have killed numerous people. But that's the culture, not the game itself, the 22 men on the pitch. I support players rights to lay their bodies on the line playing football, which they vigorously but sometimes badly defended in the wake of this. But I'm feeling worse and worse about supporting this contest of brutality with my viewership.

So I'm going to try to not care. A season into casting aside the Cubbies I already feel distant from them. Maybe it'll work.

No comments: