Sunday, February 01, 2015

out of downs

As a kid, I remember liking football. I don't know how much I really understood it, but I do recall enjoying it. At the time, the Terry Bradshaw-era Pittsburgh Steelers were my team. I liked to play football with my brother in the yard...I recall being hard to tackle. But I wasn't fast at all, and I had problems throwing and catching (due to a turn in one eye and not being able to see in 3-D which wasn't diagnosed until years later), so I never tried to play in any formal sense...and eventually, my interest burned away.

In high school, I found myself friends with several football fanatics, so I decided to take up the sport again. We decided to play fantasy football, and although it seemed a bit too much like Dungeons and Dragons, I formed my own team. One thing Fantasy Football really is good for is that it requires you to be hyper-aware and hyper-knowledgeable about the sport, so I got up to speed pretty quickly. By the end of the first season, I knew pretty much every player in the league...and I was thoroughly sucked in.

When my hometown of Jacksonville was awarded an NFL team, me and my dad got season tickets...and for the four years before I moved to Ohio, we would go to every home game. This, on top of going to a sports bar with my dad to watch Monday Night Football, made me appreciate the sport as a social opportunity. It was probably the most time I had spent with my dad since I had become a sullen teenager type, and watching games with him was absolutely vital to me being able to move past seeing him as "father" and truly get to know him. Plus it led to lots of beer and chicken wings, which is always a good thing.

When I moved up to Ohio, I still kept the faith. It was harder, though, because academics are, in general, not only not big sports fans but in many cases actually anti-sports. At least this describes most of the ones I knew. I couldn't understand it. If they didn't appreciate the intricacies of strategy or the feats of physical wonder, couldn't they at least appreciate the social aspect? How football lends itself so well to (and even creates and maintains) community? But save two good friends (both of which soon left the area), I had a very hard time getting anyone to come see the games with me.

So the communal aspect of football eroded for me, but I still held the faith. However, over the last two years, that faith started to diminish. With so many demands on my time (as a father, a husband, a teacher, and a musician), every activity has to pull its weight. Football kept doing things to sabotage itself in my soul. The fact that the sport takes a tremendous toll on its participants became harder and harder to ignore for me, particularly when the head trauma costs became clearer and clearer. I began to be more and more alienated by the displays of obnoxious celebrity, both on-field (why must players, after making a routine play, run to an isolated spot on the field and pose?) and off. With every domestic violence incident, with every shooting, with every general act of spoiled brat millionaire behavior, my interest waned.

Somewhere in the middle of last season, I realized that I was done. I increasingly felt like I was watching a strange spectacle somewhere between celebrity gossip and gladiatorial combat, and I could not sustain my interest or the time it required. I finished out the season, but after that, I swore off football. I wasn't 100% sure I wouldn't feel the itch and cave, but, as it turns out, that never happened. I saw a game with my dad when he came to visit, but after that, I didn't care to pick it back up. I even had to be reminded that the playoffs had started.

Today is the Super Bowl. Instead of watching, I spent the day with my family and then working. I have zero interest in watching the game. I never thought this would happen, but here we are.

Just as well. As a vegetarian, I wouldn't have been able to make my Super Bowl Chili anyway.

1 comment:

oak said...

Seems like you're getting out all boiled down to what's important to you here and now. I am quite jealous. The past lies heavy. And I'm barely more committed to writing and rekindling or creating relationships or hiking than I ever was. Wait a minute. Did the agony of thumb swipe interface just help me find my big three? Possibly! Let's catch up soon.