As a self-proclaimed nerd, I’m hardly averse to over indulging my curios and fascinations. Generally, I’m capable of offering myself some sort of half-baked rationalization. As frivolous as it may seem to others, I genuinely believe the hours I spend pondering the ethical deliberations of superheroes enriches me in some philosophical and intellectual capacity. From Batman, Superman, and countless others, I can absorb lessons by which to live my life, hopefully in non-psychotic ways. Excusing the time I spend watching movies is even easier. Writing for film is my dream, and the more I observe, the more I absorb. Yet for the past few years, one particular pass-time has occupied far too much space in my brain.
Of all my various obsessions, I find NFL football the least rational. I watch every game I can. If my beloved Patriots played particularly well, I’ll even watch the same game a few times. When there are no games, I read commentary. When there’s no commentary, I read about kids who aren’t even professional players yet. Until just recently, football totally occupied my Sundays for 5 months a year. I can’t even argue with much sincerity that it’s a socially beneficial experience. My girlfriend hates it. My family are huge fans, but 90% of the time, I’m totally alone when I watch it. It’s violent. It takes a devastating toll on the minds and bodies of everyone who plays it. Many of its greatest stars are arrogant, selfish, even criminal. So why oh why can’t I stop thinking about it?
The drama. That’s always what it is, isn’t it? There’s nothing quite like watching men fight and claw for precious points while a clock ticks down. Wills are dueling, blood, sweat, and tears are sacrificed. Execution is paramount, and flaws in performance or discipline are immediately punished with bone-rattling consequences. But all this only explains why it’s entertaining. That’s really what it comes down to, but that’s shouldn’t be enough. So why is it good? What’s it offer me?
I think I love football because of the myths it helps me perpetuate. When I watch a game, I see men from all walks of life, of all shapes and sizes, from the big to the extremely big, working together to accomplish something. When I see Tom Brady throw a touchdown or win a championship, I see a man of limited means and gifts making good. I see discipline, humility, and tireless hard work defeating talent and privilege. I see the underdog triumphing over impossible odds, I see justice served. Obviously, that’s utterly ridiculous and totally untrue. Not every achievement on the field can be attributed to character. Heck, not even most of them. Not even close. And more often than not, a season ends in disappointment, and I’m left wondering why on Earth I would expend so much energy and hope on something I have zero capacity to influence.
Inevitably, I’ll be back. My beloved Patriots may have lost last night to a brash, juvenile, cocky band of hoodlums, but that’s just another bump in the road for a great narrative. One day soon, when the crowd roars and a referee raises his arms, I’ll be hooked all over again. I’ll pretend there’s justice, I’ll pretend there’s value, and I’ll pretend things will work out this time like they’re supposed to. It may be childish, it may be stupid, but hey, that’s sports. Can’t write all the time.