Archive for January 19th, 2009

Football as Metaphor

Posted on January 19, 2009. Filed under: Culture, Games, Philosophy |

After a VERY busy weekend, I spent most of Sunday watching football on television. There are a few reasons I did this, which I will explore, but I’m hoping by musing philosophical about the experience, I can justify my day of relative sloth in this blog post. 🙂

Before I go any further, though, let me just CONGRATULATE the ARIZONA CARDINALS for their division championship win on Sunday! They’re going to the Superbowl!!! I’d planned to congratulate them today, whether they won the game or not, just because of their tremendous accomplishments this season. Most other teams in American football had played in the “post-season”, and most of these had won their divisions at one time or another. For the CARDINALS, it had been 61 YEARS since they’d either hosted or won a playoff game, and they had never—until now—made it to the Ultimate American Sport Event (in my opinion), the Superbowl. Imagine waiting 61 years for your team to win a championship!!! (And before you start, no, I, personally have not been waiting 61 years for this. Not biologically possible. But still!) 😉


I used to enjoy football (and by this I mean American football; I’m well aware this is not REAL football, but my people call the other kind soccer; so if I refer to “football” here, I do mean American, ok?) back when I lived in San Francisco. When I was growing up there, the San Francisco 49’ers were a hot team. They’ve lost most of their gravitas, lately, but still have a fan base because of their history. The CARDINALS, on the other hand, have been very terrible, or at least apathetic, for years (61 of them, or so). It had been difficult to give up my loyalty to San Francisco, and get behind such a crummy team. In fact, many people who live in warm areas like Arizona and Florida never do give up their hometown loyalties—they want to be warm in winter, but not cheer for a pathetic team, when they can remain loyal to the powerhouses of the Midwest.

But, anyway, even though it had been settled for sometime that the CARDINALS would make it into post-season, most put that down to them playing in a weak division. And they were, pretty much, right. However…once they had clinched their entree into the world of championship playoffs, they responded by playing better than they ever had in their jerseyed lives! They’ve now won three post-season games; each with skill, finesse, and talent wonderful to behold.

Alright. Back to my sloth. I only watch professional football, because getting involved in college ball would just be SO time consuming, even though University of Arizona has an excellent football team. And, at that, I can generally only stand to watch one game in a day. The games take over THREE hours to play, and a lot of that is spent on time-outs and television commercials. So, I have to pick the game I’m going to watch. The past two weekends have been brutal. There have been two division games on Saturday and two on Sunday. Yikes! I wasn’t able to sit and watch ALL of them, even if I’d wanted to, because I do other stuff, like work, on the weekends. But this brings up the metaphor part of the post. I think if I watched all the football broadcast on television, I would soon need treatment for a variety of mental disorders (more than I do now, even). There is JUST TOO MUCH! I am so thankful I’m not a REAL FAN! This post must sound like I’m a fan, but I’ve had my blog here coming up on two years now, and you’ve never seen me write about football before, have you?

A real fan, by my definition is one who a) actually attends games, b) buys and wears “fan gear”, c) occasionally (or often) paints team colors on their faces or bodies, and d) (here’s the clincher) CARES about the outcomes!

Now, I watch what football I do—and I seriously try to limit it—because I enjoy the experience. It must entertain me, or I click the remote. A FAN, on the other hand, will watch all the games, or at least all their favorite teams’ games, all the time even when it makes them miserable. They do this because they a) “gotta support the team, man” and b) “gotta know what’s going on, dude”.

My emotional reaction to this kind of behavior is also tinged with meta-programming by my family (NOT sports fans) who had implied, none too politely, that such fans are, um, not quite up to our standards, don’t you know. This, in spite of the fact that many sports, football included, are games of finesse, intelligence, and skill, in addition to strength and force. So, in spite of all this, and of my claim that I’m not really a fan, I certainly got caught up in the emotion of it all. The companion with whom I watched the game had never seen me like this. I yelled. I cheered. I hooted. I booed. I jumped up and down at each touchdown. I did a little circle dance at the win. I had fun.

Now, hours later, I wonder what it all means. I can look at it as a day’s enjoyment, and justify watching the entire second game because it’s important, you know, to find out who the CARDINALS will play in the Superbowl, but the extreme emotionality of it scares me a little, too. There’s something just a little uncomfortable about me yelling “Get ‘im, get ‘im; throw him down!” …at the television that makes me realize why real fans get in fights in bars during sports events. (I’m a non-violent person; really I am!) Of course the drinking has something to do with the fights, but I wasn’t drinking at all during the games, and neither do a lot of people, but the fights still break out.

These kinds of territorial wars can, if left unchecked, lead to deadlier wars. I’m not trying to be a downer, here. I really, really had a tremendously good time watching these playoff games. I shall certainly watch the Superbowl. I say, today, that I’m not really very concerned about which team wins; that, as I said earlier, it’s a tremendous achievement for my home team to get this far. Whatever the outcome, the CARDINALS are on the map; they are a team to be reckoned with. azstadium

But what do I do with all the raw emotion these kinds of things generate? What do you think? Is it a good outlet? After all, I, at least, hardly ever get this (noisily) agitated about anything else, and, sometimes, it feels good just to…shout! As a metaphor for—what? Life? Clan behaviour? Camaraderie?—I think football falls a little short. It can be tremendously exciting for a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, but does it really mater? Does it need to matter? Is it relevant? Is is socially and politically correct? Why do I even ask myself these questions? For now, at least, I’ll just enjoy the feelings, and let all the rest be OK. Go CARDINALS!!!

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