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. πŸ™‚

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!) πŸ˜‰


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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12 Responses to “Football as Metaphor”

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Ah, the Super Bowl! I cannot lose this year. I like both teams. My best friend is a Steeler fan and so for years I have rooted for them for her sake. I am a recent Cardinal fan. I like Kurt Warner because he is old (at least for a football player) and he seems to be a man of faith. I will need to call on my split personality to watch this year’s game!

Football certainly is alot like life. After all, a person must learn to “tackle” his problems and “block” discouraging thoughts. When things go terribly wrong, it’s a good thing to “huddle” with your loved ones. And, of course, it’s a good thing not to get too full of one’s self when things go amazingly well, either. That’s when your loved ones can help you keep your feet on the ground and “touchdown” to reality. We all know it’s better to give than to “receiver”, and when you don’t know what to say, it’s always better to just “pass”. Don’t “fumble” around in life. Rather than just watching from the “sidelines”, get in on the “play”. And what ever you do, be reponsible with your money; when leaving the cashier don’t forget to get your “quarterback” (I know, that one’s a stretch!:) And always, always always remember…when in doubt, punt!

I don’t know Muse, I think football is more often than not a pretty good metaphor, although not one you can easily export outside the US. Sports can be very emotive and exciting. Of course they don’t matter, exactly, but they sure do mean a lot to a lot of people!

It doesn’t matter enough to physically fight over, mind you. Or shouldn’t. Of course, I come from a nation of football hooligans (Association football, that is, or “real football” as you so magnanimously term it), but I wish that weren’t the case.

I guess football (American or otherwise) is like any enthusiasm. It’s good to have something to take an interest in and get excited over! So long as you keep a sense of perspective, it’s healthy to be a fan of something!

I don’t think it needs to matter. I don’t think it does matter. Happy matters. You’re happy. Savor it. πŸ™‚

I am not into football at all. The only time I see a snippet of a game is when I flip on 60 Minutes at 7PM and it says the game has 2 minutes left. And at 7:30 they’re still playing.

I hope your team wins!

I’m happy for you, tee, that you will be pleased about whoever wins. I like the Steelers, too, and I’m actually glad they are the ones to play. But…I live in AZ, and even if I didn’t, the drama of their 61-year wait, and my tendency to root for the underdog would snag me. The Steelers have been there! You may enjoy this about the old (37!) Mr. Warner. I had been sent the original email, and this expansion is much better! πŸ™‚ As for your life-is-like-football exposition—it’s remarkable. Pleasurable, clever, very true, and answers my question definitively. Thank you! πŸ˜€

Excellent advice, B0bby, thank you for that. Yes, you lot are known for your extreme reactions at sporting events. Do people act that way at Rugby or Cricket, too? πŸ˜‰ These team sports are like mini-wars in a controlled setting, really—perhaps it’s good to let ’em go at it, and for us to get emotionally involved. I’d like to see them replace real wars; that would be something! πŸ™‚

You’ve cut to the chase, ella. The fun outweighs everything else. As long as it continues to be fun, I’ll attempt not to think about it too much! πŸ™‚ I was once like you. I didn’t give a fig about football, or much other sport. Then, one week, some years ago, a dear friend explained it to me. I still haven’t forgiven him. πŸ˜‰ Tee-hee, I commiserate with you about waiting for that last “two minutes” of a game. You are not exaggerating one bit, and it can be frustrating. πŸ˜• Thank you for your wishes! Yay, another one for the CARDS!

Do people act that way at Rugby or Cricket, too?

The hooligan thing? Not in my experience. They’re far too polite to do anything like that!

Especially cricket. I can’t imagine cricket fans rioting. They’re too busy sitting around drinking tea. πŸ˜‰

Tea, B0bby? That does sound painfully proper. I can’t imagine fans sipping tea at our closest equivalent, Baseball. You would think tennis, as well, would be a fairly civilised sport, but apparently not always

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30. Appreciated your observations as well as teeveebee’s commentary. I’m intrigued with the recent trend of women football fans who are joining the fun of football with unprecedented enthusiasm and seriousness. I can’t tell you how many of my women friends are playing in fantasy leagues, and winning! I was shocked to learn who was into it – many of whom I would never in a million years have guessed would care two bits about football. I think they are initially drawn to it for the camaraderie, and the opportunity to connect with family and friends, but I continue to be impressed at their level of commitment to understanding the nuances of the game.

Thank you for your observances, Michelle. I thought teeveebee’s analogies were “da bomb” too. πŸ™‚ I didn’t realize there were more female football fans than there had been. I suppose I get my information mostly from watching the games on television, and there seem to be about the same number of women in the stands as there used to be, but perhaps that’s not a fair representation. I don’t really talk about the games, much, with others; this post was mostly generated by the unlikely Cardinal’s post-season wins. Although, this year’s Superbowl was talked about a bit more than usual for a variety of reasons. πŸ˜‰ I see you’ve linked to a Football card game. Looks intriguing and fun! πŸ™‚

Wait so is this guy from england?

Hi, Joanna. Which guy? πŸ™‚

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