Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Obligatory? Football Post

It isn't racist to believe that Richard Sherman is a 'thug'.  Not necessarily.  What is racist is believing that he is less of a thug than the entitled designated hero he'll be trying to intercept on Sunday, or that it's possible to play this game at all without being a thug.  I remember reading of a lineman who would bring himself to tears in the huddle by telling himself that his opposing man for the next play had raped his mother, how he made his career by willing this delusion on himself play after play, week after week.  One needs to be at least a mild psychopath to hurt someone they have no personal feelings against and the NFL, however counter-intuitively, has only a slightly higher proportion of psychopaths than the general public.  Hate needs to be constructed.  These men need to believe that there is only either absolute dominance or absolute worthlessness in order to do their jobs. The game is fucking evil.  That's the thick of it.  The game is fucking evil and in full truth we all know it is. No matter how loudly some might say so no one really believes that there are exceptional manly virtues that only American football can teach.  It's just one of those totems that allows us to pretend that it's still 438, that the Vandals are bearing down on us from the hills and patriarchal hierarchy still has some claim to utilitarian necessity.

Yet still I am of two minds.  I could make the excuse that I'm Nebraskan and football is of my culture but really it's the theater of it; sublime and true. There's strategic nuance to the game is richer than any other major organized sport; and the drama of human choice involved in run vs. pass/down vs, distance/ score vs. time remaining is more than food enough to hook the minds of those of us who fall on the other side of the false jock vs. nerd dichotomy.  In the late eighties I had just grown old enough to have developed a continuous mind and memory while in the Big 8 conference the major powers of Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado were all running different variations of the option offense, brutalizing each other in tense stalemates.  I learned to love the aesthetic beauty of a close-fisted defensive football game, where every first down had huge importance and was fought for accordingly, where the touchdown that puts you up 10-7 with 9:50 left in the third might well be the decisive score.  I'd say that my openness towards soccer was formed in these days as well.  It's infantile to take excitement in scoring for scoring's sake.  Scoring, along with the game itself, is simply better when it's so hard to do that you have to sweat blood for it.

So even though I hate the violence of the gridiron It would be the modern 'softening' changes to the game that have allowed me to finally break from it, more or less.  Actually defending receivers has been more or less banned; as has tackling the quarterback as if he's just another player.  The personality cults around coaches and quarterbacks are the most loathsome monarchical rot that any freedom loving American should be ashamed to partake of at the slightest level, and the ever-increasing deference given to QB's by both the rules and the culture of the game is often a reflection of real-world privilege.  It's coaches sons from fattly funded private schools who get to be the ace, more often than not.  Then to be pimped out to elite college programs like a Hapsburg princess.  At the political economic level the entire state of Texas is more or less being run this way now.  Even oil bows down to the Heisman golden boy.    

  The result is that scores in the range of 42-38 have been routine for several years now.  Yet still it's generally seen as axiomatic that more points = more fun.  Hogwash  A 0-0 tie that takes three hours is objectively more entertaining than a 49-48 game that takes three hours and one second.  The excitement of a touchdown is after all, largely one of those social constructs that us eggheads carry on about.  There's a ritual cheer, rock concert fireworks, a standard uptempo celebration song on the jumbotron.  Strip away all that and it's just beefy fucks running around and decking each other same as every other play. The only tangible entertainment value of a touchdown is it's individual importance to the outcome, so that in these days of manufactured pass-happy openness a touchdown is twice as boring as it was twenty years ago.   Even last-second comebacks have become banal, something expected and routine in any game where the teams are even generically level.

We could  of course get into the insufferable frequency of commercials, though that ground has been well covered by many before me.  (It's actually worse watching a televised game in person; with the park-like illusion of being at a live outdoor event being shattered by routine periods of.....nothing.  I'd happily take more Bud Light misogyny over that Sartian despair.) For closing's sake I can only continue to give away my age and remember a time when televised games were rare at the college level.  Both teams had to be top 10 and playing for a major conference title, at the least, else it didn't happen.  So it was generally later in the year when it was cold outside and a kid was glad that there  was something 'major' on TV. The live broadcast started five minutes before kickoff, then after eight minute drives that produced nothing and the clock being stopped for incomplete passes maybe ten or 12 times your team needed barely more than two hours to either win or lose.  Than you went on with your day either happy or sad while your boys went out to do things the things that would land them in prison.  It was a smaller game; less bombastic, less self-important, though probably no where near as much as I remember.  In truth I was probably just an easily amused little shit. 

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