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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

3 Football Farewells

It seems like just yesterday that Las Vegas weather was cooling out of the three-digit range, kids were headed back to school and the real sports season was finally, thankfully, about to begin. There are a thousand things I love about the fall, but none so unquestionably as its marking of the start of football. I am a year-round sports fan and have watched more installments of SportsCenter than I have of every other show I’ve ever watched - combined. But where my love of hockey, basketball and baseball can at best reach ten, my love for football goes to eleven. Football is the modern day bloodsport - a satisfaction of our prurient, limbic need for battle. Its arrival is preceded by a nearly interminable parade of countdowns, previews and lead-ups. The sweet relief from which makes the inauguration of a new year’s tournament of warriors all the more welcome. But when this parade of glorious violence comes to an end, we are met with disappointment and longing in equal measure to those wondrous autumn days, pregnant with possibility and ripe with the promise of excitement to come. And so, with the final game of this season past nearly upon us, an ode to the season we leave behind - 3 things to miss from the football season:

1. Lasting Couch. In the fast-paced hyper-connected world we live in, unproductive time is scarce. We are constantly tethered to a global information and media network that allows us to work anytime, anyplace. What’s more, the money we’ve invested in our own connectivity imbues within us a sense of wasteful guilt if we spend a waking moment doing nothing of value. But there is activity, devoid of any value, social, professional or otherwise, that even in our online world is not only permitted, but celebrated. From September to January, and one glorious weekend in February, otherwise active, productive and responsible men can plant themselves on a couch for over three hours, glued to a hi-definition television and surrounded by food that has the capacity to simultaneously kill, preserve and irrevocably fatten them and rightfully be called fans. During the other seven months of the year, this same behavior results in you rightfully being called a lazy bastard. Farewell licensed sloth!

2. The Ties That Bind. There’s a reason why only men bond: because women are already bonded. That’s why they can, without having made acquaintance, go the bathroom together, coordinate menstrual cycles and extensively mock our sexual technique. Men, on the other hand, have a little ways to go to get to that point. We have to struggle to find some common ground, upon which neither of us has significant personal claim, which we can happily co-habitate on, and which we are at least marginally familiar. For most of us, this is simply too much trouble, and so we keep each other at a distance, and allow the fairer sex to join forces and pick us off one at a time. But for five months out of the year, there is something we universally relate to; one topic we can discuss with one another no matter where we come from or where we’re going. Because in each of us, short, tall, skinny, fat, young, old, strong or weak, is a football player. No matter if we suited up for fifteen years, or never suited up at all, in each of us burns the desire to tackle, throw, catch, run and celebrate a touchdown. And because of that, we all feel qualified to have an “expert” opinion on football - a feeling that we can’t wait to share with one another. Farewell to sharing our feelings with other guys.

3. The Crying Shame. There are precious few occasions when you can expect to see a grown man display any real emotions. There are even fewer when you can expect to see him do it in front of his friends. But as the summer gives way to fall, and the fall gives way to winter, you can find men regularly forgetting their devotion to stoicism and plaintive facial expressions. In their place, you will find unbridled joy, boundless jubilation, crushing disappointment and abject defeat. We celebrate or bemoan the winning or losing of face, pride, or even money, just as robustly (and sometimes even more so) as if we were playing ourselves. We jump up and shout, pump our fists, pound our chests and high five like-minded strangers. We pout, curse, plead and retreat into despondence. I, myself, am inconsolable after my beloved Navy loses a big game - avoiding all sports broadcasting of any sort until enough time has passed that it is sure not to be mentioned. During this cherished term, each week we have the opportunity to shed our muted exteriors and let loose the crazy, loud, over-the-top madman we’re otherwise ashamed of. Farewell to wearing our hearts on our sleeves (albeit the sleeve of our Navy jersey).

* * *

Football is to adulthood what summer vacation was to childhood: a cherished annual occurrence that seemed as fleeting as it was wonderful. The day it was over, we began to wish for it to come around again, and hoped against hope that the time between occurrences would pass just as quickly as the time during it. It made the mundane somehow more enjoyable, and infused the whole world with a joy and purpose that seemed altogether absent during those dark days in between. And so it goes for 2011 - as we gather for a global wake, mourning the end of yet another season of pigskin with the world’s largest party. We brace ourselves for March Madness, the inexplicably marginal Stanley Cup, six months of professional basketball playoffs, and a baseball season that seems fourteen months long, armed with the knowledge that, no matter the banality of the sports we must endure to get there, football will be back, just as surely as the fall itself will follow the summer. And when it arrives, we’ll be there, farewells long forgotten and waiting for kickoff.


Ferrari said...

I'm already in mourning!

I like how you frame armchair quarterbacking as "sharing our feelings."

It's really a shame you don't appreciate baseball the way I do... ;) It wouldn't give you an excuse to sit on your lazy butt all weekend, but it would foster your penchant for 1) cheering and yelling, 2) criticizing players and coaches, 3) gloating in your team's victory, and 4) hating your rivals.

Anonymous said...

I loved it! ....But what I love even more..... is all the money you'll be able to save from our frequent trips to the Sportsbook. ; )

Your Gf

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