Another post season is upon us and once again I find myself juggling conflicting emotions about sports. For anyone not familiar with the American sports scene I am referring to the NFL playoffs, the only post season worth mentioning. Basket ball and hockey drag on too long, soccer is too intermittent, auto racing too convoluted and baseball is just boring to watch, though a day at the ball park is an experience that transcends the sporting event itself. I’m an American, we wax poetic about some pretty silly stuff, sue me.
I struggle with values that, while not contradictory, are certainly competing. Love of the visceral competition versus a need for deeper thought. Understanding the need for entertainment versus the knowledge that that entertainment is used to placate us and blind us to the injustices in our society. The desire to be more feminine versus my socialization as a male versus the recognition that one need not be pigeonholed into any gender role.
This last conflict is fairly easy. A few acquaintances act perplexed that I still follow sports, in particular American football (sorry if my wanting to clarify for any non-American readers offends my fellow Yanks) wondering how I can claim to feel I am a woman while doing so. Really though, most of the people I am closest to, in particular some of my more conservative family members, know better. I learned my love of sport from my mother (and I am fairly certain she was a cis woman) and not my father, who could care less about it. Femininity and love of athletic competition are not mutually exclusive.
The other two issues, however, are more problematic. During the football season I notice how easy it is for people to get distracted by the pageantry and drama of the game. Many of my hetero male friends, and more than a few of those not in that category, lose themselves in it at least on Sunday and often the minutiae of ongoing season dominates conversation the entire week. Football is not alone in this. Other sports distract us, as do other forms of entertainment. The NFL just seems to do so in an amplified manner.
You can see friends get into serious shouting matches about their teams. It is rare to see these conflicts last more than a day, though I have seen it once or twice, but to carry it on for any more than the length of the next play puzzles me. It is just a game, why do we have to take it so seriously? Why drop expletives at the slightest perceived provocation? Why defend your favorite team with almost religious zeal in the same sentence that you condemn them for incompetent wastes of space? Why put so much of our own worth and identity into our favorite teams?
I am not going to suggest people give up on football, or any of the distractions that they love. I just think they should not let themselves get distracted as much as they do. I know it is probably easier for me to say “take it down a notch” with my beloved Titans out of the picture for the season (next year though, I’m telling you, of course any Browns, Bills or Vikings fan will tell you the same.) Still maybe stepping back and not scheduling your entire weekend around it might help. If nothing else it might make it more enjoyable for itself and not as an essential part of your self image.