Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sports and Ideology

(This post title wins the coveted "Most Sounding like a Chapter Heading from A Theory of Literary Production" prize! Hurrah!)

I was rooting for the Vikings to lose because Brett Farve seems kind of egomaniacal, not to say thoughtless--it seems brutally unfair that young quarterbacks should get shoved aside because, oh look, Brett's decided to stick around for another self-indulgent season. Also, watching the announcers endlessly fellate him is somewhat repulsive.

But then I felt kinda bad for him in the fourth quarter, obviously in seriously bad shape but still pushing forward. When your life is surely centered around nothing but football, to see your last chance for glory slipping away like that--I can only imagine how much that would hurt, and sure, the guy's been thoughtless in a lot of ways and not as self-aware as he might have been, but do we really think that makes him different than most NFL players? Certainly not if they track evenly with the rest of the population in this regard. When you think about it like that, it's hard to really feel much animosity towards him--I mean, in any case, it's just a game. There are enough genuinely malign forces in America today without constructing extras.

But then, CRIKEY! If you can't have heroes and villains--if you're going to get all empathic all the time--you take half the fun out of sports. It occurs to me that a good part of the success of professional wrestling comes down to the way it emphasizes this aspect--if you have it, then plenty of people don't care whether it's "real."

I'm afraid I have to admit that being a football fan means deƫmphasizing those principles that I try to apply to the rest of my life. Not that that's a terrible thing--there are plenty of leftist football fans of various stripes who are able to compartmentalize in this way, and really, why not?

Still, this kind of tribalistic sports fandom is surely symptomatic of who we are as a people. And it isn't all that easy, either. I was and am glad about the game's outcome--the avalanche of Favre-worship that would have followed a victory, to say nothing of a possible Superb Owl victory, is just too much to bear--but I'm not super-gleeful, and I still feel sorta bad for the guy.


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