Sports, especially football, and especially the NFL, have led the way out of the darkness of the pandemic.
It left me wondering why.
I think I figured it out.
It’s not the sport itself, nor its coverage on TV. It’s less the fact that it’s an American lingua franca, games the only program you can depend on for ratings.
It’s more what that represents, argument without argument. You and I can discuss the merits of Lamar Jackson or Brock Purdy without once bringing up politics, and our questions will be answered on the field.
You don’t have to be red to love football. You don’t have to be blue. Blue and red can argue the game over beers without mentioning the things that divide us. Not once.
Shut Up and Play
When Tony Dungy or Aaron Rodgers brings politics into the studio, there’s going to be a reaction. It’s not so much their views, which are popular among fans, especially rabid ones. It’s that they’re bringing them up at all.
I don’t want to hear about Trump. The game is on. I don’t want to hear about Biden. I want to hear about how Purdy got by the Packers, and whether he can take the next step.
Football is what the old movie Rollerball pretended to be. It’s not just corporate controlled, but feudal, with second and third generation owners who are only billionaires because their fathers were. It’s gladiatorial, and the stars are forgotten once they step off the field. It’s violent, the rules constantly tweaked to minimize that risk, but the risk remains.
It’s ours. It belongs to all of us. For a few hours, or over a few brews, you’re not wearing a MAGA hat and I’m not calling you a fascist. The answers we seek are on the scoreboard, and the final is the final.
The danger for football is what happens if, and when, Americans unite. I think we will. I truly believe we’re close to the end of this generation’s story, that there won’t be many more cliffhangers.
When we can talk about things that matter, will we still care as much for the things that don’t?