It’s Superbowl Sunday. Or as we call it here, just plain old Sunday. It’s snowy and cold, but we have other ways to distract ourselves than to watch endless hours of TV concerning the history of the event and highlights of the last season. I might feel differently if the Bears or Lions (you may recall that I grew up in Michigan) took on an opponent in the big game, but not this year.
Hubby’s upstairs diligently working on his homework for tomorrow. Oakley and I have claimed our territories on opposite ends of the sofa. I’m listening to WFMT. I will likely plug in a DVD later on and end the day with “Victoria” and “Queen Elizabeth’s Spies.”
Once upon a time, I would have eschewed even those shows for the Super Bowl, any sporting event. Once upon a time, I, too, would have had no qualms about watching SuperBowl coverage from the minute my feet touched the floor in the morning until I put them back under the covers that night. Once upon a time, I had to watch every sporting event on any network. I even seriously considered going into sports journalism.
Until I went to college and lived in the same housing complex as the men’s hockey team. Until I went to college and played women’s intramural ice hockey and realized that despite my best efforts to be a jock, I was not one. And that with one exception, I didn’t really like any of my teammates.
The toxic brew of vain attempts to please my father (who wanted an athlete in the family–my sister wasn’t one, either; my brother had no interest in sports except for managing the high school football team) who felt that history, science fiction, and books were a total waste of time; to attract a high school boyfriend ( I was the girl boys developed friendships with in attempts to get my princess-like then best friend’s phone number) and realizing that many of the men and women in the sports circles used athletic prowess as an excuse for pretty bad behavior away from the playing field corroded the fragile metal of my external warrior self.
Once the holes appeared and the armor fell away my freshman year, I was back, sort of, to sci-fi, history, and discovering nature through walks in forests and along the beach at times when I would have been watching humans smash into each other. Much better for the spirit and psyche.
With detachment comes perspective. Since my breakup with sports in college and the subsequent years, I found the clannishness fostered by sports culture rather disturbing. There’s an old Latin expression that translates as “divide and conquer.” The scent of that has grown more intense in the last few years with the Department of Defense using taxpayer funding for “tributes” to the military
Other issues include what amounts to early indoctrination of children into the cult of sports fandom and the impacts on social issues such as homelessness, human trafficking, and racial inequality.
It is not OK to support a faction of the entertainment industry that pays salaries that could support NFPs to people engaging in deliberate self-harm or harming others for amusement. Too many players such as Dave Duerson (suicide due to chronic depression caused by repeated concussions) and Alex Karras (concussion related dementia) paid dearly in their later years with concussion related issues. Especially if coupled with the message that it may be the only way out of marginalization for minorities. It is not OK to pay for shiny celebrations of military service without paying for treatment for returning members shattered in body and mind in combat. It is not OK to disrupt encampments of homeless people to polish the veneer of your city. It is not OK to pimp underage people to the rich and powerful attending the event.
It is OK to watch something fun played for the love of the game. Time was when college sports were played that way, but then ad revenue and funds from the NCAA became a source of income for too many colleges, distracting from academics.
With all these negatives, why have we allowed sports to take over our culture?
Some psychosocial theories postulate that humans get into sports in response to the hunter-gatherers residing in the deepest corners of our psyches. It’s a way of feeling part of a tribe, a clan.
Once upon an epoch, that mindset served the purpose of solidifying against another tribe competing for basic resources such as food.
We don’t need it today. We have more efficient delivery mechanisms for the procurement of food, shelter, clothing, and so on than chasing mastodons with spears as well as the means to deliver it to our fellows living in compromised circumstances.
We need to evolve to the next level where we can acknowledge our basic connections with one another and watch out, even in small ways, for our mutual well being.
If we can do that, we might create the greatest prize of all: a clean, green, peace-centered planet.