The NFL football season kicks off in a few minutes and I can hardly wait. “Why is that?” you ask. “Aren’t they just a bunch of grossly oversized young men on steroids pushing each other around and knocking each other over in tight pants in front of thousands of screaming spectators? Is it their tight pants or is it the violent collisions and frequent injuries in their gladiator-like settings that interest you. Or could it be you enjoy football as an excuse for sitting on the sofa all day Sunday drinking beer, eating greasy finger food and switching back and forth between three TV channels rather than doing something meaningful like mowing the grass or cleaning the garage. Help me to understand your obsession with this game you call football, a game that has very little to do with the foot as far as I can tell. Oh, by the way when was the last time you actually played football?”
“When I was eighteen and I tried out for my Marine Corps base intramural league.”
“My point exactly. And, don’t you have to live in a city with a NFL team to experience that civic pride that comes from supporting the ‘home team?’ I can see Brazilians fanatically rooting for Brazil over Spain in World Cup soccer competition but does anybody really care how Cleveland does against St. Louis in Sunday’s football game?”
“I care . . . well not so much about Cleveland but I appreciate the complexity and the intricacies of football no matter who is playing.” I say in my defense.
“Bullshit! You know that there is a raging debate in psychology circles over whether a violent sport, like football, is correlated to the aggression in the people who enjoy watching and playing it.”
“Okay,” I say. “Let’s see if we can identify the ingredients of a typical football fan. You’ve hit on a couple, civic pride and aggression and I’ve added the complexity and intricacy of the game. What else can you think of?”
“First off I’d say excess testosterone but how about male bonding and membership in the macho world of the beer-swilling, sprawl-on-the-couch American male and while we’re at it there is probably something about subgroup membership going on here. If you are a Kansas City Chiefs fan you are a member of a very identifiable, spirited group that will welcome you regardless of who you are and what you actually bring to the group. And as a member of this tastelessly clad group you can share their passions, you can revel in their victories, suffer in their defeats and you can argue or lament endlessly on this player or that, the competency of the coaching staff or how they pissed away their first round draft choice on the no good bum from Florida State. Yeah, now that I think about it, this group identity and group membership thing may be the key reason you guys become fans. What team are you a fan of anyway?”
“I actually like all pro football but if I had to say one team . . . I’d say the Philadelphia Eagles.”
“And why is that? Have you thought out what ever it is about the Eagles that make them so special to you? Is it their funny green ― green for God’s sake ― color or is it those cool wings they have painted on their helmets or is it watching their grossly overweight coach pacing the sidelines trying his damndest not to trip on his headset cable?”
“Well, I actually lived in Philly and had season tickets to the Eagles.”
“Yeah but you’ve lived everywhere and I didn’t hear you say anything about the Broncos, the Chargers, the 49ers, the Pats, the Redskins or the Chiefs.”
“I like all of those teams . . . well, maybe not the Redskins or the 49ers so much but I’m Okay with the Broncos, the Pats and the Chiefs.”
“So you’re an Eagles fan . . . I guess that’s Okay. They’ve got an ex-con for a quarterback, this very good kid, DeSean Jackson, ― and what kind of name is DeSean, anyway ― for a wide receiver and some really ugly black uniforms but thank God they finally got rid of McNabb. The Eagles may be in contention this year if they can keep Michael Vick healthy and develop a running game.”
Just then we hear Hank Williams Jr. yell from the television, “Are you ready for some football?”
“I’m ready!” I yell as I race to the sofa sloshing my beer and leaving a trail of potato chips on the carpet.