Like so many other Americans, I love football. And by "love" I don't just mean "oh I watch a game occasionally." No, I mean I have favorite teams whose fortunes I follow and other teams I love to see lose. No need to dive into all that right now. Suffice to say I've had my heart broken more than once by the monumental play. I've also had my spirits lifted by the same.
That level of involvement (my family would probably say "mania" or "addiction") receives a cold shower from George Will's recent column on college football's lack of control. Will, a well-known baseball aficionado, once wrote that football "combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings."
Having spent more than my fair share of afternoon and nights in a huddle and now with committee meetings, I always appreciated that insight. His more recent indictment makes a necessary point, too, and one that's being made more and more. Is football out of control? (There's a larger argument about sports themselves being out of control, too.) Combined with our growing awareness that football provides short-term glory and long-term health concerns, it's no surprise that some critics have even envisioned "the end of football."
Spiritual diabetes angle: how does this sport slake our cultural and spiritual thirsts? And if it does (and I think so), then what do those thirsts reveal to us about ourselves? That's where Will's recent article seems so helpful. This great thing that so many love has bolted out of control. And the difficult part about starting a diet/exercise program applies here; gaining control of our football addictions (b/c that's what they are) will require some conscientious abstention from what we love so much...and advising others not to go down the paths we're already on.
Or least to exercise extreme caution and be mindful of the problems. American sports--football, baseball, basketball, etc.--provide too much material to ignore and, quite frankly, I enjoy many of them. So I want to avoid some hypocritical (and mythical and self-deluding) higher ground that "something must be done" when my actions help perpetuate the problem I demand others fix. I.e., I'm not a limousine liberal or employing some Marxist double-standard (it's OK for me but not for thee). That being said, like overconsumption of food and drink leads to a physical diabetic condition, we're facing a point where our consumption of one particular sport has led us all to a situation that we don't like, don't want to face, and can't reverse or undo.
As usual, Rod Dreher (reposting a blog by Diane Roberts) makes a great point here about belonging and college football. Basically, yes. Cheering in the crowd, us against them, the paegantry, the game--it is consuming.