But I Like the Costumes
I am not a big fan of football. I follow the news about traumatic brain injuries in football more than I keep up with who’s winning. I was transfixed by the Penn State scandal about sexual assault and the cover up by university officials. I am currently somewhat amused and dismayed by the latest UNC Chapel Hill scandal about bogus classes for the athletes where they all get “A’s” for not attending class. To me, football is a violent game played by adrenaline and testosterone amped up “thugs” – to quote (or misquote) the highly charged word of the week.
My father would watch football every Sunday, a Redskins fan. My mother did not. Condescending of sports and stereotypically male activities, I absorbed her scorn, rolling my eyes at the ridiculous obsession of sports fanatics. I never quite understood my father’s fascination. After all, he was a violin-playing, slender and awkward physicist who had an equivalently condescending attitude toward popular entertainment and anything trendy. But his father was a strapping man who did play football. What an enigma his son must have been to him! Sometimes, I would join my father and he would patiently explain the rules of football to me. I absorbed his respect for the game. The sound of whistle-blowing referees and cheering fans on the television on Sundays has become nostalgic for me.
In high school, our football team was noteworthy for not winning (though the players and the cheerleaders were at the top of the social hierarchy.) When I went to the home games, it was purely social – to hang out with my friends, to enjoy chanting in the stands, and to support the marching band. I don’t remember actually watching the games. Football also was not part of my college experience, attending an all-women’s college. I never dated someone who was a football fan, so it has always remained on the periphery of my life. I’ve spent many a Super Bowl Sunday at the movies or knitting with girlfriends, alternating between grudging tolerance of the spectacle and hostile avoidance.
Several years ago, my kids began clamoring to watch the Super Bowl. What?! Where did I go wrong? I decided to humor them. Why should they be saddled with my baggage? Why should they belong to the weird family that shuns the Super Bowl? Besides the commercials are funny and the half-time show is a spectacle in and of itself. The Giants, our home team, were in it. I actually watched the game. I became interested in the strategy. And awestruck by Eli Manning’s amazing pass and David Tyree’s amazing catch in the 2007 game. The grace and choreography won me over.
Now that sports journalism has broadened to include more player profiles, I can’t get enough of Super Bowl week. This year, I’ve read up on the Nike-designed costumes. Oops, I mean uniforms. (I prefer the Sea Hawks blue and lime green costumes over the obnoxious orange of the Broncos. Is that a good reason to root for the Sea Hawks?) I’ve read up on Richard Sherman and his college career at Stanford. Apparently, he is NOT a thug and appears to be more complicated than that incident makes him out to be. I’ve read up on Russell Wilson and his multi-talented foray into baseball. I am sympathetic with the aging Peyton Manning and would love to see the wisdom of experience beat out the brashness of youth. (Is that a good reason to root for the Broncos?) My favorite piece was on the Bronco’s offensive coach, Adam Gase, a brilliant and analytical non-player who is a creative play-maker and has established an astonishing synchronicity with Peyton Manning.
Mainly though, I am happy to be able to have fun participating in a popular culture event with my family and without all the scornful judgment of my upbringing coloring the experience. Go Sea Hawks! I love your costumes.
Oh, and note to NFL: Please address the mounting evidence of traumatic brain injury from football.
Photo credit: New York Times