Sunday, January 24, 2010

There appears to be some football on TV

Judging by Facebook status updates. Which is amusing to me, since I haven't turned the TV on in a few days, much less watched football.

This is what I don't get about football: how can people who have never, ever tossed a pigskin in their lives get so damn crazy about a game? Brilliant marketing, hero cultivation, brainwashing, what? It's not like there is a novelty factor here, like there would be watching, say, bob-sledding at the Olympics once every four years. Football is also extremely inaccessible to personal participation, compared to games like basketball and soccer. It requires a lot of space, a fair number of people even in a pick-up format, and few people seem to play it. Just anecdotally, it seems that more of my classmates play dodgeball at school than flag football. So what is it about this game? It's convoluted, has more rules than most people can remember, has flags on every other play, takes three hours to play sixty minutes of game, and is just generally cumbersome. I don't get it.

I've always been fascinated by watching athletes on TV do something that I could or have personally engaged in - ice skating, skiing, toboggan, running, rowing, swimming, archery, shooting, climbing, cycling, etc. Participation creates context for the viewing and appreciation of the performance. It allows me to put my mind's eye into the action and be amazed by what those top level athletes can do. I used to love watching Paulo Salvoldelli chase through the long Euro mountain passes at 100km/h or Cancellara chase back to the bunch through the cars, because I've actually done something like that, I know the sound of the wind and the smell of brake pads burning. I have felt the tires pushing the limits of their traction in hairpin corners and I've felt that full-body awareness of vulnerability as hard pavement screams by. I've been three feet above the world's biggest belt-sander pushing the limits of a 15lb piece of frail aluminum on two little strips of rubber less than an inch wide each. That, I get, on TV. I can feel my heart-rate climb watching that. I can feel the hair on my arms stand up when a rider pushes through a corner with a sheer drop on one side and a rock wall on the other. The wind feel changes when you brush stationary object like that, and your skin can tell you exactly, within millimeters, how close you really are to the edge as your eyes stay on the pavement in front of you. That I get.

But football? No, I just don't get it.

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