Saturday, February 5, 2011

In Search of...what I love about football

No, you did not read that incorrectly. I actually said there was something that I love about football. I didn’t even use the word “like.” I went all out and said “love.” No, aliens have not invaded my body and rendered me unrecognizable when it comes to the sport I have been known to describe as “a bunch of men jumping on each other.”

Bill Maher turned it around for me. Completely. And trust me, he doesn’t look like he’s ever made contact with a football or jumped on any men in his life. He was, however, kind enough to point out something about it that I never knew: The NFL pools their revenues and divides them equally among all the teams so that everyone has an equal chance of succeeding, an even playing field, if you will.

Could this be true? I wondered. So what Bill was saying to me was that, in this land where the haves have and the have nots, well, struggle, suffer and die, the one truly fair thing we’ve got going for us is professional football??? Seriously???

If Bill was kind enough to rescue football from my view of it as a barbaric activity which frequently causes its participants permanent brain damage and paralysis, then he ruined baseball for me by pointing out the vast economic disparities. While football has salary caps and revenue sharing, baseball is every man for himself. So the team with the most money usually wins, while the team with the least money stands no chance of making it to the World Series at all. Where’s the fun in that kind of fight? And I’m a Yankee fan! Damn him! Now I have to actually try to understand why the men are running back and forth and jumping on each other!

And while we’re still on the subject of football, the team that wins picks last in the next draft. That totally appeals to my Obama-esque "socialist" tendencies. Kudos to you, football.

The truth is we would all like to believe that life is fair, that the American dream is possible, that justice prevails, and that the best person wins, but we know that's just not true. Oh, some of it used to be true, but just ask the lady who went to jail because she lied to get her kids in a better school district so they’d stand a fighting chance of not ending up in gangs. Ask those without health insurance if they stand an equal chance of diagnosing a fatal disease while it’s still early and curable. How much chance do you think someone with no money stands of winning an election, any election, local or otherwise? None, that’s how much chance. While, yes, it takes money to make money, the question is, “Is that all it takes?” And in most instances today, the answer would be “yes.” Talent, smarts, commitment, perseverance all come in a distant second.

So in this current climate of growing chasms between rich and poor, educated and uneducated, between those who stand a chance and those who don’t, it is utterly refreshing to find a sport that has more viewers than churches have people in them on Christmas, where fair is fair, where the underdog stands as much of a chance as the reigning champion, where salaries have a cap on them and the spoils are shared equally. So if there’s anything still truly great about America, there it is – football.

So tomorrow I will watch these men jump on each other with a new appreciation for the sport, for a kind of justness I can only wish would permeate the rest of our society. Yay football. Go Packers. And God Bless America.

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