This is not a sports post.
It is, however, a post about the Super Bowl.
Ok, maybe it is a little bit of a sports post, but I don't have anything to say about the game, the players, tactics or stats, legacies, or any of that. Maybe this isn't a sports post exactly, but a post about our society and the way we engage with and around athletic competitions.
More specifically, this is a post about how the nature of societal engagement is changing in our increasingly digitally embedded culture.
I have written before about my infatuation (obsession) with the phenomenon that is athletics in our contemporary society. I got my last two degrees from an institution of higher learning that had nothing but disdain for sports, and I regularly hang out with workaholic types who view the entire sports world as a vapid waste of productivity cycles that could have been spent building a spreadsheet or something. As a result I have frequently found myself as a kind of sports apologist trying to explain why so many of us are so enmeshed in athletic contests featuring people we are unlikely to ever even meet, much less have a significant personal relationship with.
This is not a post about that, although it is about that a little.
Mostly, I want to talk about how incredible it was to experience the Super Bowl Half-Century Extravaganza (SBHCE). I mean, sure, there are all the regular things about these kind of events that reaffirm my belief that certain sports days should be national holidays: namely the gathering together with friends and/or family, coupled with the copious food and alcohol consumption.
The SBHCE was a different sort of experience than just watching a game. In fact, the game might have been the least engaging part of the experience for the vast majority of us.
As some of our loyal readership are no doubt aware, I have a nephew who is the sum of all things precocious and adorable. On occasion, when people fawn over his impish grin and dazzling deep blue eyes, they suggest that he takes after his uncle, which is how I discovered what being flattered feels like, that sense of being praised or honored beyond one's merit. That's rare for me, because no one thinks higher of me than I do.
Flattery feels great, by the way, like being surprised by awesomeness you didn't know you had. It's intoxicating to watch the little bundle of delight charm entire rooms with his winsome ease, and then think that I might have in some way contributed to that. Having met both of his remarkable parents, though, I think it's both more likely and more fortunate that he is the harmonious blend of their distinct brilliance. Without feeling the need to claim responsibility, there is a particular trait that my nephew and I share which I would like to discuss today.
We are both obsessed with counting things.
I don't think we're alone in that regard. As a culture, we seem to have become enraptured with the quantification of quality.
Dear National Football League,
Hey, there. I've missed you. I mean, not so much during the month when the World Cup dominated my every waking thought, and I think it is so considerate of you to give me that space, but these last couple of weeks have been brutal. I'm glad you're coming back. I am. It's just, there are some things that we need to talk about. I've been putting this off for a while, and you could call me a coward for resorting to this heartless blog post, but that would require you having a mouth to vocalize your complaint, and if you'd have had a face then I'd have said this to it, so this is all really your fault in the first place.
This World Cup has been everything I could have hoped it could be. To be fair, I was ready. My heart and my schedule were as wide open as the Brazilian defense, waiting for this Cup to blitzkrieg straight to my core. I've spent decades learning to love this beautiful game, building my appreciation for all the smallest nuances, but this is the first time that I have managed to watch every single game of a major tournament, live. Let me just say to all of my similarly soccer obsessed friends out there, this is the way that the game is meant to be watched. All my previous watching experiences now appear as a youth fumbling through a series of relationships, trying to learn how to love, but never going All The Way. Yes, this World Cup was like sex.
Well, after a long time not bothering the web with my often inane musings on the social impact of our current sporting culture I have decided to add a sports section to this website. I have to admit that some of my motivation is just another avenue to keep my fingers hitting keys in the hope that they might stumble upon something worth being written, or worth being read. In a perfect world, I might discover something that was both. It would be dishonest to claim that as the entire reason, though.
The reality is that I love sports. In fact, I have a high degree of affection for quite a few athletic competitions, but there is something about the Sport, team versions in particular, that grips me in the kind of emotional catharsis that I can no longer access in a religious vein. While I have long thought that athletic team culture might grow into the heir for our collapsed religious meta-narrative, I would like to hold most of those thoughts for a later date, because at the moment the entirety of my intellectual and emotional resources are allotted to this delightful football tournament in Brazil.
Thoughts on culture, community, and development.