Why Football

Barbara’s Football Buzz bills itself as “the site for anyone who thinks WAY too much about the game.” After 25 years (and countless hours) spent watching, analyzing and writing about pro games one may well ask – WHY? What is it about this boys’ game played by grown men that attracts so many spectators, fans and aficionados of both sexes that the NFL is a huge industry? Theories abound of course: everything from escapism to male bonding.

Today, all sports are entertainment and entertainment IS escapism, but surely there’s more to it. Anthropologically one could argue that these skill contests probably go back to mammoth-hunting days. Physical prowess was a survival necessity – for both sexes. From an historical point of view sports contests are the original war games. The Olympic sports grew out of warrior skills: running, wrestling, javelin throwing (can you believe THAT’S still around – and what’s up with the shotput?), etc. Competition fosters excellence and makes the army stronger.

Ah, there we go – excellence. Much as we hate to admit it, Al Davis has it right. World class and professional athletes have made “a commitment to excellence.” On the field, the NFL is a showcase for the possibilities of both the human body and the human spirit. Feminist Germaine Greer once called football a great example of “male display.” One can hardly argue with this characterization of Alpha behavior. Sports pontiffs are known to say of Tom Brady, “Women want to be with him – and men want to BE him.”

Regardless of sociological spin, we all experience the thrill of a great catch and the chill of a hard hit. These men do what few of us could dream of achieving. And, despite the unsavory exploits of a few, the players’ personal stories frequently tell of perseverance, integrity, character and triumph over adversity. They are our gladiators – and, like classic Romans, we shower them with fortune and adulation.

And, as with gladiators, we cheer for our favorites. Team sports are ritualized warfare and we take it VERY seriously. Go to a stadium and you’ll see Americans of every race, age and economic class unified and yelling for their team. Talk about bonding!

All in all, the NFL serves many functions for those of us who spend WAY too much time on it. At the least it provides a common ground of sheer fun. At the most it can inspire as we catch our breath at the latest impossible physical feat or come from behind victory. A friend and I were lucky enough to spend a whirlwind day and night at the Super Bowl. On the flight home we couldn’t help but listen as a teenage boy behind us shared his digital photos with his seatmate – who happened to be a total stranger. Even though his team lost, he excitedly captioned each frame for his “audience”, reliving the experience with real joy. At the conclusion of his impromptu slide show this young man exclaimed, “Man, I can’t wait ‘til next season!” We know just how he feels.


“You have to feel
sorry for linebackers:
they’re battling
guys much bigger
than them
while trying
to catch guys
much faster
than them!”
Ladanian Tomlinson

No Comments

Leave a Reply

Using Gravatars in the comments - get your own and be recognized!

XHTML: These are some of the tags you can use: <a href=""> <b> <blockquote> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>