It’s upon us, my friends, Super Bowl XLIV (that’s Super Bowl 44 to those of you who can’t read Latin like I can)! I don’t know about you, but I’m looking forward to this game like people who are into BDSM look forward to Comicon, but not because I give a shit about football. On the contrary, I’m looking forward to it precisely because I hate football, football culture, and the horse it rode in on, and I’ve chosen this most holy of holy football days to let everyone know just how stupid our national religion really is. I’ve invited three of my associates (one of whom is an actual sports writer and doesn’t even hate football!) to chime in with guest posts (a first here at the ‘chine) and will be live-blogging the game itself and the accompanying commercials and “entertainment” with Kendall McK for those of you who can’t be asked to suffer through actually watching it or who are fortunate enough to be outside the broadcast range of CBS.
I’ve written a bit about sports before. I don’t like ‘em. I find sports in general to be boring, irritating, aesthetically and morally offensive, and a complete waste of time, human energy, money, beer, and snack foods. Sporting culture is lousy with misogyny and gynophobia, athletes are usually complete dicks, and sports fans and their behavior almost always elicit eye-rolls from me that are so pronounced as to strain whatever little muscles keep my eyes in my head. That shit hurts, and it happens too often. America is probably the most sports-obsessed country in the world, you know. I mean, I know everyone says that Indians are wacky for cricket, we’ve all seen video of English dudes jumping off of balconies with no pants on because some soccer team did or did not do something awesome, we all know everyone in China follows nearly every sport included in the menu of the Olympic games to an extent that makes even American sports bar patrons snort, “Dorks,” but we’re into sports in a unique way. Our sports are loud, aggressive, commercialized, and crass, and there are fucking tons of them. At any given point in the year there are at least two major sporting leagues in action and several lesser sports to pay attention to. We’ve got the NFL, the NBA, MLB, the NHL, the PGA, the LPGA, UFC, WEC, and so on, but even that shit wasn’t enough and we got arena football, the absolutely hilarious XFL, and who knows how many wrestling, boxing, cagefighting, car racing, and rodeo leagues. But we’re still looking for more sports to get into, as evidenced by the rapid multiplication of local soccer teams in the US. This is not a positive development (though I’m sure Davetavius would disagree as he thinks soccer is the only sport it’s OK to be into — but anyway, even if soccer does get big here, I’m sure we’ll find a way to make it just as egregious as our other sports).
How, might one ask, did Ms. Deuce end up such a hater of sports? Like any kid in the US, I grew up having to sit through countless NFL games, pay-per-view boxing matches, televised golf events, and the odd basketball or baseball game with a crew of drunken adults. It seemed that not a weekend went by that I wasn’t forced to endure hours and hours of horrifyingly tedious sporting events blaring out of the giant-screened television in one of my relatives’ or parents’ friends’ living rooms, a torture only mitigated in the tiniest of ways by the variety of snacks and soft drinks available (and that depended on whose house we were at — some of those old fuckers had “health problems” and only drank rum and DIET Coke, and Diet Coke fucking sucks when you’ve yet to develop a taste for aspartame). Still, nachos and various dips can only hold one’s attention for so long. At some point I had to turn my attention to what was going on on the television and the reaction it was causing in the people around me. It was NOT cool. I saw grown adults scoot forward in their seats and contort their faces in agony as they held their fists up and urged some asshole with a ball to run really far. I heard adults that I had previously looked up to yell things like “Motherfucker!” or “Son of a BITCH!” while striking innocent inanimate objects because some guy they didn’t know had failed to run really far while carrying a ball in some stadium a thousand miles away. I witnessed the bizarre semi-conversations that occur between preoccupied (or, as preoccupied as one can be while watching something inherently boring) men watching sports punctuated by fist pumping and grunts. And the NFL was by far the leader in inspiring such behavior. People may claim that baseball is America’s pastime, but the NFL is surely America’s number one source of inspiration for behavior that can even be embarrassing in the privacy of one’s own home.
And then there was school. When I was in grade school, I used to hang upside-down from the bars on the playground preparing myself mentally for cherry-drops I would never actually complete and stare off across the field at the boys, who were, without fail, engaged in a game that I did not know the name of and could never figure out the aim of other than knocking people down. That is, until one day when the principal called an assembly in the school auditorium to inform us that “anyone caught playing… um… ahem… uh… ‘smear the queer’” would be suspended from school. These stupid boys who probably had no idea what a “queer” was were playing a game in which the object was just to knock down whichever kid was holding the football, a kid that was, at least for the duration of time during which he held the football, known as “the queer.” By the time I was in sixth grade, I was pretty sure that the cultural stereotypes I had associated with the word “queer” did not include being a big enough badass to invite fifteen other kids to kick one’s ass by holding a ball they all wanted to get out of your hands. Whatever, like I needed more proof that boys were stupid.
By the time I was in junior high, I was already aware that football wasn’t very cool. I went to school in southern California, where people are a little more predisposed to counter-culturalism and a little less prone to sports idolatry than they are in, say, a small town in Texas. There’s other shit to do when you have an ocean, good weather, and a lot of different kinds of people, so football players aren’t treated like the king of town in most places. Still, I was an adolescent, so even though I hated football, I agreed to join the Pop Warner cheerleading team when three of my friends did so in seventh grade. Now, calm down. We were easily the worst team in San Diego County (both the football and cheerleading teams), not one of us paid one second of attention to the games or to the players, and, once we realized it wasn’t going to be like an 80s movie, we hated the whole thing so much that we skipped practice all the time.
Still, I admit that I did it, and that while I did so I did notice that there was something very odd about the gender dynamic of football culture. First, the boys had practice at the exact same time we did, but we wouldn’t have known because we were kept separated and didn’t interact with them at all, even before and after the games, which pissed me off because I was friends with more of them than I was girls on my own team. Second, their coach basically pretended we didn’t exist, despite the fact that his wife was our coach. Third, we were ostensibly expected to lead cheers the contents of which bewildered all of us. I’m 100% positive that not a single one of us knew what was going on at any time during any game, and hence had no clue what we were even chanting about; I might have stood around lackadaisically mouthing the words, “First and ten, let’s do it again, first… and ten” with my teammates, but I had no idea what it meant and no motivation whatsoever to learn. We were supremely passive despite the fact that we were supposed to be “leading” something. Finally, I had no desire to engage in a violent, boring, overly complicated sport myself, but I did realize that, had I wanted to, I probably wouldn’t have been allowed to, and that shit pissed me off. I didn’t sign up for a second year.
The fact that I eschewed making a career for myself as a high school cheerleader probably had more to do with the fact that I started smoking and hanging around kids who listened to punk bands in eighth grade than the fact that I was the world’s foremost adolescent gender theorist, but the fact remains, I was out for good by eighth grade. Then I went to high school, where there was actually a team associated with the school rather than just a Pop Warner team that used the school’s grounds after hours. Still, no one seemed to give a shit. I went to a total of one high school football game in my entire four years of high school, and it was the first game of my freshman year. It was unbelievably unengaging. I’d already been to a thousand high school football games with my parents because their friend’s son was the neighboring town’s star high school quarterback, but I expected this one to be better since I was unsupervised and my peers would be there. Wrong. There was no one there but old people and the kids at school I’d already decided I never wanted to associate with because they were too “mainstream.” I’d already figured out that I didn’t like the kinds of kids who were so unreflective that they decided to spend their weekends pretending to be their parents when their parents exhibited no characteristics whatsoever that made them worthy of emulation.
And, really, school spirit? What in god’s name would give me any reason to identify with an entity as shitty, annoying, and oppressive as my high school? I hated every second that I went there and couldn’t wait to get out. The idea of painting my face or making a spangly, puff paint t-shirt that said “Go ____s!” (yeah right, I’m not giving up the school’s mascot so you can find out where I went to high school) on it was so absurd that I almost considered doing it ironically. I hate to paraphrase myself, so I’ll quote myself:
Think about it, why would anyone be obsequiously loyal to a group of dumbasses they don’t even know just because they play with balls, even if they’re really good at it? Sports teams represent generic and basically valueless entities like cities, high schools, colleges, and meaningless “lifestyle” concepts created by corporate marketing teams, and I’m pretty worried about anyone who gets upset enough to scream while pointing at the ground (the number one way to express extreme anger among sports fans) over their allegiance to any of the above. But that’s what team sports do, they teach people to develop obsessive loyalties to concepts and entities that any normal human being ought to not give a shit about… American team sports teach young people that idolatry is all good, especially when directed at some violent, narcissistic asshole or team of assholes who represent our culture’s warped, misogynistic, and destructive idea of masculinity, and that unquestioning loyalty to vague and meaningless concepts and authority figures is where it’s at.
I didn’t care about my high school team, I didn’t care about my college team, I certainly don’t give a shit about the team at the university I currently go to, and I couldn’t possibly care less what the Jets or the Giants are up to this season. That shit is for people who can’t wait to work at companies that have annual fun runs and who like to talk about “the troops” with phony reverence.
Back to that bit about masculinity. The NFL might as well be called No Faggots ‘Llowed, because I’m pretty sure that it’s the NFL and the corporations that own it that have created the idealized, normative image of the modern American man as a homophobic, misogynistic, jingoistic, unthoughtful, materialistic, upper middle class middle-management asshole who loves the four B’s: big trucks, brewskis, boobs, and Buffalo wings. NFL fans are a surprisingly homogeneous bunch considering the fact that many of them would be willing to kick someone’s ass for following the wrong team, but then maybe that’s not such a surprise. Football creates a space in which corporations can control and channel the natural violence and aggression that stem from the oppressive culture that modern capitalism creates toward lucrative rather than destructive ends. A guy from DC might kick a guy from Dallas’s ass over a football game, but for every time that happens, 150,000 other people display their pointless loyalty to their team by buying shit.
Male NFL fans really do have a lot in common. Listen to the announcers at the Super Bowl tomorrow and compare their voices to those of the men on the pre- and post-game shows. Compare them again to the voices of the men around you when they discuss the game. Do you notice anything? I call it the NFL accent, and it afflicts men across America. No matter whether the dude in question is from Dallas, Buffalo, Seattle, Denver, or Miami, no matter what regional accent he brings to the discussion, the NFL accent will shine through and affect his diction in ways that will trump whatever local idioms, colloquialisms, and speech patterns he might otherwise display. Check out the outfits on the announcers, fans, and experts. Have a look at their facial expressions, gestures, and general behavior patterns.
But what about the women? This is, after all, a feminist blog, right? Well, check out the women… I mean accessories, and see if you can come up with a schema for describing the way they’re taxonomized in football culture. Are they decorations? Servants? Joke butts? “Team moms”? Surely they aren’t complete humans. I suppose I could get into the misogyny inherent in the culture of the NFL (and sports in general) now, but I think I’ll leave that for when I live-blog the event, the commercials, and the half-time show. You see, I don’t need to bother trying to pull examples out of my small cache of memories of sporting events I’ve had to sit through because I know I’ll be given plenty of examples shortly. I’ll see you at kick-off.