Sunday, February 5, 2017

Sunday, Fatty Sunday

[Fran here. I've decided to take the day off from all things Internet. After all, Super Bowl Sunday is a special day, which should not be marred by trivial nonsense about politics, law and order, wars and insurrections, or life and death. So I'm recycling the piece I wrote for SBS in 2013.]

It's here.
The day of wings.
The day of chips and dip.
The day of franks in a blanket (more mustard, please).
The day of bagel bites, and pizza bits, and potato puffs, and little triangles of phyllo pastry filled with spinach, or mushrooms, or feta cheese, or nonspecific ground-up spicy crap that failed the entrance exam to become sausage.
The day when all of America, svelte, middling, and rotund, shoves its diets to the side and proclaims itself...

Free To Nosh!
Free To Nosh!!
Thank God Almighty,

New Year's Eve has nothing on Super Bowl Sunday.

Oh, the commercials are funny, too.

All the above should be taken with a grain of Alka-Seltzer, of course. What sports fan could fail to love America's biggest secular holiday? All right, the game is usually well below legitimate expectations for something so ballyhooed, the commentary that encrusts it before, during and afterward often reaches undreamed-of heights of unjustified hyperbole, and the half-time extravaganza would embarrass a Las Vegas pimp. So what? America is replete with excess just straining to be let out somewhere. A football game is a more suitable venue than most, what with its 300-pound behemoths, their absurd after-play (?) celebrations, their many colorful extra-legal adventures, and their heavyweight-boxing-like trash talk.

Given all that, consider for a moment that the biggest controversy in the NFL for a whole season was the wholesome, deeply devout Tim Tebow's habit of offering a prayer of gratitude after a touchdown.

Some comedian -- it might have been Jerry Seinfeld -- opined recently that being a fan of a professional sports franchise in this year of Our Lord 2013 is essentially "rooting for laundry." He has a point:

  • Though each team is affiliated with a city, its players normally don't come from that city (or anywhere near it).
  • The teams consider themselves free to relocate should their gate receipts prove unsatisfactory.
  • Quite a lot of the players aren't Americans and speak little English.
  • Players very rarely stay with a single team throughout their careers.
  • Free agency has reduced players' team loyalty and the supposed drive for team championships to a laughable "oh yeah, of course" afterthought.
  • Behavioral standards in pro sports -- the actual standards, as opposed to notional ones -- are lower than in most state prisons.
  • The star performers are generally more interested in garnering advertising endorsements and tie-ins than anything else. When not embroiled in steroids prosecutions or paternity scandals, that is.

So just what is a New York Yankees fan, or a San Francisco 49ers fan, or a Chicago Bulls fan, or a Phoenix Coyotes fan rooting for? The emblem on "his" team's uniforms?

Nope. Not possible. The dullest, least conscious sports-addicted couch potato couldn't be that brain-dead.

Gotta be the junk food.

The room is all empty except for the screen
Some guys are in red shirts, some guys are in green
There's a break in the action, but soon there'll be more
I'd go to the bathroom but someone might score, on,

You're the reason I'm single again
Life is for losers, sports is your friend
And who's got more sports on than ESPN?

I'd like to go out but my wallet is gone
But who wants to go out, when there's volleyball on?
And there's synchronized swimming and football ahead
There's bowling for morons, and golf for the dead, on...

You're the reason I'm single again
Life is for losers, sports is your friend
And who's got more sports on than ESPN?

You're the reason I'm single again
Life is for losers, sports is your friend
And who's got more sports on
    (You can watch with your shorts on)
        (No weather reports on)
than ESPN?

[Transcribed from memory. By John Parker Compton, I think.]

If there's any rational reason for Americans' enthusiasm for pro sports, it has to have something to do with our disgust with politics. There might be some politics in the operation of a sports league -- in the sense of owners and franchisees jockeying for some financial advantage or other, at least -- but once the players are on the field, the rules, however complex, don't change in mid-game. At least, they're not supposed to, and we don't expect them to. That's why the "Pine Tar Tragedy" of a few years back, in which Billy Martin's citation of George Brett's illegal bat -- and it was illegal, by the rules under which the game was being played on that day -- was retroactively overruled by the American League, was so reaving. That sort of nonsense belongs on Capitol Hill, not in the pure and undefiled cathedrals of pro sports. The demagoguery and ex-post-facto rationalizations were even worse. Don't tell me about "the spirit of the rule;" tell me what the rule says in plain BLEEP!ing English -- and abide by it.

It's got nothing to do with the silly notion of sports as a substitute for warfare, either. Violence is supposed to be incidental to a sporting contest. Yes, football is largely a trial of strength and speed, but the players aren't supposed to be trying to wound or kill. Yes, occasionally a fight breaks out at a hockey game, but that's a penalizable development; it's not celebrated as the heart of the sport. The goal is competition; the ideal is fair play, a harmless encounter, and good sportsmanship from both winner and loser. Departures from that ideal, however frequent, are neither intended nor condoned.

We look to organized sports, and to the officiating that goes with it, for a vision of objectivity and fairness: Here are the players; here are the rules; may the best team win. Further elaboration is not required. Under-the-table dealings and corruption are viewed entirely negatively and punished severely.

And once a year, on the last Sunday in January or the first one in February, we all get to pig out.

So at approximately 6:18 PM (EST) this evening, have your munchies ready, warm up the Idiot Box, select your preferred laundry team and cheer it on to victory! Thousands of pro athletes (and their financial managers) are counting on you! To say nothing of America's therapeutic dietitians, to whom Super Bowl Sunday might be the most thoughtful gift any occupation has ever received.


furball said...

Dear Francis;

I commend you to the YOUTUBE of John Wayne.

There is no sly juncture of motives. There are no subtle sub-themes.

You'll get stuff like: "I won't be wronged, I won't be insulted, and I won't be laid a hand on. I don't do these things to other people and I expect the same from them."

I recorded the Superbowl and stopped watching when they had the power outage. I have no respect for New Orleans or its ethnicity or its history. I learned everything I wanted to know about Louisiana when I served at Fort Polk in 1969.

If the "bowl" was played in S.F. and they had a power outage I would have "harumphed" the same way. If it was played in any town, I might have marveled at how such an important event could have lost such an elemental facet. We used to fire people for that sort of failure.

In THIS America, I thought, "that figures."

When I was growing up, I was surrounded by quiet heroes who had served their country and could go to movies featuring guys like John Wayne and stories like, "In Harm's Way," or even "Donovan's Reef," which were quieter, gentler stories honoring America and it's past.

Now, we get "Fast and Furious 6," and stupid beer commercials that presume because you're young and dress in black, you know something that makes you special.

I remember sitting in a bathtub when I was 5 and realizing I would die. I remember reading something by Spengler when I was in my late 20's and realizing Western Culture would die.

Somewhere between 5 and 25 I had grown used to the idea of my personal . . . not. Just a blank space where I thought I was.

But the idea that Western Civilization - worthy of its capitalization - would sink like the Titanic was worrisome, unfathomable and . . . well. . . worrisome some more.

And now, I have no doubt. It's here. Nero, Caligula, "Twilight of the Gods," Armageddon, Ragnarok, whatever you want to call it.

It's here politically, because our politicians are corrupt, or are just doing what human nature compels them to do and no one has the moral authority to stop them. Or it's here because our once-noble 4th estate (news) lost its objectivity. Or it's here because - as you point out - we're fat, indolent and want the circus. Or it's here because barbarians, poverty and greed are forever, while civilization is a mere patina bestowed by temporary victories.

I was born in 1950, and I guess I spent most of my life TRYING to become fat, dumb and happy. I thought working, marrying, raising a child and saving money for my old age was not only "enough," but also benefited everyone else indirectly.

I was wrong.

Unknown said...

GeeWhiz, Francis... what a great, non-politically-sodden bloggeration today! The heart of the SBS greatness has definitely become the stomach-full-of-goodness. At our house, pre-game munchies begin before eleven A.M. and last until well after the game has proclaimed this year's winner. I dislike football except for a few college teams, but the hyperbole is great. Wife and oldest son will watch the game, while I read, perhaps finish Polymath, so I can start book number 5... all of us partaking of a large table full of excellent festive foodstuffs constantly.
But I think football is losing a culture struggle, and with a little more support and prayer for our new President from all of the citizenry, this same culture struggle might turn back in our favor concerning all other dimensions of life in America. Going to be very ugly very soon. God help us all.

Roy Lofquist said...

Me, I'm still rooting for Ted Williams and Dominic DiMaggio.