Sunday, February 2, 2020

Sunday, Fatty Sunday (UPDATED)

     [Fran here. Once again, back by popular demand: My essay on the true, inner meaning of Super Bowl Sunday, first published in 2013.
     What’s that you say? No, we won’t be watching the game. We will be eating all the naughty finger foods, chips, and dip, though. Some traditions must be respected! ]

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.

UPDATE: I found it:

Rooting for Laundry from Melel Media on Vimeo.


Linda Fox said...

Super Bowl Sunday is a good excuse for friends and family to get together for a pig-out party. It may yet replace Christmas in this secular world.


My husband will be watching. With any luck, after he toddles off to bed (tired and satiated), I may look for the movie Groundhog Day.

Ba-Bing! Am I right, or am I right?

Sam L. said...

Lost my football interest years ago. It's buried in an unmarked grave.