Football and America

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There’s a quote that I read that has stuck with me about football. “Baseball is what we were, and football is what we have become.” It was said by Mary McGrory, an American journalist. In those few words, it says a lot about what these sports meant and currently mean in American society.

I’m not a baseball fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what that sport represented to society. Baseball is rich in history. It has been seen as just as American as apple pie. But the excitement and electricity has clearly shifted away from baseball to football.

I am a football fan. Let’s be clear: football is violent. Baseball has little violence and interaction. It’s a slow game. Football has a much higher tempo, although with all the replays, challenges and penalties, the game has gotten longer. Do we long to watch because of those violent interactions and crashing bodies? Is this who we are?

I am not a fan of violence. I am desensitized to it. I can appreciate a good hit, but I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Injuries in the current format of the game are followed, tracked and discussed in detail. Whereas 30 years ago, they just “rubbed some dirt on it” and kept playing according to Justin. Now any hit, we all freeze for a moment and hope it’s nothing serious. Football in many ways is about who can survive and stay healthy until the end.

Football does mean a lot to me. It is how we do Sundays. Sundays are much better when my team is winning. Haven’t had many of those Saturdays this year as a Carolina Panthers fan. This year has been a series of disappointments. Unfortunately, as a longtime fan, I’m use to it. I won’t turn my back on my team just because they are losing. I also won’t say they deserve to win based on how they have been playing. You can’t win games with four turnovers. You can’t win games when you let an offense produce over 400 yards against you.

But Justin is having a brighter season. His Cowboys are looking pretty fierce this year so I found myself in unfamiliar territory: cheering for the Cowboys. I do really like Dak Prescott, the rookie QB. I have no idea what they are going to do about the Romo situation. The current team has a great chemistry; Justin argues that they have a bigger playbook with Romo and his football IQ. We went to a game a few weeks ago. It was certainly next level.

But my season isn’t over. We sit currently at 1-5, which sounds awful. I was on the train to work last week when a jovial passenger launched into a pep talk about how it’s not over. I’d like to believe that. Something is certainly amiss. There have been injuries on the offensive line, impacting both the running game and protection for Cam Newton. Cam hasn’t played to the level he has in the past. He’s not playing awful. He has been injured. They aren’t executing many designed quarterback runs. This has forced him to stay more in the pocket. He just hasn’t always been as accurate as we’d all like.

Cam has been a controversial figure for some time, long before he became a Carolina Panther. He’s made mistakes. He has not always acted with the class I’d hope. But I don’t really have anything negative to say about him. What I do really appreciate about him the most is that it is obvious that he loves the game.

The Panthers have some amazing talent and when everyone is clicking it can be electric. I’m not sure how to right the ship. People are throwing the secondary under the bus and grieving the loss of Josh Norman. Norman is a phenomenal corner, but the collapse isn’t just because he’s no longer in the lineup.

Last year, there were some magical plays. It was fun to watch. Now it’s been painful at times. There has been yelling and air punching. I’m a passionate person. I get emotionally involved. It’s nice to root for something.

But football is violent. People get hurt. There is blood. Fans can be extreme. The Dallas fans I encountered a few weeks ago were dedicated to say the least. That’s history; that’s a shared feeling of triumphs and defeats. So maybe football is what we’ve been all along. Baseball just seemed like the more American choice – at least how America wants to see itself. It’s hard to say what exactly the reality is – are we football? Baseball? Both?

Maybe what matters most is that we want to be remembered. We may not remember what people say or exactly how something played out. We always remember how it makes us feel. Football makes me feel alive in a lot of ways, and I suppose very American.

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