So, I watched that game that was played yesterday.
Half of my friends love football, and follow it, and get it, and know a tight end from an end zone. Half of my friends could not care less, and proudly proclaim that yesterday they were busy with anything other than American football.
I am caught in the middle, and I was wondering why this is... why do I like seeing one or two games a year? Why do I understand it well enough to get a thrill over an interception, to feel excited over a great pass, a great catch, a good brat?
My brothers and I used to play touch football, in the street, in empty lots, at the park, and we could play with three, or five or eight kids... and there was always room for one more. All we needed was the ball and a clear space. We also played soccer, which is the real fúbol, of course. We often played Bill Ball, our own baseball game, where the rules were loosely based on Bill's diplomatic and fair sense of play... Rule Number One: no one can be bad at Bill Ball.
I loved these games, maybe especially football. Later in middle school and high school my science-math-gym teacher had us on the field playing all kinds of games, and she really helped my sporting skills. I like that when we played football each play was a new opportunity to turn the game around, and that each play gave every player a chance to be part of the action. Defend. Run. Block. Run. And catch? Wow, catching a football, running ahead of your opponents... it's a great feeling. Soccer is great too. Baseball? Eh... too slow, too little going on most of the time, for most of the players. Bill Ball? Bill Ball rocks!
I will never follow teams, or schedule my days around any sporting season. I do not have to watch the SuperBowl, the hype is a turn-off, and so is the single-minded focus, money, and attention football receives, pro and high school... My heart and big cheers still belong to the sports of the mind! But still... it was a good game, and it was fun to watch. In fact it was a better game than the commercials, which is not usual. Maybe it was a better game because Holly grilled brats, and we were cheering for the team from the greatest place in the world! Maybe it was just fun to see other people having fun with something they love, and remembering my own love of running to the end zone with an intercepted ball!
It's only a game.
I attended an NFL game for the first time this past September, and finally got a little inkling of why people become such fanatics. There's a power to the gathering of so many voices, roaring to support the "warriors" on the field. As I said to Miss Chef last night as the Steelers ran onto the field, "This is what we do instead of war."
I understand why some people don't enjoy spectator sports. That's cool. But if you think about it, the answer to the question "why" (WHY are people [esp. men] SO into it? WHY do grown men play games 'professionally'? WHY should anyone care when there are so many other important things going on in the world?) is simply that we are mammals. Playing games, using physical contests to settle "disputes", using physical contests as a means of show, of preening, of mating [sorry!] is built deep within the mammalian psyche. Humans, like all their mammalian relations, have been playing games since the very, very beginning, and probably always will. We're hardcoded for it.
"There's a power to the gathering of so many voices, roaring to support..." This is what I love about robotics! In the competition, the shared energy of roaring for cooperation-engineering-innovation-teamwork! It's so invigorating and inspiring!
Jennifer... you've been thinking about this! I think you are on to something, a definite aspect of the game and rituals. And yes, thinking about that thrill I enjoyed when playing sports... I am reminded how it was gratifying to be successful, to test my physical abilities, and (I must admit) be accepted or recognized by the guys. I was not about to be noticed for giggles, lip gloss, or designer jeans, but I did enjoy sharing a good game.
Packers? Wait just a second!
Yeah, I am soooo with you on baseball!
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