In 2000, Robert D. Putnam laid out a case of the collapse of community in America in his book Bowling Alone. In it, Putnam draws on piles of data to show that “we sign fewer petitions, belong to fewer organizations that meet, know our neighbors less, meet with friends less frequently, and even socialize with our families less often.” As true as this might have been in 2000, it’s almost quaint to think of in terms of 2013 where technological advances and the expansion of the internet into every corner of our lives has atomized people even more.
I would argue that there is one exception, though: Professional Football. Consider these facts:
- 108 million people watched the Superbowl last year. That’s almost double the amount of people that voted for Barack Obama in 2012.
- Nearly 29 million people in the US and Canada played fantasy football in 2010 and that growth has been explosive. Participation in fantasy football grew more than 60% from 2008-2012.
- Football crosses gender lines. According to Slate, there were more women watching the 2012 Super Bowl (43.3 million women 18 and older) than there were total viewers for the Academy Awards (39.3 million).
In my own life, Football is not just a sport that I love to watch, it’s become something of a common language that I share, in many situations, with people whom I would otherwise have nothing else to talk about. More than that, it’s a pure outlet for escapism. For one day a week, Football provides a shared experience unlike anything else in my life. I can walk into my office, a bar, the supermarket, or a Dr.’s waiting room and be able to connect with someone over Football. And, however trivial the game itself might be, those moments of connection are real and important.
Today marks the first Sunday of the NFL season. This year, Carrie Underwood will take on the role of Sunday Night Football hype-woman, relieving Faith Hill from her years of loyal service to America and the National Broadcasting Corporation. (Side note: Faith Hill will continue to wear age-inappropriate clothing. For America.)
Faith Hill – Sunday Night Football Theme
We won’t know yet what Ms. Underwood’s rendition will be like, only that it includes the callback to Hill’s version “I’ve been waiting all day for Sunday Night.” Me too, Carrie.
Here are some other random predictions for Carrie Underwood’s version:
- There will be at least one direct reference to America itself. Since the night game tonight features the Giants and the Cowboys, I’d say the smart money is on something rhyming with “Red, White and Blue.”
- In an attempt to “be different” from Faith Hill, Carrie will play up more of a girl-next-door image.
- The rhythmic, animated explosions will be a trope that lives on.
In 2011, Hank Williams Jr. lost his gig as hype-dude for Monday Night Football after asserting that Barack Obama was a secret Muslim.
Hank Williams Jr. – Are You Ready For Some Football?
As we stand days (hours?) away from an imminent vote on military action in Syria, the start of the NFL season seems, in some ways, like a like both an opportunity to coalesce masses of people are vague ideas about what it means to an American and also the ultimate distraction from problems half a world away. I’m not really sure what to make of any of that, but I will say that watching Hank William Jr.’s intro to Monday Night Football made me a little sick to my stomach. The NFL is already is already one on-field fatality away from becoming modern day gladiatorial combat, but to see how blatantly the sport was equated with military violence outright just a few short years ago is almost mind-blowing. I don’t know if its a product of who we are or if there’s something more sinister at play in all of this.
The fact that these questions get raised aggravates people most of all. Football, at the end of the day, is just a game. Just. A. Game. In other words, it’s a form of play, something that is fundamentally critical to the well-being of everyone. I want my playtime and I sure don’t want it to be anything more than that. As fans, can we just agree to not have this nonsense as part of the experience? Ultimately, though, I shrug it off. I am ready for some football and I will have it both ways. Hank Williams be damned.
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