To the mighty go the details

Hello proud members of the community, I am having a real hard time with the NFL this season. Not this kind of football hard, but nonetheless something worth keeping a beady eye on.

There are certain elements of the NFL that have a truly universal appeal, regardless of whatever bias or politics one confronts them with. The urgency—not the hormonal rage of the fans, but the formal concision of the schedule—is simply electric. NFL Films hasn’t invented this way of reading the game; they’ve simply recognized that it’s one of professional football’s most arresting properties. What’s more, it’s impossible to escape the feeling that meaning is being generated before your very eyes; a team’s season has no choice but to turn out as some kind of parable, or to lend itself to the kind of unambiguous milestones that birth grand narrative. If the NBA traffics in extravagant blurs, the NFL seeks to forge a gospel of thunderous answers.

Notwithstanding all that is conservative, centralized, drab, uninventive, brute, macho, and absurd about the current-day of the National Football League, I once found it in me every week to watch to the point of distraction. While I am sure that many of FreeDarko’s occasional readers barely consider me a basketball fan, I have no problems that I take in football like a person generally void of sports acumen. It goes well with autumn and winter, takes the edge off of Sunday jitters like a male Grey’s Anatomy (fuck that shift in time-slot, by the way), and just generally proves that competitive sports can be enjoyed primarily as ritual and connotation. Yes, I know that baseball’s kept itself breathing off of this same formula, and college football uses it to build cults. The NFL, though, makes it easy and uncontrived, accessible in all its brightness whether or not you’ve been invited.

Yet this time around, the tension between my over-developed NBA worldview and capacity to watch the NFL like a middle-aged woman is finally getting to me. That my two fantasy teams are "upset" every week isn't helping, but the main thorn upon me is that I just can't bring myself to wander through a sport with willful blindness. On a very basic level, football doesn't make sense to me and, perhaps more significantly, doesn't interest me. The entire extended metaphor I've built to find my way through the field of fandom plain and simple does not compute on NFL-turf. We all know the basic conflicts but even something as supposedly universal as "catching fire" works very little with football, where the team organism's production overrides any individual's linear growth. Same goes for the function of the star, the primacy of the starter, and the total decentralization of player contribution.

At this point, though, even the rant brings me no relief. This is not a battle of ideas; instead, I worry that I might be suffering through the death of the everyday.


At 9/25/2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous seezmeezy said...

the disconnect between football's greatest strength and weakness is solely unique among professional sports. that disconnect is as follows: one day of games can not live up to 6 days of hype.

allow me to expand like the universe. while the nfl has been able to monopolize sundays because of its scheduling, it also allows fans energy to slowly dissipate. it's like the little kid who has spent the last week reading all about the new video game they will be getting: after all the grandiose ideas have been built up, the reality can't possibly match the dream.

i get so amped up to watch the tuesday afternoon replay of nfl live that i wonder "how much passion can i really have left by sunday?" it's like 16 microwaved versions of superbowl week(s): by sunday i'm so exhausted by unfulfilled interest that i just want the games to be over with.

the regular season payoff for hoops fans is not just immediate, it is constant. you read about a juicy matchup in the paper, then 6 hours later you're digesting the live action. compare that to football: you get so clusterfucked by information from monday through saturday that you have no brain capacity to simply enjoy a flea flicker.

of course, some nfl fans have grown accustomed to the schedule and conserve their excitement accordingly. they have learned to enjoy mnf as the nightcap to their football week and visit the liquor cabinet in moderation for the next 6 days. also, there is monday night football and sometimes thursday night football and well saturday football... for argument's sake (i.e., mine) let's just focus on the predominant sunday-only monolith that is the nfl schedule. as is the case with any tails to my argumentative heads, i say "go fucketh thyself."

without digressing into an inane discussion of our generation's attention span or further unnecessary cursing, i say only that i feel shoals' disinterest in football has more to do with the frequency of the actual games than anything else.

At 9/25/2006 4:03 PM, Blogger skinny said...

that was a really circuitous way to say you don't like football because you like players more than teams.

At 9/25/2006 4:44 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

actually i just kind of assumed people knew that. it's more a really circuitous way of saying that different sports affect us on different wavelengths. and this might be untenable.

At 9/25/2006 6:19 PM, Blogger Bethlehem Shoals said...

if you found yourself severely let down by the caliber of today's post, why don't you try checking out where i expended all my blogging energy today.

At 9/25/2006 10:57 PM, Anonymous Torgo said...

seemeezy, I don't think it's so much that we're short of attention span (damn you internet), it's that we have too much information, too much coverage. It is (as Ghost Dog would say) like this in all things. We get info 24-7 about the game, so that by Friday, we know more about our starting running back's groin than we have any right to. I think football, before fantasy, before the NFL network (there is one, right?), before the 24 hour beast, football was an escape from everyday life. You work, day in, day out, deal with all the crap, all the disfunction, and then, for one glorious day, bam, none of it matters, because you can spend the whole day living out your failed dreams on TV, following your team (which you see once a week, and maybe check in the papers in the morning), and it's a panacea.

Now, we're so wrapped up in it, it's like we need an escape from our escape.

And Shoals, in some ways, for me, the platooning approach to so many positions in the NFL has killed "star power" for me. I can't get overly excited for a player who, say, on defense, already on the field only half the time, is spelled every third down because he's winded. The game is so over specialized (and if you think about it, it's probably better, from a management standpoint, to have this specialization), that it kills the star concept. How many running backs are in there for the majority of plays? How many times does a wideout make a big play, and then line up on the next one? Yeah, it's physical, but give me Iverson playing full speed for forty minutes, both ends.

Or something like that.

At 9/26/2006 2:02 AM, Blogger Freudian Slip said...

How do you think you would feel about football if it was twenty years ago? It seems like just about every major sport has evolved into completely being focused on "the money".

You grow up having heros in sports, and then as you mature you see them in a different light.

At 9/26/2006 11:23 AM, Blogger c-los said...

@ freud...im sure those players 20 years were just as bad...its just they didnt have the 24 hr media coverage...think about it...u fart on some girl now and its on espn news a half hour later...of course u see things in different lights when ur exposure to those lights increase from a 40 to 100 watt bulb


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