Yes, thank you for your feelings of sympathy. Yes, it is quite a burden, especially for one living in America where sport is so culturally significant. When I lived in Jerusalem, where our main worries were about bombs on buses and where a Hail Mary was something altogether different, I felt more at ease. In Israel, I didn’t feel the constant pressure, the communal fever, the whiplash from elation to devastation that comes from having to follow and support my local team to the Finals, the Series, the Superbowl. I could relax. When I returned to America, arriving in late December during the hyperbolic run up to Xmas and the Superbowl, I experience a deep and disturbing culture shock.
As a child, I did my best at sports, though my heart was not in it. I was quite an active young boy, but my vision was poor, I played the violin, and I liked to read. Yes, as you can imagine, it was a cruel, cruel childhood when it came to sports. I was the boy picked next to last–right before the kid with the brace on his leg and right after the kid with the cast on his arm. The importance of sport in American culture was drilled into me again and again.
I played in the organized games, when required. Four-square was my best event, as the distances were short and the ball was large enough for me to see (I didn’t get spectacles until fifth grade). I remember one day, having been impressed into a softball game, that I got lost on the way to first base. The memory could be bitter, but I choose not to remember the fact that I couldn’t see well enough to navigate the 90 feet to reach the white bag on the ground; I choose instead to remember that I actually hit the ball: a miracle!
In later years, when only the athletically-gifted still played organized sport, I was finally able to pass as a normal kid. You see, it’s not that I cannot comprehend the games; I can. Given sufficient preparation, I was able to tell the identify the shotgun formation and the nickel defense. I am just physically incapable of feeling the sort of passion to which everyone around me was susceptible. But the physical activities to which I gravitated were less…mainstream: hiking, cycling, ultimate Frisbee®, and rock climbing. I excelled at my chosen “sports,” but alas, the only “trophy” of any sort I earned was being arrested for free-climbing up to the roof of the school auditorium and rappelling down the in front of the colonnade.
Intellectually, I understand the passion. I understand that sport has replaced warfare in our modern culture–I mean come on! Under what other circumstances have you seen men paint themselves with blue woad and scream at another group of men? Sport–the competition, the rivalry, the mock-combat it contains–is simply our modern way of lifting our kilt at the other guys. I get it. I just don’t feel it.
But attenuated though my relationship with sport is, and despite my penchant for favoring the eclectic over the popular (épée, anyone?), there are still some cultural sports memes that have infused my consciousness, and when these traditions are broken, I become extremely unsettled.
- The Olympics–summer and winter–should occur during the same year, every four years; not staggered two years apart.
- The Superbowl should be in January, not February.
It is not proper for the Superbowl to be held in February. February is supposed to be devoid of sport. It’s the time for us to turn from winter toward spring. It’s a quiet month, a happy month, a month of sweethearts and candy hearts. It is not the month of head-bashing Gargantuas and roaring, beer-soaked crowds. To quote Mammy: “It ain’t fittin. It just ain’t fittin.”
Oh, I’ll go to our Superbowl party. I’ll bring my soppressata and homemade sourdough bread. I may even pick up a growler of Fremont Ale. I’ll root for the ’49ers, the team of my youth, the team of my father’s heart, if for nothing other than tradition’s sake. But for me, I will be doing it on January 34th, not February 3rd. To do otherwise just ain’t fittin.