I’m a Democratic-voting, tree-hugging pinko. I have four degrees in English lit. I’m a feminist, for God’s sake, an academic. Instead of hollering from the stands, I should be writing a learned paper on the strange obsession with bathroom tissue displayed by Alabama’s two major universities. Yet I can’t quit college football. It’s like a bad boyfriend. His table manners are embarrassing, he’s a Republican, he’s never read a book, and you can’t imagine bringing him home to meet Mother and Daddy, but Jesus, he’s fine and makes you feel so good. Love, like hatred, is irrational, a chemical transaction over which you have only limited control. I love the game. But I don’t want to love the game. College football is nasty, brutish, and about as morally uplifting as a date with Donald Trump. College football reinforces extreme gender roles: those huge guys in their armor, beating the living shit out of each other on the field; those tiny pom-pom-brandishing girls in pleated skirts cheering them on. Football is flat-out misogynistic: every year there are players arrested for rape, for assault, for hitting their girlfriends.
The game is indefensible. Every year during August two-a-days, some poor kid dies of heat stroke. Every year, a handful of players—starters who should know better—get arrested, sometimes for dumb crap like possession of weed or shoplifting or public urination, other times for burglary or sexual assault. Every year coaches who are supposed to be molders of character and leaders of young men get caught doing all sorts of nefarious deeds. Penn State’s longtime defensive coach Jerry Sandusky molested children. His boss, the sainted Joe Paterno, didn’t call the cops on him. Marshall University’s Hall of Fame coach Jim Donnan has been charged with running an $80 million Ponzi scheme to defraud fellow coaches Barry Switzer of Oklahoma and Frank Beamer of Virginia Tech. Razorbacks head coach Bobby Petrino was out on his hog in the Ozarks one afternoon, his girlfriend riding pillion. They wiped out, then got found out. The university was not amused. Neither was Petrino’s wife.
And yet there is such joy in seeing your tribe, your people, your team win. You are validated. You are part of the family, the clan. You have a home. Yes, it’s retrograde, this world without troubling ambiguities, this world in which we are right and they are wrong. And yet a good hit is so goddamned gorgeous.
Read the whole Oxford American essay. Nice piece of writing. And truthful. I am neither a pinko nor a Democrat nor a feminist, and the game of football doesn’t interest me much. But oh, oh, oh, to be with the tribe on game day, standing on North Stadium Drive when the Golden Band from Tigerland marches down that hill. Nothin’ like it.