Friday, October 18, 2013


i read this good opinion piece about football - it was by a driven woman who fell in love with football at an early age, made a living off of it, was a famous journalist, etc., but finally has turned away from it because the nfl so relentlessly denied and covered up the obvious - that football causes concussions and is killing its players. the article had two images that stayed with me: one, of a driving tony dorsett, dallas cowboy runner, using his power and strength in an elegant way - the same power, elegance, beauty that drew her into football. and then, second, of these huge nfl guys today, lined up to crush each other, wearing pink ribbons as a tribute to breast cancer - ironic, she says, since they are crushing each other's heads in the process of playing the game.

then there's the tech football player who is actually from pennsylvania, another place where they take their football seriously, and who warns his teammates about an impending trip to west virginia. why west virginia would be in our division, i have no idea, it's coal country, it's a long plane trip, but nevertheless, he says, i'm from there. first thing, you'll smell beer the minute you get off the plane. the fans will be screaming, and very drunk. just warning you.

the players, at the college level, have to get used to the fact that they are the primary entertainers in a drinkfest where the most obnoxious and rowdy behavior is going to become normal. i don't think texas is that different from west virginia in that sense. it's a nationwide thing, though it tends to be worse in texas, where fans actually cheered when their quarterback, who had been having trouble, got injured; then some actually stalked his house. like what are you going to do, disrupt his family life? most people saw that as out of line. but it wasn't especially surprising. they take their football seriously, and there's a lot of alcohol involved.

thought i'd collect stories of raucous fan behavior around here; their new stadium cost millions and had the extra benefit, supposedly, of being wired inside and out for better tweeting, facebooking, etc. of course virtually none of these people are on my feed, so really i have no idea what kind of stuff happens at that stadium. i've already heard some stories, though, one of a woman throwing a bottle of water at a stadium employee. it's the talk of the town, the rude and unclassy behavior of tech students who, by virtue of paying tuition, get in free. everyone else pays like, $75/game or some such, it's high-value entertainment. the town loves its football. people talk about it a lot, and it sustains their spirit, it gets them through the week.

i haven't watched a lot of television, but when i saw football on television, and you see it everywhere, in the barber shop, in the walmart, in people's houses, i'm struck by the evolution of the modern stadium. it has evolved into a grand palace, a roman coliseum. it has evolved so that the seats come up in an elegant curve, so that as many as 60,000 (in our case) or more people can all see clearly and enjoy the spectacle below: people crashing heads and getting injured, if you're cynical, or, a wonderful display of power, speed, elegance, and use of muscular skills, if you love the game. it is a great game, made for television, carrying with it an entire culture's love for a fair fight, and equal battle of strength and power, pure muscle played out in yards one direction and another like a tug-a-war or wrestling, or a combination of the two. symbolic violence, but no doubt, it's a great game. it turns its players' heads into mush, though.

they actually cancelled the homecoming parade here, because national television put the game at 11:00, and you couldn't have a parade before a game that early. i couldn't believe it; i've lived in lots of towns where the parade was way more important than the game, for one reason because it included all the locals who would be playing trumpet or some such, or marching for some reason or another. presumably, everyone comes home at homecoming - alumni in particular, and sure they meet at the game, and enjoy a few drinks, and talk about old times - but what about the parade? national television trumps all, partly because it offers millions to a program, and the program needs those millions just to pay the coach. you can't argue with millions.

our present coach, one k.k., is about thirty, single, at the peak of his career, quite good at coaching, and trying to produce a winning season before he's really had a chance to recruit. so far, he's won every game, which is impressive. people who are 30 really love him, because he was a quarterback here in their generation, and they can relate to his drive, his love of football, his heart, as they call it. the women are involved too, partly because he's single, that sparks a little interest in everyone, given he's the richest man in town, and has a future, by virtue of his winning all the time. it's hard to describe the kind of cultish life a coach like this would lead: being so wealthy, being a media darling in the area, most valued speaker at any event, a representative of the city and the school - yet what is it that he could say, or should say, in public? oh, we did our best, all we can do is go out there and pound 'em some more, yeah, i think we did pretty well, they were a tough opponent, etc.

he learns to shine the press, as politicians do, to say nothing, to let the cameras shine off his face, meanwhile all his boys, 18-22, are out there pounding heads until they get injured, or end up up in the bigs, where they pound still more heads, and wear pink ribbons. on television every time, if possible.

amazing, that the life of a town revolves around it. during the game, tomorrow, that's the time to go out. everyone will be home, watching television. the team will be in west virginia, pounding heads. the pros will be gearing up for another sunday. baseball, in its best days, a distant second, it made the mistake of competing with the heart of football season. no competition, at least not in texas. football, now that's what people want to see.


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