I love watching Football. When I’m watching a regular season game at the gym and something happens, I sometimes fly forward on the treadmill and trip, or audibly yell and startle people around me. But I haven’t always been such an avid lover of football, and often found my male counterparts’ devotion to it ridiculous. I am an Orioles fan through and through, but upon being made to watch most (if not all) NFL regular season games for the past two years, I have come to strongly believe that (American) football is the some of the greatest entertainment on television, rivaled only by live games in stadiums. I know there are many who detest it or simply don’t understand it, but I love watching football, and I think its value goes far beyond an excuse to drink beer on Monday/Thursday/Sunday night. Here are a few of my favorite things about football.
The spectacle of the male athlete: I am in no way trying to be sexist or say that women athletes aren’t impressive. Women athletes are definitely impressive, especially considering the fact that they fight nature to create muscular physiques, and often fight more oppressive genetics than male athletes do. That being said, as a runner and former player of multiple sports, watching some of the catches, leaps, and speed of many NFL athletes inspires me on the most basic levels. These human beings, many from humble backgrounds, are defying gravity, breaking records, and using their bodies as machines and as a unit. From ancient Greece and the cult of Adonis, humans (not just women) have admired and celebrated the male athlete, and I still think that there is something to be said about our ability to shape our existence in the incredible athletic ability of these players. Just this year, I have seen catches and passes that seem in defiance of physics. Every game brings a new spectacle, and there is nothing better than watching a player on your favorite team make one of these air-bending catches or passes. All athletes are incredible, but the required scope of movement in football makes for a wide array of physical feats.
The GAME itself: Having been a cheerleader from an early age, I have always understood football, but even so, it slightly baffles me that so many people claim to not understand the game. Wikipedia it. It’s pretty simple. That being said, watching the strategies being put to use by difference offenses and defenses is amazing! Watching a team with decent offence be at 1 and goal and get stuffed by a defense is pretty impressive. I’ve been to known to react and cheer on a player running towards the end zone, dodging defenders, even when he isn’t on the team that I actually want to win. I often “cheer for football,” in that the game itself is so engrossing and sometimes, the underdog does something incredible and you cannot help but admit that it was a good play, no matter the team.
Diversity of personalities in players: One thing that I love to know and constantly ask my know-it-all-sports-guru boyfriend is the background of each player. Where did he go to school? Where is he from? What do they mean when they reference last year and xyz? We are always quiet when they show the NFL players’ headshots and the players state where they went to school. One of our favorites is Brett Keisel of the Pittsburg Steelers, who says his name and then says “Greybull, Wyoming” as a shout-out to his tiny hometown, which is about 45 miles away from where we live. The different the players on these teams not only appear to be wildly different from one another, but often come from surprisingly different backgrounds. Whether it’s the impressive degrees they’ve earned or their tumultuous personal lives, great obstacles they’ve overcome (i.e. “The Blindside,” which is real and he is a Baltimore Raven), these players are as diverse as can be, yet they form these formidable steam-rollers of teams together.
Genius advertising campaigns: After all, some of the greatest commercials of all time have been Superbowl ads, but I am actually referring to the ads that run throughout the regular season. I am sure to the non-sports fan, they might be confusing or even devoid of humor, but I, personally, think they are hysterical. Have you ever seen the Bud Light superstition ads? Like the one where the Seahawks fan believes that the Dawson’s Creek theme song is their lucky song and keeps playing it over and over at the bar? Hilarious. Or Aaron Rodgers (QB for the Green Bay Packers) getting stuck on a plane between two Bears fans that love to heckle him? There are so many good commercials that it’s hard not to mention them all. I might not switch to State Farm or drink Bud Light, but there are obviously some clever people behind the scenes of the ads that they choose to run during football season. The NFL clothing line has even done a few ads that specifically target women, and those are pretty good, too. I hate commercials in general, but the funniest ones I ever watch are during football games.
Camaraderie between fans: Much like being a member of a Greek system, or an alumnus of a university, being a football fan provides instant access to a support system of other enthusiastic fans. Watching fans together in a bar or at home watching a game is a site because of the constant pulse of emotion throughout them as a group, jeering, celebrating, feeling the game as a living entity. I have felt the pangs of hurt at a bad call, a poor throw. Sports are incredible because we become so personally invested, and when we are surrounded by fellow fans, a bond often exists that is pretty remarkable. It creates an understanding and a community. When I wear my Wes Welker jersey (for the Broncos, NOT the Patriots) to the store or the bank, other football fans know to either immediately trust me or to narrow their eyes and make a snide remark about Peyton’s unreliability (to which I would retort something about his record breaking season). Just like with any sport, when I see someone way out in Wyoming sporting something Orioles, I immediately feel like I can approach them and want to know if they’re from Maryland or how they became so wise as to be an Os fan. This isn’t just limited to football, but any sport that creates such enthusiastic fans is a great thing. Life is full of hardships and sadness. Sports allegiances can bring out the best in us, creating new friendships easily and building a sense of belonging.
Team uniforms & the history behind them: I love observing how different teams either maintain a traditional uniform or are constantly updating and changing. It is handy having a longtime football fan (my boyfriend) there to tell me which teams’ uniforms are classics. I find team logos and marketing fascinating. Like why do the Browns keep their football helmet mascot? How are the Seahawks jerseys so fantastic looking (they play near Nike headquarters) while the Bengals’ uniforms are such an eyesore (I’m totally kidding…)? And how classy is the vintage Denver D with the white horse? I also love it when they all wear pink gloves, socks, etc. during October for Breast Cancer Awareness month. To longtime football fans, it might seem like minutiae, but I love learning things like how the Indianapolis Colts used to be the Baltimore Colts, but they left almost in the middle of the night. From Jacksonville’s gold and matte black helmets to Green Bay’s unchanging G, the differences are symbolic and there is always a reason behind the design. It’s fascinating to see the way uniforms and logos have evolved over time. It is history, and so many people were involved in the making of it.
The constant cause of celebration/getting together: Every game warrants getting together, throwing a party, and sometimes, celebrating. I love the air of excitement during football season, and I can’t help but think it is wildly contagious. There are so many games in the MLB season, and so few in the NFL season, that it makes each match up really count. Like going to the movies to see a great film or going out to a new restaurant, watching the game allows us to quite easily make an ordinary day an exciting day and is a great excuse to get together with friends. And TAILGATING!
More than just good-looking men: On a more superficial note, Clay Matthews, Russell Wilson, RGIII, Joe Flacco, Peyton Manning, Wes Welker, Colin Kaepernick and many others aren’t too bad on the eyes. They’re machines, and many of them have some serious charisma to match their abilities. Many NFL players give back to their communities, volunteer, donate serious money to charity, and set excellent examples both on and off the field. There are always a few idiots, but I think some major leaders in NFL send the right messages to young people.
Football debates/rivalries: If it’s between friends, it better stay nice or you will be friends no more. For example, my boyfriend said he would never watch the Superbowl with his pack of 49er friends if that is who it comes down to this year, out of respect for their friendship. But real, heated football debates between rival teams are flat out scary. Hearing about heated rivalries is sometimes more entertaining than the actual games, and the fanning of the fires is unavoidable.
It inspires me to do my part in supporting the economy: Who doesn’t love a new jersey/t-shirt/toilet cover/shot glass/belt buckle/jacket/pair of yoga pants? To some, it might be just a Wes Welker jersey, but to me, it’s my lucky Broncos charm. And be honest – how handy that there’s an automatic theme for anything, AKA your San Francisco 49ers bathroom/man cave/kitchen, not to mention easy gift-giving.
I love football and its ability to entertain, unite, and often, teach us lessons about the human spirit and its ability to endure. Like every organization, the NFL has its downsides, but on the whole, I think it is a league of talented athletes and people of good character. The fact that it brings so many people across the country together, regardless of age or gender, is the reason that football is one of the great American pastimes.