Monday, June 18, 2012

Football: Cult or Culture?

by Meg Curtis

The scandal of Happy Valley resurrects an ancient argument: What role does football play on the American scene? Three breakdowns offer insight into families, fights, and TV:

1. Football Culture
2. Football Widows and Orphans
3. Football Cult

The first phrase, taken as a key search term, provides a list which includes the book Game Over: Jerry Sandusky, Penn State, and the Culture of Silence, by Bill Moushey and Robert Dvorchak. But football widows know very well that the house is NOT silent when football comes on TV. Family conversations may come to a dead halt, but screaming, cheering, and betting typically continue without interruption.

The term "football widows" quickly proves inadequate. A second search for "football widows and orphans"--for where one goes, the other is sure to follow--immediately reveals that even Monday night football does not satisfy football fanatics. Under that heading, a related term grabs the spotlight: "fantasy football." Apparently, even  the real, down-to-earth sport fails to answer Daddy's and Brother's dreams.

Surprise! Sports Law Blog reveals the peculiar protection given fantasy sports, quoting Christine Hurt at Conglomerate from 2005: 
    "In all three bills introduced in the 108th Congress seeking to prohibit Internet gambling (H.R. 21, H.R. 2143, and S. 627, the definition of "bets and wagers" excluded two types of activities. The first exclusion applies to stocks, commodities, derivatives, and insurance products. (Interesting that we would have to sort that out.) The second exclusion was: Fantasy Sports!!!"
Hurt even adds: "You can view the text of the bill here (S. 627 108th Cong. s.5361(1)(e))."  

The third search term, "football cult," turns up these questions from across the water, and, yes, we recognize that football in both countries is different yet yields the same quandaries. In "The cult of football is a blight on our national life," for the UK's Independent, Mary Dejevsky asks bravely:   

           "Given that all this is known, is it not time to stop asking what is wrong with
           English football and ask instead what is wrong with England?....How come
           anyone who does not follow "the game" risks exclusion from what passes 
           for the national conversation, not least by the office water cooler on a 
           Monday? How come even very junior youth matches have become mini-
           battlegrounds between parents?"

Maybe it's time to stop talking about Happy Valley, and start asking if America is happy with its football fanatics. Do they contribute to the health and safety of the USA? Do they lay down their lives like soldiers for their families, or do they risk concussions which deprive them of their very brains? And, when it's time to talk about serious subjects, where are they--practicing a thuggish code of silence, or answering: "Daddy will shut off the TV now, and talk with you about what happened in the showers today"? 

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