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Why I lovehate football

November 26, 2009 – 10:38 AM

By Laura Pappano

It’s Thanksgiving and aside from turkey and family, this holiday is about football. What does a celebration of early American settlers and indigenous people coming together in prayerful feasting have to do with gladiator-style battle for territory and pigskin? It hardly matters. Football (plus turkey) rules.

I love football. I will actually play in a family football game today (yes, I brought my cleats, family — watch out!) and will absolutely relish body-faking my kids and (hopefully) catching a well-thrown pass (attention: Derek) in the endzone.

I love watching football on TV. The NFL is a study in effective marketing, packaging, and production of something that before TV was in danger of being just another sport (kudos, Bert Bell).

But here’s the problem: Like a dominating older sibling who takes up all the air in the room, football simply commands too much money, attention, and status in settings in which fairness and equity matter (READ: high school and college). The issue is amplified — not caused — by football’s identity as a testosterone-charged game that discourages female participation.

Today, high school football stands will be populated by people who like lapsed parishioners  on important holidays make the pilgrimage to celebrate the community’s men-in-training. Tonight, local TV news stations will feature highlights of teenage boys battling storied rivals.

The cameras will not glimpse, unless by accident, the girls in short skirts  who have worshipfully decorated lockers, baked treats, and shouted encouragement to the hero-boys. There will be no recognition of girls and boys who have run record times in cross country meets, no nod to the state championship field hockey team nor to the soccer players who finished a spectacular season.

It does not matter whether the football teams are actually any good. The booster clubs selling snacks and talking about players as if they were NFL prospects, don’t care. They — we — have collectively decided to make them the centerpiece of our communities.

It is a lot for the players to bear. And even more to bear for all the other athletes who play to empty stands and tiny agate at the end of the sports pages. Who says football must be the only sport worth gathering for on Thanksgiving Day?

  1. 2 Responses to “Why I lovehate football”

  2. I’ve only recently started watching football and I am trying to understand it. My husband picked up a book for me that really helps to explain all the rules. It’s called “A Sportscaster’s Guide to Watching Football” by author Mark Oristano. The book is aimed at people who don’t know much about football, like me, but who would like to feel like a part of things.

    By Betty on Nov 27, 2009

  3. Betty:
    Yeah,read the book and record a game. Then review it with your husband.You’ll catch on. Then go watch some Youth and high school football games for live, close-up action. Read more and discuss with your hubby. For real athletisism and drama, watch Division 1 college and the Pros.

    By Steve on May 21, 2010

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