Sunday, January 21, 2007

The End of Football

Well, that's it. The Colts come from behind in manful fashion and beat the Patriots, who simply couldn't get it done when they had the game in their hands. After eking out a lead they had the ball in the fourth quarter with three minutes and change left on the clock and couldn't run it down.

We had the enemy down 21-3 at the half. Wish list for next year: at least one receiver who can get himself open (or, in the alternative, one who doesn't drop the ball when he's wide open in the endzone). A couple of linebackers who can run from side to side faster than paint dries. That'll do.

I'm pretty ambivalent about the game, generally. I love it, I hate it; I find it uplifting but I also disdain it.
It was a tortuous thing, but beautiful in its way; here were men who would never again function or even understand how they were supposed to function as well as they did today. They were dolts and thugs for the most part, huge pieces of meat, trained to a fine edge--but somehow they mastered those complex plays and patterns, and in rare moments they were artists.

There are many moments of artistry on the field, on any pitch where you find competition. Part of the attraction of sport is its clarity--for the watcher but especially for the watched. An athlete in competition has for a moment what we never have off the field: a perfect understanding of how he is supposed to function. This clarity makes more room for beauty. We can reach higher, for goals that are plain to see. Our failures are as obvious, not obscured, only to become clear after it's too late. The player's acts are daylit in all respects: the rules are established and the field is lined, the endzone brightly painted. All that remains is to excel. And even in his failures, his effort is clear to all.

We're told that sport molds young men and women for adulthood, but I have doubts about that. It cripples, too. It presents a world stripped of subtlety and devoid of shades. It casts out the also-ran, but gives far too much to the champion. Conformity is demanded, indeed required. A sense of entitlement, of exclusivity, of exceptionalism is fostered. Ruthlessness is rewarded. Viciousness is encouraged. After all, it's only a foul if you're caught.

After tuning these young people to "a fine edge" they're turned out on the world. Perfect capitalists, but flawed humans. Then we leave them to grow up while already grown.

But there is art in the perfect throw and catch. There's even a great deal of beauty in the perfect hit: angles judged pre-consciously, the complex physics of intersecting vectors, velocity, acceleration and momentum all computed flawlessly in an instant and powered by will and passion.


38-34. Now that the only thing that distracts me from my failed existence is over until the end of summer, I'll go back to bitching about politics and such. See you next year, Colts.


deadissue said...

This was awesome, a great read! The Thompson portion reminds me of something I just wrote on another site the other day in regards to Vick getting busted for pot, but your meditation on the appeal of sports really had my head ringing, as a while back I attempted to capture this concept in a single sentence, and was able to find it:

"It’s the unscripted drama unfolding before your very eyes…the allure has to do with YOUR TEAM up against it, and all the emotion that this struggle creates, improvisational entertainment in one of its highest forms."

Jim said...

Cheers. I'm off to read yours.