As the smell of my neighbor’s homemade hamburgers wafts through the air, I cannot help but feel a special kind of glee –usually reserved for Christmas eve or any other federal holiday that actually bestows upon the good people of the world time off.
IT’S SUPER BOWL SUNDAY!!!!!!!!!! HOORAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I’ve always loved the hoopla surrounding this most American of holidays. It’s not just the visions of Doritos dancing in my head, or the sacramental devotion of those who dip, grill or barbecue; it’s not even the game itself– sometimes it seems that the actual game pales in comparison to other games of the season, perhaps due to the pressure or the injury list, or just because the guys are tired and couldn’t be bothered.
And although this might sound mildly blasphemous, it’s not even the commercials: the true heroes of the holiday and the sign that we are, deep inside, delightfully shallow and have a fixation with talking animals.
I am pretty sure I am not the only one who has noted or been told of the uncanny resemblance of the cult of football to an actual religion: after all, Sunday games are more feverishly attended and followed than most church services –sometimes even directly competing for the millions of devout souls who truly seek some form of salvation and solace and tend to find it more easily in the Cult of the Pigskin.
Those Sunday days and those all-important Monday nights bring forth a torrent of feeling and belief to rival any kind of religious ceremony: from the simple superstitious rituals of players and fans alike, to the expectations and hopes piled on the icons of athletic prowess, many of whom have risen from very humble beginnings or less than ideal conditions to be adored and worshiped (and compensated!) by millions of people who long to emulate them and whose entire lives are dedicated to commit their stats to memory and vividly relate their greatest plays of yesteryear as if they’d witnessed miracles. And to see some of these men –mere mortals by most estimations– rise to the occasion and go beyond their own human abilites to run the 96 yards or intercept a beautiful pass or run a serpentine path that seemed guided by some sort of Higher Power and won them game –or perhaps just gave the fans hope to score a game-saving Hail Mary is to be closer to something beyond ourselves… a true hope for a miracle that can not just clear away the drabness of everyday existence by showcasing the amazing ability of the human body and spirit, but that if properly staked, could pay off a debt or put Junior through college. Or could simply bring in joy, happiness, and a couple of extra bucks from the office pool.
In the Church of the Pigskin, there is no feeling of obligation and it is understood that not all teams are created equal– from ownership to home advantage to the draft itself. There is hard work and there is loss and there is sacrifice. There is also unbridled joy and heaven, but there is also only one winner and therefore only one team is saved, hurling the rest into the Purgatory of oblivion (NO ONE remembers the also-ran, after all). But most importantly, there is fervent and unerring faith –punctuated by faith crises ("Our team SUCKS")– but at the end there is always the beginning, hiding out and waiting for a new salvation and for a new hope that NEXT YEAR our team will make it.
Oh yeah…. GO SEAHAWKS!!!! (gotta root for the ones who haven’t won it before, you know!)