Tens of thousands of fans attended season openers in stadiums and millions watched from home.
Pro football is practically the only sport I enjoy watching at all. But it’s a love-hate relationship, with more hate and less love lately. I’ve never attended a game in person. I don’t play fantasy football. And I don’t blog about football. In fact, if you blog about football, I guarantee I will not read your blog.
Today’s post is about football. But the less you like football, the more you’ll probably like what I have to say.
Because I’ve realized something this football pre-season more than ever.
Football hasn’t just passed up baseball as our national pasttime. It’s become our national religion.
Don’t believe me?
You Think This Is A Game?
High churches, like Catholic, Lutheran and Episcopal have a reputation for, well…being high. They’re full of pomp and circumstance, ritual and ceremony. People dress up. There is a specific, prescribed order of worship to follow. It all comes together and creates a sense that these churches take themselves very seriously.
And if there is one organization that takes itself as seriously as the Catholic church, it’s pro football. Don’t think about the drunken, shirtless Oakland fans right now. Think about how football is marketed. Think about the ever-evolving NFL logo that gets a little shinier every year, or the jingle that sounds like it was performed by a full orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Every halftime and postgame show now has a minimum of four to five football clergy and bishops, giving little homilies about the games. Hundreds of players have been canonized as saints in the Hall of Fame to be venerated for all time. And with more rules and regulations to the game today, only the most dedicated football Pharisee can possibly keep track of them all.
Everything about today’s NFL is full of religious ceremony, and the sense that everyone takes this game more seriously than anything else in life.
Honor the Sabbath and Keep It Holy
If you’re like me, you have a hard time going an entire day without doing something that could be considered “work.” Even with the stamp of God’s commandment on it, it is hard to just rest for a day.
Today, it is more possible than ever for football fans to keep the Sabbath day holy by doing absolutely no work. Even if you aren’t a football fundie who can attend every game religiously, all hope is not lost. Marketing campaigns have ramped up, advertising satellite TV packages allowing every fan to watch every game, on every Sunday. That’s sixteen pro games each Sunday adding up to about 48 hours of football. With more hours of football than there are hours in the day, anyone can spend their entire Sunday bowing down in reverence and laziness in front of their televisions. Football is the opiate of the masses.
And for those people who still feel their lives are too productive, you can always waste time when you’re supposed to actually be doing work, by tinkering with your fantasy football team, or playing the annual installment of Madden.
You know how communists and fascists are so completely opposite on the political spectrum that they end up meeting on the other side and really being very much alike? It’s the same with fantasy footballers and nerds who play Dungeons and Dragons.
All About the Benjamins
A common complaint about the church is how it’s “all about the money.” Preachers are just charlatans out to get your cash so they can live in luxury.
It’s true that Jesus generates a lot of money, and it’s true that the Pope lives in a big old house. But the football faithful have lots of ways they gladly plunk down billions of their dollars too. Pro football builds the biggest megachurches in any city. One man of the jersey makes the salary of dozens of men of the cloth. And, like Jesus, football is endlessly merchandised. So even when you aren’t paying a couple hundred bucks for a ticket or fifty bucks for football’s eucharist meal of beer and hot dogs, or making a monthly donation for your complete football TV package, you can outfit yourself with all the expensive accessories designed to display your faith in football, and shove it down everyone’s throats.
I’ll be watching a little bit of football this fall…in between doing work around the house. What about you? Are you a fan? A rabid, football fundie? Or are you on the sidelines, staring in disbelief at how some football fans actually make the hyper-religious look good?