Ah, football. Who would have thought that I would feel compelled to watch Washington's (DC) season opener today? Not I, but it was I who left the house to sit in a bar to watch the game. I wanted to be around other people, though I wasn't feeling too social so I sat at a small table instead of the bar. It was better than being home, even though I left at half time. I paid a lot more attention to the game in the bar than I did when I got back home. The good guys (Washington) won so yay.
I'm fascinated by loyalty to sports teams. I am very loyal. My favorite spectator sport is baseball and my number one team is the Mariners. Next, the Nationals. For college (basketball or football), it's a tie between North Carolina and Washington (Seattle). I have a third college team too, Tennessee, because we lived in Knoxville for six years of my childhood. I can also root for a few New York teams (I was born in NY), but never the Yankees.
What is this about? It's not what I studied but people's tendency to group and divide themselves along socially constructed dimensions (race, ethnicity) is well known. I am against these kinds of divisions--I'm anti-racist, socialist, egalitarian. I don't strictly conform to gender roles and I prefer relationships not solely defined by them.
And yet, I have no problem allying myself to my local sports teams. I live in DC, so I'm a Nationals' fan. (Mariners still come first.) I'm embarrassed, truly, to say I'm a Redskin's fan, but I am. (I don't want to be because I think the team name is a racial slur.) Why? It's the hometown team. I'll also root for the Seahawks and I actually cared when they lost the Super Bowl, much to my surprise.
It's taken many years for football to grow on me. I've watched it my whole life but only very casually. My dad first explained the basic rules of the game to me (downs, scoring, etc.) on Sunday nights when we sat down to watch "60 Minutes" and a game would still be on. He never watched football purposefully. The boys in the neighborhood would ask me to ref their pick up games when I was nine and they explained what the "line of scrimmage" was. I never played, but I understood the game. I didn't like it though, too violent, too hard to watch, too dominated by raving, drunken fans. Throughout college, I didn't go to a single game. Even when I started going to games in grad school, I didn't get very excited about it. But I was at a basketball school.
I like to blame Pele for my current interest in the sport. I'd say she's about 95% responsible. She watches a lot and I'm always game to join her, especially during play offs. That started it. Then there was the boyfriend a while back who loved football and was a big fan of a specific team. We had more than one date to watch his team play. The last boyfriend, he liked football too. But, you know, I'm not sure if it was his idea or mine to watch as many games as we did. I know I wanted to and I assumed he did too. However it happened, now it's for real: I like to watch football and I'll go out of my way for it.
I have some fun with it, especially the year the Seahawks went to the Super Bowl by proclaiming the dominance of my team without knowing much about them. Somehow, though, my proclamations had a ring of truth--or at least, I wanted to believe and I wound up caring. This is why men like sports, right? It's a safe venue in which to vent one's emotions. But the emotions do run high and it can be draining and deflating when your team loses--and elating when they win. Why do we care so much?
Oh, I almost forgot the best part. While riding my bike to the bar to watch the game, a guy in a big white Cadillac (or was it a Lincoln?) pulled up next to me and said, "Hey, are you married?"
I wasn't sure I heard him correctly since we were both in motion. "What?"
"Are you married? Do you have a boyfriend? Can I get your number and take you out some time?"
I laughed. He's trying to pick me up while I'm biking down the street wearing this goofy shirt:
and long brown shorts?
He said, "Is that wrong?"
"No!" I said, "It's not wrong but I have a boyfriend!" (In order to come up with this lie, I had to imagine for a second that I actually had a boyfriend and give him a face and a name. Recent Kansas sightings do have a purpose!)
He turned left at the next intersection and I continued forward...to football.
Grateful for: football.