The Church of Football | The Nation


The Church of Football

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This essay originally appeared on TomDispatch.

4. Varieties of Religious Experience

About the Author

Robert Lipsyte
Robert Lipsyte, a former sports and city columnist for the New York Times, is Jock Culture correspondent for...

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Joe Hill, Joe Pa, Tebow and Wee Brains.

Jock Culture is a distortion of sports.

"Drop kick me, Jesus, through the goal posts of life."--A Bobby Bare song

Over the past forty years, I've been to Super Bowls as a newspaper columnist and a TV correspondent; I've watched the game on TV alone and in a group; in the late 1970s, I even attended anti-Super Bowl parties at which we ostentatiously ignored the game, jogged, ate healthful snacks, and screened Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly films, dividing ourselves into Fred-ites or Gene-ists to compare the two, a sorry substitute for judging the finesse vs. power of, say, O.J. Simpson vs. Jim Brown. There was a certain subversive pleasure in the anti-Super Bowl parties, but not enough. It was less like the back-alley thrills of paganism in the early centuries of Christianity's ascension than the dull rationality of organized atheism.

And it brought up an agnostic thought: If you had to work so hard to convince yourself and others that there was nothing there, maybe there was something there. Okay, there is no God and there are no Weapons of Mass Destruction, but we do need to get down on our knees and turn up the sound because there is the Church of Football.

Have faith. For all your wishful thinking and their wistful name, the New Orleans Saints apparently didn't have enough of it--or maybe the team needed government help as badly as its Sodom of a city. The Chicago Bears and the Indianapolis Colts had faith in their quarterbacks, Rex Grossman and Peyton Manning, both prodigal sons criticized for wayward passes. And both those cities are capitals of the empire, the hog butcher and the team thief--it was only twenty-three years ago that the Colts' former owner trucked his club out of Baltimore one night. The club is now run, of course, by his son.

Any Given Sunday is reserved for those who have been saved, who have accepted that so long as there is an American Empire, football will be its religion and the Super Bowl its Holy Day.

So relax and enjoy it as best you can until the barbarians reach the gate and make us watch soccer. Pop the beer, dip the chips, and be a pew potato. At the end of the last day, all that counts is the final score.

As Dr. Falwell, George Bush, and their coach, the Devil, agree, Just win, baby.

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