I’m a die-hard sports fan. In fact, I’m even looking forward to the PGA Masters. So when I recently had a coversation with my friend about the Super Bowl, my blood fucking boiled when he attacked me.
“But you can’t root for the Patriots, Bridget. That’s like rooting for Trump,” my friend starts.
“Excuse me?” I said. “I’m from Rhode Island, and where I come from, not rooting for the Patriots is blasphemy.”
“I mean, you shouldn’t even be supporting football in the first place because it reinforces outdated gender stereotypes—but you definitely shouldn’t be supporting New England.”
For those of you who don’t know, Tom Brady, Robert Kraft and other members of the Patriots are open Trump supporters. Okay, now allow me to cheekily rant about my feelings concerning politics and gender in regard to football for a minute. Bear with me.
First of all, my grandfather was a Patriots fan. He fought in World War II for my freedom to be a Patriots fan. If we wanted quality time with grandpa—and didn’t want to get disowned—we were Pats fans. My father is a Pats fan. It wasn’t a choice. We loved New England teams despite sucking throughout my youth. We loved them during the dynasty years. New England teams (or whomever your team happens to be) were treated with the same degree of reverence one might treat the Crown or how (we used to treat) the presidency. It doesn’t matter who the quarterback is, who manages the team or who owns the team; the personalities and what they believe always come secondary to preserving the institution.
I learned at an early age how easy it is to brainwash a child. Recently, when I was back home in Rhode Island, I heard a child no older than age six saying “The Yankees are evil” to another kid on the playground who was wearing a Yankees hat. It’s disturbing how young we can poison our children’s minds with hateful rhetoric. (But seriously…the Yankees are fucking evil.)
This happens to also illustrate my feelings about politics—and why I think all political debates are ridiculous and ultimately pointless. You have the same chance of changing a Republican’s mind if you’re a Democrat as you have a chance of turning a Boston fan into a Yankees fan. Forget about it. It’s never gonna happen. Those beliefs are in there so deep, you don’t even realize they’re beliefs. They’ve become part of your DNA.
Herein lies the danger in our post-truth world: we look for facts to reinforce our beliefs and no matter which side we are on, we will find them. Tom Brady is either a cheater or he’s a God-among-men, the greatest quarterback in the sport, who has been unfairly persecuted for being gorgeous, talented and married to a supermodel.
In times of unrest and instability, it seems nothing is insulated from politics and in fact, it’s our very privilege that has afforded us the luxury of not having to mix up politics with entertainment and sports for so long. In a world that is customized by clicks, our likes and dislikes are a mediated reflection of our identity politics and where we stand on the issues that matter: Starbucks, Uber, Lady Gaga, Hamilton. Nothing is off limits. The combination of rampant fear mongering and actual, scary-as-fuck unprecedented events create an atmosphere of all-or-nothing thinking that only serves to virtually pit us against one another.
To me, contact sports are a reminder that men are still men, not paper-pushing pansies who create apps and blog in their free time.
This results in people jumping to a lot of extreme, illogical conclusions. If you like New England, then you voted for Trump and you’re a Nazi. If Hamilton and Lady Gaga are performing at the Super Bowl, the NFL is obviously pandering to liberal snowflakes. If you’re using Uber, you hate immigrants. If you so much as defend masculinity, you’re a shill for the patriarchy and a misogynist. Such black-and-white thinking gets us nowhere in our civilized world of laws and nuance, but in sports, it’s the law of the jungle. Kill or be killed. There is a winner and loser. But in a complex world, I find relief in the simplicity of the game.
And by the way, in terms of shilling for the patriarchy, don’t get me started on “outdated gender stereotypes.“ They’re outdated precisely because we’re privileged. We don’t hunt; we use UberEats. We don’t fight ground wars; we partake in drone warfare. We don’t have a ceremonial rite of passage; we turn 21 years old and prove our ability to binge-drink. We’re so comfy in our Netflix and chill, we don’t even realize that the minute the grid goes down, those “outdated gender roles” suddenly become pretty fucking relevant again.
The great irony is this: the mainstream media will have you believe we are currently headed for Armageddon—whether it’s at the hands of terrorists, our current leader or mother nature. The fear is palpable that global collapse of some kind is imminent. If that’s the case, when a dirty bomb goes off in a major American city and all hell breaks loose and we’re fighting for food in the streets, we are going to need masculinity and warriors (male and female) to protect our loved ones and rebuild what’s left of humanity.
We lived like that for thousands of years: hunters and gatherers, wandering tribes trying to survive the harsh, daily reality of finding food, building shelter and still managing to procreate in the midst of continuous movement and under the threat of constant attack. Thanks to agronomy, followed by the Industrial Revolution followed by the Technology Boom, we have been fortunate enough to live in the teeny, tiny sliver of humanity that doesn’t require a daily fistfight to stay alive, at least for those of us who were lucky enough to be born in the First World.
To me, contact sports are a reminder that men are still men, not paper-pushing pansies who create apps and blog in their free time. Sure, the technocrat absolutely has his place, but unless he knows how to turn those solar panels into working electricity, his value is going to be null when the dollar collapses.
So, I get it if you don’t like the Super Bowl. That’s your prerogative and you don’t hear me giving you an earful for not watching the game. But don’t try to make me feel bad because I still like football in this political and social climate. For me it’s not about gender or politics. For four hours, I get to escape to that animal instinct and tap into my Cro-Magnon brain that constantly lurks beneath the politics, gender or otherwise. I get to escape intellectuals composing long threads on Twitter and return to a time when men lined up and went to battle, faced off and tackled and grunted and wrestled and fought.
Sorry, Meryl, but this is why I love football, MMA and when a man gets checked in hockey or a fight breaks out. Because for me, combat sports are above politics and gender—or below it, however you want to look at it. They tap into something primitive that feels better knowing strong men still exist. So shame me all you want for enjoying them, but someday soon, the fight might be all we have left.