Of all my seemingly non-intellectual and therefore vaguely embarrassing interests, somewhere near the top (or bottom) of the pile has to be death metal (see below) and football.
Like death metal, football is something that most of my friends simply do not understand. They prefer the easier-going, square glasses-and-coffeehouse pursuits: reading a good book, engaging in irony-infested chit-chat over a glass of dense lager or wine, playing “Apples to Apples” on a Sunday night in such a way that it turns into a sort-of-offensive game of intellectual oneupsmanship*. It is safe to say that my friends, as a group, are not football fans.
I, on the other hand, have grown accustomed to the game’s stubbly, steroid-swollen face. It almost makes the day begin. I came late to football; I believe most guys that like football find it earlier in life than I did. For me it was a bit during college and then a lot more in the couple of years following. I can chalk up my waxing interest to two factors: the first, a love of the video game with John Madden’s name on it – the better I got at the game, the more I wanted to know about the actual sport on which its comically stiff pixel-blobs were based; and the second, a desire to get closer to my father. As much as I had always liked him, we didn’t share many interests. By adding football to that inventory I was able to expand it to two items**.
Football and death metal share some founding principles. Both are made of a typically male aggression married to intellectualism hidden to all but the more devout acolytes. People who don’t listen to death metal, even a lot of musicians, don’t realize that the majority of it is almost impossible to play. They tend to hear the dissonance and the percussive aural abuse heaped on the listener rather than the intricacies and subtleties underneath. Likewise, football’s visual emphasis is on brutally hard hits and guys fake-urinating in each other’s end zones***, which can effectively disguise just how damn much planning goes into every five-to-ten second burst of action. There are blockers and defensive linemen battling it out, and they stunt side to side or use complicated moves to try to foil each other’s efforts. There are blitzes (surprise rushes at the quarterback) and blitz pickups (players designated to spot blitzes at the snap and block them). The receivers run routes with moves built into them, and sometimes fake moves to get a defender going the wrong way; and the defenders, the cornerbacks and safeties, have to react to these things as they happen, and even anticipate them occasionally if they are to have the ultimate success of an interception or broken-up pass.
Diane, are you awake?
There’s more, but I sense I should stop there. Football is like ballet, only there are two ballet troupes and they are at war. And in order to successfully complete their ballet, each side has to prevent the other side’s dancers from fucking their shit up. It’s beautiful and guys get killed. This then is the very essense of art from the heterosexual male perspective. It’s Scorsesian in its blood-meets-beauty rhythms. The maneuvers of DiCaprio and Damon against each other, with Nicholson and Sheen coaching them, could hardly be more complicated. And like DiCaprio beating a man’s face in with a coat rack, it’s at its most captivating when everything breaks down and somebody just has to get pummelled to death.
I can’t wait for autumn, Diane. It’s good coffee and pie season, too.
* I won this game-within-the-game by playing the card “Rosa Parks” on the dealer’s card, which was “Selfish.” I feel compelled to note that I am not a racist, and my friends are not racists either, but we all suffer from the very modern ailment of finding over-the-top, obviously offensive jokes of that sort funny. I think we can blame “South Park” for this, and also for the career of Sarah Silverman, who is not as funny as she or Jimmy Kimmel or my friends think she is.
** The other is music (we both play guitar). He doesn’t like death metal though.
*** How delightfully homoerotic is that? And since two of the bigger offenders for end zone celebrations have the wonderful names “Chad” and “Randy,” the circle of this innuendo is complete. If there’s another great founding principle behind football other than aggression and strategy, it has to be homoeroticism. There’s an amusingly strong current of that in many sports, in fact – particularly wrestling and fencing. If we hets wanted to steer clear of appearing gay, we would only watch and participate in bowling and poker tournaments. I think it’s pretty awesome that the gay community has co-opted both being buff and men touching each other, and that just mentioning this in a BW3s is probably sufficient to get you tossed out into the parking lot.