Football and Other Loves

I planned this week to have students think about whether or not they believed in the necessity of “safe spaces” and “trigger warnings” in education. I’m somewhat of a skeptic on the matter, and found myself applauding a recent letter from the University of Chicago to its incoming first-year students. If you’re interested in such issues, The Atlantic’s Connor Friedersdorf has covered them well.

But today I decided I would turn my attention to a place where there are no safe spaces: the football field. High schools in Mississippi are in week three of the football season; college ball has just begun. Why do we love it so much? I have to admit that when I was in high school, I loathed the sport–mostly because I was no good at it, and because I resented the favoritism good athletes got from their teachers and peers. But I also know, in retrospect, that I didn’t understand it, and that I was dismissive of it for small reasons.

Intellectuals tend to give sports short shrift. Thoreau was an avid outdoorsman, to put it mildly, but viewed sports with the same suspicion he did organized religion. Football players get lampooned ruthlessly in films, as do cheerleaders. The physical dangers of the sport have been known from the start, and the long-term effects of football concussions are only recently coming to the broad light of day.

Yet kids play it. They want to play it. Some stay in school for its thrills. Here’s a potential reason why, from James Wright:

All the proud fathers are ashamed to go home.
Their women cluck like starved pullets,
Dying for love.

Their sons grow suicidally beautiful
At the beginning of October,
And gallop terribly against each other’s bodies.


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23 Responses to Football and Other Loves

  1. AK Mynatt says:

    How can someone not love football? Whether it be high school, college, professional, or even little league, people all around the country are fans or players of the sport. It promotes team work and trust. Of course there are health issues, but the gear becomes safer every year. This sport brings people together, and that is kind of what America needs right now.

  2. Devon M says:

    There are so many people who play and watch sports: from golf (wink wink) to football. Practically, “Fall means football down South.” Many people go to high school football games on Friday and get up early the next Saturday morning to go see college football. But, there are other people who would rather stay home because they do not have much care for the sport.
    People who go to the football games- they go for an array of reasons. I know most people at my home school will attend football games to socialize with friends and have a good time outside of the school setting. The people who actually come to watch football are the ones who are in love with the game. With this, a question arises: Why do people love the game so much? I think a main reason people watch football and enjoy it so much is because it gives them a sense of competition. By this, I mean people who are on opposite teams from one another are in constant competition over who is winning or losing the game…….even though they have no control over who scores what. So many people like the fact that they can put all of their faith into “their” football team and support them all the way to victory (well hopefully).

  3. Kamal Bhalla says:

    Football to most people here in Mississippi IS their religion. Their whole live are revolved around the season of football. Personally, I believe that having such a dedication to a sport that one doesn’t even play themselves has no meaning. I mean to an extent, I understand, but altogether it’s just a wasteful of energy and thought. There is so much out there that people could spend their football game money to something that is actually useful and helpful in their lives. Basically I think that since they have no life besides football, football is their life.

  4. Brianna Ladnier says:

    Firstly, although the media has a lot of joking matter towards ‘trigger words’ and ‘safe spaces’, they are necessary for people who truly suffer from disorders.

    Now on the actual topic at hand, football is silly. Football gives nobody any more than they allow themselves to receive. However, football is like religion. It is bound to have its negatives. It is bound to not make sense when it is approached in a logical sense. However, they are both something that bring much joy in the world and gives many people a sense of community. Its allows more people to bind together and create a community that would not be there if it never had existed. You cannot look at something illogical in a logical manner, that in itself isnt logical. Instead, you should approach it in a much more emotional standpoint.

  5. Kamal Bhalla says:

    Football to most people here in Mississippi IS their religion. Their whole life is revolved around the season of football. Personally, I believe that having such a dedication to a sport that one doesn’t even play themselves has no meaning. I mean to an extent, I understand, but altogether it’s just a wasteful of energy and thought. There is so much out there that people could spend their football game money to something that is actually useful and helpful in their lives. Basically I think that since they have no life besides football, football is their life.

  6. Mariat Thankachan says:

    Football, just like any sport, has its drawbacks. Sacrifices are made, but in the end, you have to look at its perks. For many students in high school, football is life. It means a chance at a scholarship, which will help them continue their education in college. Also, the time and effort that the students put into football is energy not lost on other things, drugs and gangs for example.

  7. Maggie Atkinson says:

    In the south football is just as important as going to church. Not only is college football a big thing, but also local high school football. When a child grows up in a family that are loyal football enthusiast, the often play the game themselves. It all starts with the family football game on Sunday in the back yard. Although the game is full of risks, for many, football is part of their DNA and the risks are not brought into light for them.

  8. Kennedy LaPorte says:

    Before I move on to football I’d like to add something to the discussion of safe spaces. As someone who has struggled with anxiety for essentially my entire life, having a place where you don’t have to be terrified is a blessing. Can safe spaces be abused? Of course. Everything can be abused, but that doesn’t mean safe spaces don’t have their place.

    Moving on, I will admit that I have never seen the appeal of football. It’s violent, loud, and messy, and I’ve been drug along to enough football games to know that I have no fondness for them. However, I can see why some people who can handle the noise would enjoy them. I think it gives people a sort of ‘us vs. them’ mentality without actually having to fight agains’t someone or take an actual position. People can feel like they are apart of a team and like they are a piece of something without having to do anything harder than yelling a bunch. Honestly, I don’t really correlate football with intelligence. I’m sure there are smart football players and fans(off the top of my head I think Dr. Odom likes football!), but being a fan does not really take any talent. For example, to play in a band you have to know how to play an instrument, but sitting in the stands takes absolutely nothing other than willingness and time.

    As harsh as this all sounds, I really don’t look down on people who like football at all. People are allowed to have their own interests, and they shouldn’t feel bad for them because some teen age girl on the internet things football is silly. I have some really silly interests too so who am I too judge?

  9. Alex Monterde says:

    From a historical viewpoint, sports were a way to spend leisure time, which makes since, considering that all people had to do with their free time before recently was to sleep under rocks and be afraid of the sun. However, it is noted by many today, technology provides us with many and more modes of entertainment far more satisfying than watching sports.
    So, why are sports still so beloved in the modern day?
    It has to do with the innate human need for belonging. We, as humans, are social creatures: we like to be with and around one another. At its most complex, this tendency expresses itself in the form of patriotism. As an aside, patriotism is an emotional attachment to one’s country. We indulge in patriotism because we love the sense of belonging and unity it brings to us. We are united behind one thing, the flag (eagle squawk).
    Sports are just a smaller manifestation of this same effect. We enjoy sports because it gives us this sense of community, on a more personal scale. To continue the analogy, sport rivalries are really equatable to wars. The deep rivalries of in-state teams (Ole Miss v. State) correlate to those national rivalries which plague international dialogue (Russia, man), and augmented reality video games (teams Mystic, Valor, and Instinct).
    Much like the communities that are prone to any form of tribalism (religion, nationality, ethnicity, etc.), sports are important because they provide this sense of unity. Despite this, they are still dangerous because of the deep tribal divides they cause in our broader society (ever heard Dr. Curtis talk about Alabama?).

  10. DeeDee says:

    To me, football is a brute sport. It looks to me, like a bunch of big sweaty guys running into one another in hopes of putting a piece of cow into the all holy, divine “end zone”. As for the safety risks, I’ve actually heard talks between guys planning to intentionally injure an opponent, in hopes of increasing their chances of winning a single game. This mindset is irreparably stupid. How can you even begin to create such a thought so horrible as to possibly alter someones life on the basis of a 3-hour game, that you probably won’t remember in 5 years? However, I must agree with AK. In lieu of recent and presently progressing safety precautions and newer, more up-to-date safety equipment, football is becoming a sport with less safety concerns, though still very prevalent. The entire idea of the game is neither fascinating nor purposeful to me, but the culture that comes with it is irreplaceable. How can you not love Friday Night Lights, painted faces, the cool breeze of a fall night, the southern traditions, and the eagerness of the people around you associated with high school football? Though not interested in the actual game, the atmosphere and environment of a football game is more than pleasing to me. Even with the noise, tension, anxiety, and unpredictability of the sport, I find it relaxing in more ways than one.

  11. Steven says:

    The south’s ludicrous obsession with football and its prevalence in southern culture is quite alarming to outsiders such as me. Being born in the south and having lived in the south my whole life, I never passed through the cultural membrane of loving football.
    According to studies, football coaches make the highest salary among coaches in Mississippi for all the hours that go into training. Mississippi, the nation’s poorest and most uneducated state, cannot provide for its people if football is taken more seriously than economic and social issues. Perhaps if the state government was more dedicated to funding education (which may never happen), most issues would be taken care of and Mississippi could also focus more on leisure and recreation.

    Of course, the crowd of people who watch football simply to see high testosterone men pile on top of each other should not be forgotten. To avoid adding layers of excitement to this distraction of a sport, they should consider wrestling and cage fighting sufficient. If one desires to see real violence mixed into a bad drama, try Worldstar.

  12. Aurelia Caine says:

    Football is absolutely to die for! It’s not only a thing here in the United States, but it is loved all over the world! Football is from little league’s two hand touch to NFL’s big brawls. Not only is it for males, but it is also for girls. Plenty of girls play flag football as a sport! This is one of the sports that definitely does not work with teamwork and communication. How can you not love football?

  13. Lilah Denton says:

    I’ve never been a fan of football, nor have I ever understood why people want to play it. It’s such a dangerous sport, and these players get so hungry for a win that they’ll knowingly hurt someone else so bad that they can’t continue to play. The fans can be just as rough as the players too. The smack talk can ruthless, and I’ve seen people be ridiculed for liking a certain team. That’s such a stupid thing to put someone down for. I’m know not all football fans are rude, but I feel like sports are such a ridiculous thing to get all excited about.

  14. Samuel Patterson says:

    Football is very popular in the south because the sport’s characteristics align with the characteristics of the south. The south is a fairly rural place that lacks the commodities of cities in the northeast and far west. Therefore, sports, like football, are substituted to give people something to do on Friday nights. Interestingly, southern communities offer more praise for successful football than for intellectual accomplishment.

  15. Jagger Riggle says:

    Humans are a very violent species. For thousands of years, we have watched other people fight and battle each other just for entertainment. The football stadium is the Roman Colosseum of modern times. Now, however, instead of people fighting to the death, we have two teams fighting over a ball to try and get the most points. It is in our nature to partake in these ‘battles’, and if we are not fighting in them we are going to watch them. The games also bring people together, and this is due to the fact that we as a species are also very social. The football games give us a reason to come together to cheer for our team and go ‘tailgating’ outside of the stadium.

  16. Raymond Z says:

    I also never understand how football got popular in the US, especially in the south. In my opinion, the main reason football got popular is the violence that people wanted to see. Football wasn’t scripted like movies or TV shows, it was real violence. It’s the feeling you get when you want the opponents best team member get injured so your team can have the advantage. It’s popular in the south because they can play football almost all season, and they dominate in the sport.

  17. Meagan Pittman says:

    I myself, marvel at the passion that extreme sports fans exhibit. But at the same time I can understand where it originates. Supporting a team gives a person the sense of being a part of something larger than themselves, a feeling of belonging. This causes a strong dedication to the team, making a person feel that they, themselves, are a part of the team.

  18. Vera L. Taire says:

    Football in the south is a religion, as other bloggers have already stated. According to Listverse, “nearly 90% of people in the world subscribe to a religion of some kind.” Whether it is out of superstition, need for purpose, belief in justice, or need for community, football, like religion, is addicting for many people.
    James F. White, a Christian Historian, created seven categories for worship. People, piety, time, place. Prayer, preaching, and music. I love how they were almost all P’s. Anyways, worship makes people part of the church while football makes people part of a group of dedicated fans. Piety is how people relate to God- the importance they place on him. In football, you have the ultra pious attends all games, including away, dresses purely in team colors during season, and hates opposition as well as the more moderate watch from home crew. Time- having a set regularly occurring time as well as measuring the amount of time one spends on an object or activity aids us in defining worship. Place- having a set place such as a church, stadium, or spot on the couch. Prayer- while you may be praying to God, there is some serious mental effort into wishing and hoping your team will win. As far as the preaching goes, what else would you call the announcers if not preachers on the game? And what are preachers, if not commentators on the game of life? Music… give it up for that half time show.
    Football bears striking similarities to worship in some fan’s lives. We worship for a variety of reasons, hence the level of dedication. Those that don’t worship football simply worship something else- maybe it’s books, or food, or family, or even yourself.

    Churchill, By Winston. “8 Reasons People Embrace Religion – Listverse.” Listverse. N.p., 20 Sept. 2014. Web. 03 Oct. 2016

    “Alban at Duke Divinity School » Characteristics of Christian Worship.” Alban at Duke Divinity School. N.p., n.d. Web. 03 Oct. 2016.

  19. Erin Owens says:

    Football is America’s pastime (well besides baseball). Generation after generation has grown up playing it and have past that love down to their kids. It’s something about the the organized violence and the thrill of Friday Night Lights that have made it so vastly popular.

  20. Kendall Wells says:

    Football is a way of life in the South. When October rolls around, you see everyone in their favorite team jersey, and Saturdays must include a tailgate or after party. As a large football fan myself, it’s thrilling to watch your favorite team dominate against rivals. The way football can take your mind off things, even if it’s just two hours, is amazing. As said above, humans crave the violence of the game, even if that’s not what their thinking about while watching the game. Football gathers groups of people in support for something they love, and that’s why Americans will continue their passion for the sport for as long as possible.

  21. Jackson Sparkman says:

    Football only assesses if you can hurt another person correctly. Everyone loves to watch gore and fights, as humans, that’s natural. But we take pride in strapping up young children is proper equipment (which will never truly protect them) and hurting other children. People don’t watch football for the point of the sport, to carry a ball across a field; otherwise, why isn’t flag football a collegiate sport?

  22. Kayla Patel says:

    Football is a religion in the south, even though I don’t know how football got so popular, or why people enjoy watching players tackle each other to run a ball across the field. People enjoy yelling at their television screens telling the players what they should be doing, and if they were put on the field they would not have any idea what to do. I see it as a voluntarily way of signing up to be seriously injured, and for what? A touchdown? I do not see a justifiable reason to put yourself and others in danger over this game that has everyone in the south so in love with.

  23. Shuchi Patel says:

    I hate football. I do not see the purpose of it, besides “entertainment”. It is very funny when you reference being on the football team when you were younger. I believe kids tackling each other for a ball is pointless. There are much better things to do in life besides being involved with this stupid sport.

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