This Is America: Grown Men Obsessed With Sports Is Weird
By Ben Bartee - December 05, 2023

Originally published via Armageddon Prose:

“This Is America” explores the undercurrents pulling Western civilization into the abyss.

The headline is probably un-American sacrilege or whatever. Brand me a heretic, a blasphemer. Tar and feather me with hate.

C’est la vie.

But let me get this caveat out of the way upfront: I enjoy sports. Having not owned a television myself in literal decades and having lived outside of the U.S. for almost as long, I was forced to watch the highlights on the internet, but the UGA vs. Bama SEC championship game, for example, was pretty great. My Ukrainian wife doesn’t care a lick about any sports — let alone American football that literally no one not North American patronizes — and often tells me it’s weird that I’m into it. Such is the burden of international cross-cultural marriage.

Having established my affinity for sports, fully developed men in middle age whose entire identities seem to revolve around their favorite football team appear to have something developmentally wrong with them.

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There’s an entire genre of TV/talk radio featuring adult men with receding hairlines fervently discussing (sometimes screaming) their football opinions into the camera, as if they’re delivering an impassioned Pentecostal sermon on the damnation of hellfire or some other such heady existential issue of eternal life or death.

I found an old book a while back in a dingy Guadalajara bookshop — so weathered that the crispy brown pages break apart when you fold them as bookmarks — published in 1963 called “Culture Against Man” that might shed some light on this phenomenon.

From a chapter on the centrality of football to the quintessential American town of the era, on a composite high school football player character named Jim:

“The reason athletics have such high status is that the teams generate Self-substance to some degree for almost everyone, not just for the athletes…

The rooter is in the unique position of being able to vibrate during the game as if he were the true Self, and to accept team success while insulating himself against the effects of failure…

When we return to [high school football player] Jim Evans we can understand the bio-cultural pressures on him, and something — though not everything — of why he is ungrammatical, laconic, and apparently somewhat dull: his social mission is fulfilled. Looking at his friendships we notice that they are based on team games, an early form of juvenile male activity. The narrowing of one’s friendships to team mates in the teens is the persistence into adolescent life of a pattern that had intense meaning in childhood. Thus the athlete tends to be a person whose basic adjustment to males has not changed, whose relation to males continues to be understandable largely in terms of childhood behavior that was so rewarding that it has persisted. “

Football, it’s been observed, is essentially simulated warfare. The opposing teams represent opposing armies. It’s played in all weathers, as opposed to other sports. The physical struggle is central to the ethos. George Carlin did a whole bit about it back in the day.

I think this explains why, in particular, men seem to gravitate towards the sport of football — perhaps not even realizing why it so appeals to them — in a desperate search for meaning in a world where their only ostensible purpose, the television dutifully reminds them at every commercial break, is to produce and consume. And even that function might no longer exist if the WEF gets its way, as humans are rapidly becoming extraneous to economic function.

“We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our Great War’s a spiritual war… our Great Depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars. But we won’t. And we’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off.”

-Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

Ben Bartee, author of Broken English Teacher: Notes From Exile, is an independent Bangkok-based American journalist with opposable thumbs.

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