Michele and I watched Sunday night football last night – the first non-title NFL game I have seen in years, probably twenty years – and it was a shock. By way of background, I used to love football. I was a huge Raider fan with season tickets on about the twenty yard line and watched them – starting when John Rauch was their coach and continuing through the John Madden years – become a dominant team. The Raiders personified – for me – the American dream of a group of outcasts coming together and being more than just the sum of their parts.
But that was a long time ago. Even before Superbowls were marked by Roman numeral. The first shock was how jingoistic football has become: it is now America’s game. The second shock is the irony of America’s game being the Hyundai Sunday night game with the Toyoda halftime show. Huh? America? Hyundai? Toyoda? I am not very comfortable with the hyper-nationalism that requires everybody to wear a flag pin, but, What the hell! I like Hyundai, I like Toyoda, and I love irony.
The game hasn’t changed much, sure there is more passing -as an aside, I once watched Kansas City beat the Raiders in a title game, when both their wide receivers were hurt, by passing only three times during the entire game, end aside – but the game still seems to be controlled at the line of scrimmage; everybody is bigger and faster and more skilled, but the cornerbacks are still covering the wide receivers and the linebackers are still getting burned if they commit to the run too early.
The coverage – TV coverage, not linebacker coverage – however is really different. The ability to isolated individual players and make everybody else disappear is great, seeing both the line of scrimmage and the first down line as lines on the field is very handy, and the video-photography is outstanding. And, the constant flow of huge amounts of information is much more helpful to somebody like me who doesn’t know any of the players.
However, the whole time I couldn’t shake the feeling that this was a like a roman circus. A distraction to keep our minds off of Afghanistan, off of house foreclosures, off of the country slowly changing from the American Dream to a new jingoistic America keeping us in line by keeping us scared. I hope I am wrong but I don’t think so.