mead cohen berger shevtsova garfinkle michta grygiel blankenhorn bayles
America's Game
Pope Francis’ Super Bowl Message and Our Elite-Populist Wars
Features Icon
Features
show comments
  • leoj

    George Steiner: Then they said to me, “Now we want to give [the Rhodes Scholarship] to you, but because of your physical handicap, there are no sports. Does any sport interest you?” “Apart from chess,” I said, “American football fascinates me.” They gave me a piece of chalk — this is all true — and asked if I could show them the difference between a split-T, a T, and a single-wing formation. I said, “That’s too easy,” and I immediately began, and they said, “All right, you’ve got the Rhodes.” That’s a totally true story.
    Interviewer: Are you still a fan of professional football?
    Steiner: Yes, and college also. I used to go to the Notre Dame games and the Michigan State games out of Chicago. I miss that very much, but I do watch it on TV. I’m fascinated by football’s cerebral intricacy and its strange, complex social makeup. In any case, that’s how I came back to England. […]
    https://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1506/george-steiner-the-art-of-criticism-no-2-george-steiner

    Today, I would say the most interesting martial sport (also a form of art) is MMA. No wonder Meryl Streep is so threatened.

    • Andrew Allison

      ” . . .football’s cerebral intricacy and its strange, complex social makeup.” Steiner was clearly being ironic. Today’s free-ride (in both senses) college athletes give the lie to that ridiculous statement. Professional sports in general, and American football in particular,are about only one thing: $$$$$

      • leoj

        First off, he’s referring specifically to college football in the late 40s/early 50s. And clearly you’re wrong to read him as being ironic… Why? Did you read the interview? Off the top of your head, do you know the difference between a split-T, a T, and a single-wing formation? I’m guessing you’re not terribly athletic…

        As for football today, I agree; hence the interest accruing to MMA. The money side is not totally irrelevant to the matter, however, since it affects the psychology of competition, also the quality of the competitors, their dedication to training, etc. Trash talking and bravado also become powerful and entertaining components of the struggle between two opposing individuals/teams. You’re correct to the extent that most of the athletes aren’t fit for employment at NASA, but ‘cerebral intricacy’ is not some uniform quality.

        • Disappeared4x

          Football does have the unpredictability factor. Anything can happen in the last seven minutes….five…

        • Andrew Allison

          Only an American of a certain kind would equate lack of knowledge of, or interest in (and yes, I have attended a game), what passes for football in the U.S.A. with athletic ability. Near as I can tell, a large number of the athletes aren’t fit for employment at Wal-Mart, let alone NASA. The subject of the post, namely “the deep and transcendent meaning of popular sports”, is laughable.

          • leoj

            Sooo, no you aren’t athletic and yes you know nothing about the game. Good, glad we cleared that up…

            As for the transcendence of popular sport. Is it so different from Augustine? Here is a rather too long (apologies) quotation from the conclusion of ch. 11 (“Augustine and Roman Public Spectacles”) of Blackwell’s Companion to Augustine:

            “Recognizing the difficulty of bringing the Christian high political elite wholly to his way of thinking, Augustine could also mount a polemic against public spectacles. As many of his fellow Christians, including members of the imperial family, became increasingly comfortable with seeing such events as religiously neutral social institutions, Augustine countered by underscoring their sacral quality, as he does for example in this excursus on the origins and purpose of the Roman public spectacles in Book 1 of the City of God: “Well, here are the facts. The public games, those disgusting spectacles of frivolous immorality, were instituted in Rome not by the viciousness of men but by the orders of those gods of yours” (Civ. Dei 1.32; trans. Bettenson 1972).

            “The same theme recurs in several places in this work (Civ. Dei 2.4; 4.26; 8.13). In identifying the ludi theatrales as sacral institutions established by the gods rather than by men, Augustine was taking a leaf from Tertullian’s playbook.” (p. 149)

            Not so strange for a pope to make the same comparison I would wager. From a more secular perspective you might view it as a Aufhebung des Kampfs um Leben und Tod. Really nothing more transcendent than that…

          • Andrew Allison

            You might try and find somebody to explain to you that, unlike my profile, the first sentence in my reply says nothing about my athleticism. Thanks for the Augustine quote, especially, ” “Well, here are the facts. The public games, those disgusting spectacles of frivolous immorality, were instituted in Rome not by the viciousness of men but by the orders of those gods of yours” which sums it up rather well.

          • leoj

            Does making motions like you’re sweeping the floor mean you’re athletic? It’s more likely to be inferred that you have a really clean house.

            Right, Augustine’s view was more apparently polemical than good pope francis’ statement. The context is different: in the one it is the condemnation of ‘those gods of yours,’ while in the other it is going beyond our own self-interest and sacrifice. I’m sure it’s only in private that the good pope gives full vent to his anti-capitalist sentiments and rails against american mammon and our worship of filthy lucre.

          • Andrew Allison

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDIb9TWy-78&feature=relmfu sweeps the floor with you and your MMA delusions.

          • leoj

            Yes, these demonstrations on youtube are famous.
            [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5l_t70EG8E0&w=560&h=315%5D

            What deluded MMA guys think of it.
            [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lPzVQ98KC0k&w=560&h=315%5D

      • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

        My grandfather tutored the Georgia Tech football team in 1914-1918. He regaled me with stories about how dumb they were. Why, they couldn’t even grasp the use of the aorist in their classical Greek classes!

      • CruisingTroll

        “Football’s cerebral intricacy” refers to the coaching, the complexity of plays and of evaluating both your team and the opposing team before, during, and after the game. That you can’t see this is a sign of your arrogance and spiritual impoverishment. Basketball, especially pro, is all “Braveheart” and craptastic cinematic warfare, where idiots charge one another in a massive 1 on 1 melee. Okay, it’s not actually that bad…. and it is a great showcase for athleticism. Baseball, well, two summers of standing around in the outfield in the desert as a kid eliminated any affinity for the game, so I can say in full and complete disclosure that “I don’t get it, at all.” Football though, because of the combination of both the pass and the run, is a very, very complex game, most like combined arms warfare of any sport.

        Furthermore, as far as today’s college athletes go, how many plays can YOU memorize? Can you react instantly based on hours of watching game films to the smallest of hints of what an opponent is doing? Whether you agree with the way our sports “system” is structured or not, (and I come down mildly on “not”), the fact is a college athlete is not much different from a college musician or artist or drama major. Those on scholarship have spent years of effort focused on that, often at the cost of other academics. For that matter, most of the “cerebral” types in college are woefully ignorant in other areas.

        Last, if you think that professional sports are only about money, then you’re beyond naively arrogant. Because the thing you’re overlooking is absolutely critical: it’s the BUYERS who define what it’s about, not the sellers. And the buyers buy for ALL SORTS of different reasons.

  • Andrew Allison

    Oh, please. The Super Bowl is symbolic of nothing more than the crass commercialism of U.S. sports in general and the NFL in particular. The deep and transcendental meaning of popular sports in the U.S. is money, pure and simple. The violence at the heart of American football is simply the modern equivalent of the Gladiatorial Games with somewhat less lethal consequences, i.e, a distraction.

    • (((kingschitz)))

      Yes, to be sure.

      Forgive this bit of arcana, but Civil War Colonel Henry Lee Higginson spoke to this issue long before sports were vulgarized through commercialization. In the 1890s and in memory of his classmates who were killed during war, Higginson donated the land on which Harvard’s football stadium was later built. In a famous speech connected with the gift, Higginson suggested the football-war connection. As naive as it may strike many today, his main theme was the hope that football would replace war; that the old Eton’s playing fields to battfields would instead remain on the football field. Whatever it may have become since, in that era of Muscular Protestantism, the game was genuinely endowed with something greater than at present.

    • f1b0nacc1

      You might enjoy this one:

    • Jim__L

      You should read some Victor Davis Hanson. I’m currently about halfway through Carnage and Culture (Tenochtitlan has just fallen). While it celebrates Western success, it doesn’t sugar-coat anything.

      Throughout the book, the “Western way of war” that Hansen observes — its collection of practices and virtues — is reflected fairly well in American football. It’s also reflected fairly well in Western cultural practices that have led to not only Western dominance, but Western prosperity as well.

      Football really is a substitute for Western war, and it really does teach virtues — working shoulder-to-shoulder with others towards a larger goal, analysis and audit of performance with an emphasis on subsequent improvement, giving your all (engaging animal spirits) to solve problem you’re trying to solve, in a way that no other sport (except perhaps rugby) does.

      And if the rewards have been “modernized” — lots of money instead of territorial aggrandizement — in a way that’s entirely appropriate.

      There really is a lot to learn here, if you look.

      • Disappeared4x

        Everyone needs to read Victor Davis Hanson.

        • Andrew Allison

          Couldn’t agree more!

          • Disappeared4x

            confessing I started with Follett, Vol 2, could not wait for Vol 1 to arrive…TY for the tip. It’s ok, have read so much WW1 & 2, will be easy enough to start Vol 1 as soon as it arrives, then get back to 1935.
            signing off. Too many pundits obsessing over Russia today.

          • Andrew Allison

            A few dozen Hail Marys should take care your delinquency [grin] . This 77 year-old reformed Brit found Vol 1 revelatory not just for the Dickensian working conditions still extant in the early 20th Century, but the purblind stupidity of the British High Command during WWI. Of course, as we have seen in more recent times, Generals always fight the last war rather than the next one. As to all the political froth, that’s all it is.

          • Disappeared4x

            Ahh. I read Orwell’s 1937 “The Road to Wigan Pier” for my 20th century British History paper on Thatcher’s privatization of council housing, in 2004. Should be just fine when Vol. 1 comes tomorrow.

          • Andrew Allison

            Yes, Orwell was brilliant, one of the first to recognized the inherent contradictions within socialism.

          • Disappeared4x

            Looks like TAI under hack-attack again. Good week to do something else.
            To-do lists begetting to-do lists…

      • Andrew Allison

        VDH is one of my favorite columnists. However, the subject of this sub-thread is not football but the crass commercialism of U.S. sports in general and the NFL in particular. That said, might I ask you to think more deeply about football as a substitute for Western war in the context of the number of wars in which we are, and have been since the 50s, engaged.
        Your suggestion that football is unique in teaching the virtues which you describe will no doubt be appreciated by aficionados of all the other team sports to which the same virtues apply.

        • Jim__L

          I think that football is unique in its resemblance to the phalanx warfare central to Hanson’s argument (at least, as I read it in the first half of his book.) On the other hand, I was probably relating too much to the section I was
          reading at the time… crass commercial gain didn’t seem to out of place in a comparison to Cortez. Most of the examples in C&C, the warriors are fighting shoulder-to-shoulder for hearth, home, and freedom (or at least for their lives). You’re right, crass commercialism is an outlier.

          As far as a substitute for war — no, we haven’t abandoned war in favor of football. I wanted to share some support for the case that *if* we wanted to abandon war, there are alternative ways to manifest the specific virtues involved in Western warfare, and American football is as I said unique in its resemblance to close-quarters phalanx fighting.

          And, I’m really enjoying the book. This gave me an excuse to talk about it, relating it to a topic to which it isn’t totally tangential. =)

          • Andrew Allison

            Surely Ice Hockey and Basketball are as phalanxic as “football” (I grew up playing soccer, and we were not only forbidden to touch the ball but our “Gladiatorial armor” consisted of shin pads, as a result of which serious injuries were (and still are) very rare.
            Your second para. leads to an altogether different question, namely whether, as a species, we really want to abandon war. My own view is that the reason we collectively dominate the planet is that we’re the meanest SOBs on it (what other species kills for fun?). The failure of alternative explanation, namely that we’re smart, fails with every mass murder and genocide, not to mention the violence endemic in the U.S.A.

          • Disappeared4x

            My view of professional sports is geographic franchises as an alternative Tribal affiliation that sometimes channels the martial impulses.
            Resisting temptation to segue into Haka: Maori War Dance.

          • Andrew Allison

            The Haka doesn’t involve actual contact with the enemy, which I guess makes them more civilized than us [grin]. But we’ve drifted rather far afield from the Super Bowl. Speaking of tribalism, how about the much more serious tribalism fostered by the late and unlamented leading candidate for the title of worst President in the history of the U.S.A?

          • Disappeared4x

            Identity Politics has been too destructive. All the more reason to get politics out of sports.
            When I went to college, 1969, geographic diversity was major criteria.
            That is about the time when Identity Politics, trading votes for ideological support, started to emerge.
            Leaving ‘worst president in US history’ to the historians. THAT list already politicized by the New Deal Historians to the point where Wilson still gets high rank, but many think he was the worst…
            here is then VP-elect Calvin Coolidge at his alma mater, Amherst College, 1920:
            https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/1f2d5956b820132dd041112277551f38fa209990b5dcbf9b1fd3f62daa818511.jpg
            The good old days of college football…

  • FriendlyGoat

    Excepting the misfortune of serious physical injuries suffered by some players, football has a much more positive influence on most of its participants than it does on most of its spectator fans. I am not a player, but I have enough sense to respect the tremendous amount of very hard work put in by all players from high school up to make a roster, play on the first strings or even warm the bench as a capably practiced back-up.

    For spectators at the pro level, though, I have never quite understood the rational basis for our implied obligation to be “for” the team (aka business franchise) we happen to live nearest, to be euphoric if it does well, to be down in the dumps if it doesn’t. I have never understood the particular benefits of the social stratification between those who are affluent enough to live the season-ticket (or suite) life on Sundays and those who work the parking, concessions and stadium maintenance. I have never really appreciated why some people are willing to get sucked into being part of a boo crowd—-no matter what happens on the field. And then there is sports gambling, which as some pastor once said “Why, it would be great——except for the losing.” Net, net, the players and the business aspects are winning, the spectators less so.

    • Jim__L

      Rooting for the home team measures your commitment to the people around you, as opposed to some far-off group (or no one).

      Social stratification — I agree with you there. Although I do appreciate the value in separating rich people from their money, in a non-coercive way.

      Being part of a “boo” crowd can be cathartic, and it can provide valuable feedback. Booing a bad call, or bad sportsmanship, can be a good thing, as much as cheering for what is good is a good thing.

      Agreed with you on the gambling, too. Funds should change hands because the person giving the money is getting something valuable in return. In gambling, both the funds and the value (the thrill of winning) are going to the same person, which is backwards.

      • FriendlyGoat

        If I was standing in the stadium with the home team crowd and they were all cheering for the home team, I would join them as a matter of courtesy to them in the setting. Outside the stadium there is no particular reason for people in Western Nebraska to find themselves socially obligated to the Denver Broncos and those in Eastern Nebraska to owe loyalty to the Kansas City Chiefs.

        • Jim__L

          If it’s only inside the stadium, there’s no point.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You’re getting perilously close to the truth that there really IS NO POINT to any of us caring a great deal which of 32 business franchises wins games or seasons. The further one is from the big show, the clearer that truth becomes.

          • Jim__L

            Watch the pope again, FG.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I did watch the Pope and I did watch the Super Bowl. Was reflecting on both when I wrote that football has a more positive influence on most of its participants than it does on most of its spectator fans.

          • Jim__L

            Now you’ve got me curious. “Bannon is trying to undermine Francis even at the Vatican”?

          • FriendlyGoat
          • Jim__L

            I think the Vatican is big enough and old enough to take care of itself.

            If Bannon is really trying to out-intrigue a pope — a *Jesuit* pope for heaven’s sake — pardon me if that does not fill me with pity for “poor Francis”.

            Besides, I thought you hated organized religion.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I do increasingly dislike “organized” religion, particularly when it is “organized” by Bannon and Trump instead of by Jesus—–as just took place before your eyes in the Protestantism of the USA.

            “The Vatican”, when it “takes care of itself” is, of course, basically nothing more than a collection of scandals and intrigues cloaked in pomposity. The breaks from that only take place when you occasionally find a Pope who understands that modeling Jesus is more important than perpetuating “the church”. We’ve had one of those for nearly four years and that is precisely why the jackals are after him.

          • Jim__L

            You do realize that as well as being a healer and a shining example of compassion, Jesus was a fire-and-brimstone preacher, right?

          • FriendlyGoat

            I know what He plucked out of Leviticus 19:18 and placed at the top of the heap when no one else would. I know he wasn’t much of a fan of institutions. I know what the writer of John said about him and his purpose in John 3:16. I know what Paul found himself obligated to say between the subjects of the 12th and 14th Chapters in I Corinthians. I know that prayer is for everywhere and not just inside walls. I know people are not headed to the afterlife in groups and I know that no one has been able to put the Holy Spirit in a doctrine box.

          • Jim__L

            Keep going, you’re not done.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Well, I could tell you what I told Tom the other day. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” either works better for souls than laissez faire or the New Testament is a hoax.

          • Jim__L

            Lasseiz faire isn’t about souls, and Love Thy Neighbor isn’t about coercive government regulation.

          • FriendlyGoat

            To me, we have to be able to actually connect church life with real life. Loving the neighbor means I don’t try to trick him in everything from soup to nuts and then blame him for being stupid if he was not wary enough to miss falling in the ditch I could have told him about. So, yes, a real Christian understands the need for and supports (for instance) a Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

            Meanwhile, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2017/02/conservative-christians-disagreement-trump/516132/

          • Jim__L

            What is stopping you from telling people about ditches yourself?

            I mean, the law isn’t forcing you to bake a cake for credit card companies, is it?

          • FriendlyGoat

            Nothing.

          • Jim__L

            Right… So go ahead and do that, and leave the government out of it.

          • FriendlyGoat

            No, Jim. It’s my country too and I will advocate as I please. The more you represent the church as being a bunch of argumentative jerks, the more I am going to argue against you and it. YOU are my close-up model of what The Church, Incorporated has become. YOU hold yourself out as speaking for it——so you ARE it. If the whole thing is devolving to crackpots who do not know financial transaction reality from wedding cake fantasy, it is time for everybody else to talk it back down,

          • Jim__L

            So you’re motivated to argue to try to stop argumentativeness? Let me know how that works for you.

            I’m just saying that you need to rely on yourself more than the government, and stop trying to make the government into something that stomps on people for relying on ourselves and ordering our own affairs the way we like. You’d better believe you will get pushback if that’s your take on things.

          • FriendlyGoat

            There has never been anything lacking in my self reliance. And there has never been a government in the United States which stomped on you.

          • Jim__L

            Two demonstrably false statements, simple contradiction. I guess you’re not much into arguments after all, are you.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I guess you’re a hopeless liar. You cannot “demonstrate” anything about my life. Shove off.

          • Jim__L

            Your own comments here demonstrate that you rely on government to do things like get the word out to people not to take bad credit card deals. So, not a lie.

            As for what the government does to me, you have no way of knowing that. So, not a lie on my part, but also hypocrisy on your part.

            FG, we’re down the rabbit hole again. We’ve got two very different points of view. Yours is extremely ideological and idealistic, and has been demonstrably bad for the country for the last eight years, and would have been catastrophic had it not been stopped. Mine is a bit more cynical, but more readily reflects reality as it is, and gives us a prayer of pulling out of the tailspin we’re in.

            I’m glad that our discussions, while a bit on the hostile side at times (possibly inevitably, given the deep, deep gulf between us on the role of the institutions like government and the church), still deal in substance rather than the reflexive name-calling that is typical of the rest of the web.

          • FriendlyGoat

            You have lied about every substantive political issue from soup to nuts at me for years. Now you think that because Big Daddy Trump has your back that you can personally insult me about my self reliance—–a subject of which you know nothing. Then when you sense I probably would have punched your lights out for that exchange in real life, you’re backpedaling from an in-my-face place you should not have gone but went anyway because you’re an a$$hole at heart. You and your ilk have made the church into an a$$hole club too. Shove off.

          • Jim__L

            FG, my point about self-reliance was that pushing all responsibilities onto government, and away from civil society, is not a good idea. That is the opposite of self-reliance, and it leads to totalitarianism. We’re seeing a clear indication of totalitarianism already, with the persecution of religious people (that you seem to support).

            I think this is important, which is why I keep bringing it up. “Nation-building at home” involves reinforcement of civil society — specifically independent from government! — not piling more and more power and money into DC, and certainly not allowing DC to force us all to think in unison with the Democrats (as you seem to).

            I would like nothing better than for you to demonstrate that my impressions of you are wrong, there. Seriously.

            I’m not backpedaling on anything substantive. I’d like things to simmer down a bit is all. Who is pushing whose buttons here? You’re calling me a liar. Traditionally, those are fighting words. However, since your statement is on the strength of no evidence whatsoever (it’s contrary to reality, in fact), I’m willing to dismiss it as smack-talk that anyone overhearing it would discount.

            As for Trump — I don’t think Trump has anyone’s back but his own, really. He’s just laying off the totalitarian-PC monstrosity that Obama created and Hillary would have accelerated. Hillary’s election would have destroyed the country. I’m happy we have elections, to make sure people Hillary wanted to silence, are heard. If the silencing had continued, trouble would have come of it — and more than just the Lefty hissyfits we’re seeing on the news these days.

            The Left has whipped its minions (including you, it looks like) into a frenzy over Trump. They have to make the echoes of the echo chamber louder and louder, or people are going to realize that their panic was unfounded. I seriously have a neighbor who believed that he, being a second-generation Chinese immigrant, was in danger of going to an internment camp under a Trump regime. That’s utterly absurd. In time, even the Left’s echoes will subside and people will realize how absurd and unfounded their worries were.

            One of the websites I read actually quoted the text of the MENA immigration-control executive order Trump signed. (That amount of rigor didn’t even make it to TAI). It was really quite reasonable — not a ban, just a three or four month suspension while we straighten out our security processes, with a clause that declines to accept Syrian refugees who aren’t persecuted religious minorities. (The clause doesn’t even specify Christians; Sufis, for example, are covered in the exception.) I was actually kind of surprised myself, when it turned out to be so much more reasonable than Trump has been painted.

            If the degree of hyperbole on the part of the Left on this issue is any indication of the degree to which they will bias every report on Trump, it only goes to show how little credibility anyone should extend to the Left.

            Also, the Left apparently had an ad where a veteran actually claimed that cutting ObamaCare would hurt his ability to get health care. Isn’t there a Veteran’s Administration to cover that, already? If he wants to push for VA reform, I’m all for it. But that’s the Left for you all over again — misrepresenting issues, universalizing problems and totalizing solutions.

            Not a good approach.

          • FriendlyGoat

            I’m gonna stick with shove off. When I find someone from the church community who is not mired in the endless spin game, I’ll be talking to him instead of to you. Perhaps your Chinese neighbor is more interested in your company.

          • Jim__L

            What he isn’t seeing, hearing, or feeling is being put into an internment camp. Or any other adverse effect on himself or his family.

            FG, you’re departing from reality here. Come back before you do something weird.

          • FriendlyGoat

            Tell him. Tell women. Tell blacks. Tell Muslims. Tell gays. Tell Latinos. Tell teachers. Tell the bullied school kids. Tell native Americans. Tell the public workforce. Tell the private workforce. Tell the Medicaid community—–providers and recipients.
            Tell anybody but me. All those groups surely need your help in understanding why the white voting evangelicals have elected their disparagement and diminishment. I don’t. Go spin THEM.

          • Jim__L

            I don’t have to tell him. I’m sure he notices on his own, at some level.

            And at some point, he’s going to be intellectually honest enough to admit it.

            Are you?

          • FriendlyGoat

            I am no longer your target or your audience. There are tens of millions of people in the groups I mentioned to you who really need to know how God will work miracles in their lives from the election running up the stock of Goldman Sachs. You—–you—–are the guy who can connect all those dots with persuasive talk you which you believe only I cannot “get”. Go to them and tell them why they have nothing to worry about.

          • Jim__L

            But how else will Goldman Sachs pay top dollar for Hillary’s words of wisdom?

            Do you really think things would have been different under Hillary? Seriously?

          • Jim__L

            …. And keep going. You haven’t gotten to the part where Jesus talked about Old Testament morality still being in effect.

          • FriendlyGoat

            That’s your part. Go for it.

          • Jim__L

            I have both. You need that part to actually do good for others.

          • FriendlyGoat

            All I need to do is tell people the best truth I know. I try every day.
            You are going to do whatever the heck you want. My opinion is that you are identifying with a lot (lot) of willful deception and there is just nothing to support me doing it too.

          • Jim__L

            If you think that Hillary isn’t in the pocket of Goldman Sachs, I’m not sure how good you are at spotting willful deception.

  • ვეფხისტყაოსანი

    This is hardly just about modern team sports; athletic prowess has been celebrated for millennia. And there are lessons in the transience of athletic glory, as in Housman’s poem below and, more recently, in the lives of Lou Gehrig and Steve Gleason.

    The time you won your town the race
    We chaired you through the market-place;
    Man and boy stood cheering by,
    And home we brought you shoulder-high.

    Today, the road all runners come,
    Shoulder-high we bring you home,
    And set you at your threshold down,
    Townsman of a stiller town.

    Smart lad, to slip betimes away
    From fields where glory does not stay,
    And early though the laurel grows
    It withers quicker than the rose.

    Eyes the shady night has shut
    Cannot see the record cut,
    And silence sounds no worse than cheers
    After earth has stopped the ears.

    Now you will not swell the rout
    Of lads that wore their honours out,
    Runners whom renown outran
    And the name died before the man.

    So set, before its echoes fade,
    The fleet foot on the sill of shade,
    And hold to the low lintel up
    The still-defended challenge-cup.

    And round that early-laurelled head
    Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,
    And find unwithered on its curls
    The garland briefer than a girl’s.

  • PCB

    Although I can’t remember what year it was, I can recall when it was announced that football had officially replaced baseball as the Nation’s national past-time. From the implied tone and theme of last evening’s Super Bowl half-time show and commercials, can it now be announced that it was 2017 when the Political Statement had officially replaced football as the Nation’s new national past-time?

  • jeburke

    I dunno. I’ve lived among “educated liberal elites” my whole life, and it’s been my experience that such folks are no less interested in sport, in general, or football, in particular, than others. To be sure, there is a category of “egg head” artists and intellectuals who regard athletes as dumb brutes, and women are more likely to cringe at bone crushing football plays, but virtually all my friends, relatives and co-workers were pretty jazzed up by the Super Bowl.

    • Jim__L

      There are definitely “sportsball” references in the Silicon Valley techie crowd, although it’s not that hard to find fans, too.

  • Alan n

    “Bragging about your disdain for something in which the great majority of
    your fellow men find deep meaning in is a sign of spiritual
    impoverishment.”

    I don’t disagree but there’s also a point where you need to point out that your fellow men have turned a silly little game into the most colossal waste of time in human history. At least the Star Trek nerds, myself included, have some self awareness of their inherent silliness and acknowledge, if not embrace, it. Sports fans are utterly oblivious and take the whole farce far more seriously than they do day to day matters of life and death. Get a life, will you people?

© The American Interest LLC 2005-2017 About Us Masthead Submissions Advertise Customer Service