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February 6, 2011
Hate America. Hate the Superbowl
It has long been established since the early days of William F. Buckley and National Review that one of the advantages the right has over the left is that is has a sense of humor and its followers get more enjoyment out of life. In contrast, those on the left are consumed with hatred for everything around them. How can anyone enjoy themselves, they cry, when America is so evil and oppressive? Events like the Super Bowl really set them off, because it is more than just a football game. It symbolizes to the left everything that is wrong with the country
Jay Lipsyte is a "sportswriter" who hates sports and the author of several "young adult" novels which cast sports in a bad light. He has won several literary awards and an Emmy. His most recent book is Center Field (HarperTeen/HarperCollins) about a high school run by a tyrannical coach who is a former Army Ranger with a zero tolerance policy towards drug dealing. What a perfect villain! Lipsyte's latest column denounced the Super Bowl as "the Last Supper for the US Empire." He writes,
If you are still passionately following football or, worse, allowing your kid to play, you may just be an old-fashioned imperialist running dog. Not that all football fans are bloodthirsty hounds feeding off the crippled hindquarters of the dying animal of empire. Some are in a vain search for a crucible of manhood that no longer exists. Others are in pursuit of a ticket out of a dead-end life.
In the Rodney Dangerfield classic comedy "Back to School" the student played by Robert Downey Jr. says that football is just "a fascist metaphor for nuclear war" but in a sarcastic tone that fits the film's trashing of academic elitism. Lipsyte, however, is serious in the connections he tries to make between sports and imperialism.
It's here, of course, that the entire metaphor may go offsides for you. Or at least become uncomfortable. Football -- Army? Gladiators -- mercenaries? What about all the strong young men and, increasingly, women who feel that their only shot at getting an education and a meaningful life is joining the military during wartime?
The author and journalist Richard Reeves made the connection neatly when he wrote: "We have a volunteer army, the National Football League with guns, and we are the spectators."
There is a connection between sports and a healthy society. There is an element of tribal loyalty displayed by the "cheesehead" fans of Green Bay and the Pittsburgh Steelers faithful waving their "terrible towels." This can serve, like the family, as a building block for a higher national loyalty and sense of community identity. Which is why the left hates sports as much as it hates the family.
In an earlier book, Yellow Flag, Lipsyte takes on NASCAR, an even worse sport than football because it glorifies the automobile. In this novel, the young protagonist wants to become a musician and abandons the family business of NASCAR racing.
Anne McClintock of Columbia University has argued in the same vein,
All nationalisms are gendered, all are invented, and all are dangerous-dangerous, not in Eric Hobsbawm's sense as having to be opposed, but in the sense of representing relations to political power and to the technologies of violence.... Nationalism becomes, as a result, radically constitutive of people's identities, through social contests that are frequently violent and always gendered.
Hobsbawn is a Marxist who knows that the most effective counter to the "class warfare" focus of the left that divides and weakens society is the larger collective identity felt as patriotism that unifies and strengthens society.
Super Bowl XLV is particularly galling to leftists because it has been called a "blue collar" contest, featuring teams from the heartland of the industrial northern states whose team names come from the factory floor. Which is all the more reason to watch and enjoy what Lipsyte hopes "might be the last Super Bowl, the endgame of empire" but which the rest of us understand represents the spirit which can animate America's enduring preeminence.
(HarperTeen/HarperCollins) about a high school run by a tyrannical coach who is a former Army Ranger with a zero tolerance policy towards drug dealing. What a perfect villain! Lipsyte's latest