The moronic costumed mascots are children’s figures, but they’re not for children. To me they are absolutely demonic—Billy Buffalo, Benny Beaver, Bucky Badger, Mr. Wuf. They represent Neanderthal dedication to the team. Because they are children’s images for adults, they somehow imply mindless patriotism, rampant consumerism at car dealerships, Old-Boy cronyism, the hoarding of vast university endowments and unquestioning support at the outbreak of any war. The mere sight of them dancing inspires stadiums to erupt in guttural cheers. Americans at their worst.
I hate the tailgate parties in the parking lots—a heart-attack land of barbecue smokers, “pulled pork” sandwiches and big bellies. I hate the Fritos, the Cheese Doodles, the pork rinds, the guzzling from industrial beer tanks. The headache-inducing white noise of “the game,” omnipresent on TVs and radios, in restaurants and clubs.
The action on the field foretells of future brain injury complications from undiagnosed concussions, early onset of Alzheimer’s and bad knees before 40. Arthritic ex-pros using canes claim it was worth it for the glory. Maybe so, for a worshipped millionaire. A million others don’t become pros, but their injuries from football are particularly life-lasting, more so than rodeo cowboys.
The injuries are their business and their entitlement. But football jocks are the most likely to strut their testosterone in public. They are the most prone of any sport to being bullies, to brawl when drunk. The opposite of most boxers, who with nothing to prove, tend to behave like gentlemen.
The specter of major football games also brings personal financial despair. Any musician in Texas can tell you of a hundred unfortunately timed gigs, when everybody stayed home to watch “the game.” Football is the only tradition in my beloved Texas (along with hunting) that I clash with, and it’s a big one. People profess shock and awe when I don’t even know who’s playing. I’m a freak in the Twilight Zone and have the streets to myself on Sunday afternoon.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against controlled violence. Boxing is my hobby. I love it as a sport--I’m also humbled by it, empowered by it, and relish the physical contact. Nobody likes to get hit, but absorbing or deflecting punches feels quite natural to me. (The full body contact of football, like wrestling, doesn’t feel natural—I don’t like getting that close to men). Boxing injuries, you ask? Well, there hardly are any with amateurs in headgear. The percentage is miniscule compared to basketball and football. Boxing casualties come after long careers where the fighter went a few too many.
Everybody’s entitled to love their sport, and lord knows, I spent my adolescence fixated on the Mets. Baseball was my football. I know the vicarious feelings of glory. But football in Texas is inescapable, even gays and fashion models watch it. It’s shoved in your face all season. I’ve been cajoled into game-watching situations, where I might have insulted the host if I demurred. Regretfully, I’ve even been coerced to attend a game or two.
Finally, I’ve played my share of shithole bars, where college football goons experience their first beer. Let there be no mistake: There’s nothing more satisfying than watching a drunk linebacker go down, after landing a swift jab, smack dab center face, when he comes charging at you. Go Gators!
© 2009 Josh Alan Friedman