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Understanding this thing called football

By Staff | Dec 26, 2012

I have no interest in football. I’ve watched games, I’ve gone to games, but they don’t hold my attention. All I see is a bunch of big guys running around and slamming into each other. Sometimes a ball flies by. Fans jump around, yell, and wear funny hats. If it’s a televised game, men in suits appear on screen and go over the game with a fine-toothed comb.

It looks insane. I can’t understand why people are interested in this sport at all.

So I asked. I see tons of people over the course of a workday and I asked every fan I found, “What do you like about football?”

I did this for the better part of four hours. It was like opening a jar and finding a whole other world inside.

People love it for the thrill of the game. You don’t know what is going to happen and you can’t wait to see-you get wrapped up in the players and the rules trying to figure it out.

People love it for the entertainment value. Some like watching the underdogs bite back, others stick to their favorite teams without wavering. I met a couple fans who just enjoy the violence.

And everyone appreciates the camaraderie of other fans. Like so many of us, they want to be connected to other people. If someone said they had a favorite team, I asked why. The answer was sometimes found in their background: A Bears’ fan was a Chicago native; a Steelers’ fan was a Pittsburgh resident; a Packers’ fan had been taught the game by his Wisconsin roommates; and my grandfather, a die-hard Lions’ fan, lived and died in Detroit. A fan’s team is not just a team, it’s a connection to their past.

Yet the most interesting comment I heard wasn’t about the teams or fans at all. A self-confessed diehard said he enjoys the game not only for the game, but for its history. Football is something that is uniquely American.

And something that appears insane to an outsider is very American indeed.