I enjoy football, but I’m a college football fan. The pro game bores me. I don’t have an attachment to any of the professional teams, so I just don’t care one way or the other who wins.
I get tired of the rabid obsession that seems to descend upon the United States on the day of this game. It seems excessive to me, and I’m sure it’s easier for me to see it that way since I’m outside of the mass of participants.
But despite my disinterest and my discomfort at the obsession, I’m getting increasingly uncomfortable with the backlash against it. I’m afraid that those of us who don’t care about the game have become a bit elitist and arrogant.
I see non-football fans competing with each other to see who can care the least about the game. I see people condescendingly saying that if others would just care about the things they care about — whatever they happen to be — the world’s problems would be fixed. I see people looking down their noses at others simply because they enjoy a game that doesn’t matter to the first group.
In a lot of ways, it’s just another manifestation of something that keeps troubling me. It’s just another form of people saying, “Why aren’t you people more like me?”
The funny thing is that those of us who might be prone to make fun of people’s Super Bowl obsession have our own obsessions. When I was a kid, I was obsessed with Star Trek. (I still know more about it than a normal person would admit to.) I follow the tech industry obsessively. I don’t have any logical reason, because it’s unrelated to anything I do for a living, but I spend hours each week reading articles and listening to podcasts about insider details of the tech industry, especially Apple coverage.
Among those I know who take pride in not caring about the Super Bowl, I know people who have serious interests in things such as science fiction, video games, role-playing games, obscure musical instruments, ancient Viking history, linguistics, typography and more.
We all have things that fascinate us. For many people in this country, that’s football or basketball. In most other countries, it’s soccer (or what they would call football). Those are all socially acceptable interests that are seen as normal. I think some people are so eager to prove they’re not like the mainstream that they go out of their way to say, “I reject what you like — even if I’m absolutely ignorant of it.”
I didn’t grow up knowing much about sports. I felt ignorant and marginalized in many ways. I went through periods when I followed college football, but as I started understanding more about social roles — especially the divide in high school between jocks and nerds — I thought I hated sports.
It wasn’t until I had to start covering high school football and basketball for a newspaper — taking pictures and writing stories — that I learned enough about the games to even have a real opinion.
I surprised myself by enjoying the games.
I learned that the games are little dramas that are contests of skill and will. They were about intelligence and emotion and the will to prepare physically. There was much more to the games than I had realized.
I’ll never be obsessed with sports. I enjoy college football, but I mostly just follow University of Alabama sports, not football in general. (I wasn’t even an Alabama fan until I want to college there.) I enjoy the games. I enjoy it when we win. I’m addicted to the feeling that comes with winning championships. But when a game is over — win or lose — it’s over. I’m not obsessed and it doesn’t rule my life. I like to think I have a balanced approach to it.
If you divided the country into groups and call them jocks and nerds, I’d definitely be one of the nerds. It’s the group I identify with. Most of my friends are most solidly in that group. They’re “my people.”
But in the same way that the jocks have been nasty and unfair to the nerds over the years, I suspect many of my people have been unfair to them, too.
There’s nothing wrong with following football and enjoying it. There’s nothing wrong with getting caught up in the excitement of the Super Bowl. There’s nothing wrong with using it as an excuse for a social event (for those who actually like social events).
I won’t be watching the Super Bowl, not because I’m disdainful but because I just don’t care. If you do care, I’m not going to make fun of you, just as I hope you won’t make fun of me for the Spock ears I owned as a teen-ager.
For my fellow nerds, let’s enjoy our nerd lives, but let’s realize that it’s just as reasonable for others to have their obsessions as it is for us to have ours. Remember, we’re the ones out of step with the world, not them.
A guy who used to wear plastic Spock ears has no room to make fun of people who do things such as wear cheese hats on their heads.