this is not meant to be any kind of rant against football fans (or as they seem to be in seattle, football fanatics), but the recent frenzy of excitement over the superbowl left me feeling more than a bit perplexed.

here in seattle, football is an obsession like i have never seen before. there is a whole quasi-religion of “12th man” (meaning a football fan. because a team has 11 players, so if you are the 12th man on the team you are the fan. why do i know this? because i asked someone if all of the “12” flags flying everywhere in the city had anything to do with the recent legalization of marijuana. yes, i thought it was some kind of significant pot holiday type of flag, like maybe bob marley’s birthday??? anyway, i was set straight really quickly after much laughter and not a small amount of shock that i could possibly not know such a clearly important thing…)

people literally plan community events around whether or not there is a football game on TV- no joke. and when seattle made it to the superbowl the city just went crazy. on wednesday there was a parade here so people could see (yes, see! as in glimpse…) the football players who won the superbowl and yell happy things at them. there were like 750,000 people (i’m not exaggerating that number)- and the only reason it wasn’t more is that they closed the public transit systems going into downtown because everything was standing room only. *h had to get off the bus a mile away from work and walk even though he got there at like 8am and the parade wasn’t starting for several hours because things were already so congested. in the middle of the day i was driving home from somewhere in my neighborhood- quite far away from downtown- and saw people walking in groups all decked out in green and blue (the team’s colors, dontcha know) actually trudging through super cold weather to the parade.

so here’s where my confusion comes in: i think sports are fun to play. i was a sportsy kid. i ice skated and played baseball and i was actually quite a good gymnast. i thought kickball was awesome and volleyball rocked and, as a matter of fact, i rather enjoyed playing football with the kids in my neighborhood. but i don’t get the excitement over WATCHING other people play a sport.

like if your children are playing, i understand that you would cheer for them, but that’s sort of because you have to and sort of because it’s cute. if your friend is playing, you might want to show your support for them because they actually know you and what you say to them might help them in some way. like, “hey, joe, i noticed that you closed your eyes when the ball came to you. maybe next time you might try keeping them open…” and joe might really benefit from having you there. but to get all up in a lather because some random anonymous person who doesn’t know you exist is running with a ball or carrying it or throwing it or kicking it or whatever- and this can make or break your mood for the day? that i really don’t get.

and this is fun for people.

they get a big rush from watching other people doing something that:
1- they may want to do themselves but can’t? so why isn’t that sad?
2- they don’t want to do at all? then who cares?
3- they did once upon a time but no longer do so now they live it vicariously? again, see #1.
4- they think is just completely surreal because it is so far removed from anything real that grown adults invest time and energy to care about who has a ball that cost less than $10? so why not just play minesweeper or tetrus or whatever it is that people play these days to zone out? or, better yet, take a nap…

maybe someone can explain the whole watching sports thing to me, because when i ask people about it they generally just give me an exasperated gush of air as if the question doesn’t even deserve an answer. like it is so obvious why this is a quality use of one’s time that i should be ashamed not to fully grasp it.

i actually let one of my kids watch about 7 minutes of the superbowl (obviously with me there so he wouldn’t have to see commercials- don’t even get me started on those- or half time shows or whatever). he was curious about why everyone was so hyped up. so we saw what payton manning looked like, and i explained a little about why some of the players were not huge like he expected them to be. then he lost interest (hurray! i raised a sensible kid!) and we turned it off.

all in all, i think that’s about right. my kids can now say they have seen football and we have an interesting topic for conversation in our house. i always like things that make my kids curious, so i would say it turned out well.

but i’m guessing most people don’t watch these games for cocktail talk. so tell me: what is so compelling about watching other people do sports?????