01 June 2011

Contradictions: Sports Lovers Who Espouse One World

A Prius rolls up to the local food co-op. A bumper sticker in the bottom left corner of the back window brightly blazes the words "ONE WORLD." On the right side of the window, a die-cut football helmet with a particularly aggressive team logo proudly declares who the vehicle's owner supports. The driver steps out of his hybrid. His hair is cut short, bleached and angrily spiked with so much gel it's flaking in the breeze. He wears a football jersey that matches the team sticker on the back of his window.

He runs into his neighbor in the meat section. His fence mate attempts to spark a conversation about how great it is that the co-op provides nothing but locally raised, free-range chicken. The jersey-clad man stops his neighbor mid-sentence to rib him about the neighbor's football team's surmounting losses on the field. The neighbor rolls his eyes, dismisses the sporty man's derision and resumes his original topic of conversation. The sporty guy waves off his neighbor and exclaims for all to hear that he wouldn't want to talk about football either if he rooted for losers.

Flash forward to a day of the week in which none of the man's favorite sports are telecast. The man is now at the local gym. He's now sporting his favorite basketball team's jersey. He resists the urge to dribble the basketball he carries as he scans the workout room for someone he knows. Then he spots him. His workplace's sole "black" man. This man is in the middle of an intense set of bench presses as the sporty guy approaches him.

No, the guy doing the workout is not interested in playing basketball. He's in the middle of his workout routine. The sporty guy doesn't buy it. The workout guy is just afraid he won't live up to the hype that his skin tone conveys. That's what the sporty fellow spews as he dodges and weaves around the guy working out. The guy with the barbell rolls his eyes at the accusation. The tank-top jersey guy chalks up the other man's refusal to play as a victory. His coworker knows a winner when he sees one. Then he proceeds to hit the court to play a game of one-on-three against some middle schoolers. When he beats them, he declares another victory. This time it's a point for the "old" guy.

Everywhere he goes, this sports lover creates divisions. If you root for the same team as him, play the same games as him, talk about the same divisive sports as him, you are part of his "us" clan. If you don't like sports, if you don't accept his challenges, you are one of "them." The lines are clear with him. There is no gray, only black or white, only with him or against him.

He spews this your team/my team attitude, mostly under the guise of good clean fun, but always while in close proximity to some piece of media that exclaims "one love" or "one world." Never does he recognize the contradiction. It's difficult to call him a hypocrite, because he's unaware of what he's doing. He wants to believe that a world can be at one with each other, but he loves sports too much to look deeply at how fully it contradicts the very message of unity that his bumper stickers and occasional t-shirts espouse.

His favorite sport makes this contradiction all the more stark. He's always ready for some football. The months between the Pro Bowl and preseason play make life seem less vibrant, less worthy of his exhilaration. There's no strife, no division to spur on any excitement. Sure, there's baseball, but that sport's so dull and so devoid of any hard-hitting action that the very notion of its existence seems ludicrous to him. He needs it brutal. NASCAR fills that void on occasion, when the driving results in some nasty pile ups. Still, it's not the same. He needs something reminiscent of battle, and football fulfills his need without fail.

For him, nothing quite beats jumping up and down screaming at the altar of his television. His tie-dye Bob Marley tapestry sprawled wide as a backdrop with the words "One Love" beaming down upon the clash of helmets and grunts.

No comments: