Superbowl 51

Dear H,

The really remarkable thing about the Superbowl is that it's the most lucrative football game in the US and the one that Americans are the least interested in.  30 teams have already played and lost, and all the irrational localist jingoism that pervades the average football game has already been spent on the other teams.  The most that most of us can say about the Superbowl is that we pick a team that we "hate" the least, and the team we hate the least is hated least because they probably never had a rivalry with the team we love the most.  The whole thing is an exercise in wankery: the last dregs of a season Americans began in hope and excitement, eventually petering out in a whirlwind of disappointment, and carried on simply because there weren't any other games left to watch.

And yet it's the most celebrated sporting event of the year, and we find marketers scrambling for commercial spots priced in the millions for seconds.  It's widely known that behind the scenes of the war of gymnastics and strategies and brute strength lies a war of an entirely different nature; and that while overpaid gorillas are trying to sneak a ball past one another for a ring and a few million, the best and brightest of our advertisers are fighting a war for our wallets.  This is where the action lies; and the parts of the year when men are wasting their time talking about the sports draft and the Chargers moving to LA and whether some running back is beating his wife, armies of writers and marketers and studios and moguls are colliding in a frenzied race to make one business more interesting than another -- not even for the quality of the products they sell, but for national recognition of their names.

It must never be forgotten that for all the hoopla and the false excitement and this building up of what many Americans undoubtedly find to be anti-climactic, that what we're witnessing is a pageant of marketers.  The Superbowl is the one time of the year when the advertising -- or in other words, the interruption of the main show itself -- is anticipated and judged by the public as art.  And when the game is over we hold discussions about the best and worst commercials, and we admit on some level that what football has always really been about, after we quit playing it ourselves, has been marketers in the first place.  

We say it's about sportsmanship and building your body and beating your enemies in tactical brilliance.  What it's actually about is the fans and the tickets they buy and the advertisers they draw.  Our cheerleaders, the most valuable and entertaining part of a game, are an undying testament to the implicit reality of the footballing experience.  It's a sport almost entirely for the spectators.  Like the rest of our virtues, the value lies in what it can get us; and if we're honest with ourselves, the best thing football can get us is women.  The second best thing it can get for us is money, and the second best thing leads to the first.

Yet despite football players being covered in women there's nothing particularly manly about watching the Superbowl.  Testosterone levels are actually said to decline when the team of our choice ends up losing a match, and the Superbowl is the time of the year when the overwhelming majority of Americans' teams have recently lost.  If this is the case, then we can add to the already flimsy pretense of the manliness of the average viewer that this is the lowest his testosterone is likely to plunge for the season -- a level already abysmally low, as the average sports fan weighs more than he ought to (which in turn means more estrogen), and enjoys eating himself to death while watching sports from the couch instead of playing them in the field.  To play football and play it well is a great proof of your masculinity.  To watch it is only proof that you watch it*.  

To prove this I need only mention that this year Lady Gaga will be headlining the halftime show -- Lady Gaga, who built a career championing the effeminate, and who promises a half-time show centered around the ideas of "unity" and "inclusion;" two topics which may be respectably enjoyed only by cultists and children and North Korean nationalists.  

This says all that needs to be said on the correlation between football and manliness.  Either the people running the Superbowl are directly indifferent to the tastes of their audience, or they believe the audience itself is full of never-grow-ups and effetes.  If this show is anything like the last few, she'll spout out a mantra about us "being all in this together" right before implying that a lot of us (white people) are racists, followed by the choruses of ten different hits in under two minutes while a man in an animal costume shimmies crazily in the background.  

A masculine audience would riot and burn the stadium to the ground.  The current audience will take it in the rear, go home, and wonder like the beta-males they are what might have happened if they'd spent their money on some lotto tickets.


*If I've given the impression that I'm against sports I apologize.  I have absolutely nothing against anyone playing a sport, and I actually prefer that they play and enjoy them.  What I'm against is the idea that part of being a man is watching a sport.  I'm against the idea that it's desirable for fat men to gather around a television and shout at it, and that anyone who challenges the idea is effeminate.  The opposite is true.  An unfit man who knows more about sports news than his country is worse than the laziest and dumbest of gold-digging housewives.  So far as I'm concerned he might as well be concerned with celebrity gossip -- he can grow up or hang himself.

At this point in your life these essays, with the exception of the time I spend away from you to write them, may as well not exist.  But I'm doing my best to instill these prejudices in you by means far different from writing.  One of them is the idea of being a man: that the man in your life ought to be obsessed with books and fitness and politics; that he works and enjoys working because he's good at it; that he isn't to be messed with or talked down to or ignored; that he plays games but only a little; that he's gentle with women and reasonable in all things and won't stand unfairness and thinks lowly of losers.  The man in our household doesn't talk about sports.  He talks about laws.  He doesn't watch other men compete.  He rushes head-first into a war of ideas.  Men ought to playfully lock horns like stags; sometimes with their bodies, but far more frequently with their minds.

I aim for all of these things generally, but I emphasize them with you consistently and artfully, not only doing the thing, but drawing your attention to the fact that I'm doing it.  As a woman, and hopefully eventually a beautiful one, you will personally decide what men think is acceptable, because they will have to win you.  Your approval, hopefully built upon a refined and noble and eventually contagious taste, will mean more than my essays probably ever will.  You will be responsible for enforcing what my writings are busy suggesting. This is a woman's power; and the more beautiful you are the more powerful you'll be.  Your goodness will lie in your prejudice.  A nation is only as good as its women.