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Saturday, October 11, 2008

On Football and Literature

After the first few weeks of wondering, fear, loathing, denial, anger and acceptance, I'm fully acclimated to the purgatorial condition of this year's team. I welcome what's to come. I think part of my struggle came from the newness of things in my life. New boss at work, new curriculum to teach, new persons on the Presidential election tickets, new quarterback. But really, once you've gotten past the range of emotions with which you greet all this newness, it's actually just the same old story. At best, we'll finish at 10-6, at worst 6-10. Sounds familiar. And that's also what I thought even before Brett Favre showed up.

The Bye week is funny. I'm actually relieved to not care about anyone winning or losing. I notice how violent the game is. Much as I would like to throw the ball on every down, I take the time to notice that defenses and ground games actually win championships. Still, what am I to do? The game is what it is, both terrible and beautiful in the one.

Which brings me to the topic that's been on my mind all week. The Nobel Prize jurist Horace Engdahl insisted this week that American literature is limited by American sensibilities. "The US is too isolated, too insular," he insists. "That ignorance is restraining."

At work, someone suggested to me that American football, with its hugeness, its ironic padding, its pajama-like uniforms and collisions is an apt representation of this supposed American ignorance. But I guess I just don't care. I love the game. It has its beauty, its subtleties and heroic narratives beneath the surface of brute force. The game personifies the country that produced it.

You might wonder why I'm talking about sports when we were talking about literature. I guess football haters see football the way that America-haters recreationally hate the US, and they choose to see only the horrible. And thankfully, they're going to have a lot less over which to sneer when January 20th rolls around. But Updike, Oates, Pynchon and (yeesh) Roth are all American writers who transcend the ugliness and stupidity of our leaders the way Tomlinson, Favre, Jones-Drew, and (yeesh) Moss transcend football's brutality. And publishing is still a game; when Engdahl insists that Europe, not the US, is still the center of Western civilization, he's sounding like a sports fan blinded by his team loyalties - a Red Sox fan unwilling to put a Yankee in the Hall of Fame, or an Eagles fan unwilling to see a Dallas Cowboy enshrined in Canton. He's full of shit.

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