These days, warfare between Democrats and Republicans is America’s bloodsport. It has a level of hostility not seen in this country since the late 1960s, or in some cases, the 1860s. Many families and friends are divided, dug into ideological trenches as verbal nerve gas spread by partisan news organizations and radio shows turns once docile folks into maniacal combatants.
In a time of distemper and disillusionment, there seems to be only one thing most Americans have in common — a love for football. For the last six months, political angst has been tossed aside each weekend, as liberals and conservatives have joyously jammed into stadiums, sports bars and living rooms united by the teams they fanatically support.
Football doesn’t always bring out the best in people, especially for those afflicted with social-impact alcoholism — defined as the inability to conform liquor consumption to socially accepted channels. This ailment can cause a werewolf-like transformation which becomes more glaring as kickoff nears, and in NFL venues, it usually reaches its appalling peak with the end of beer sales in the third quarter. It could be witnessed at virtually any stadium I set foot in for a decade, as my pregame intake rivaled Wade Boggs’ on a cross-country flight.
For instance, in 1995 I challenged the entire Marshall University football team and its alumni section to a fight, decked out in Appalachian State gear in my seat two feet from the Thundering Herd’s bench. An usher approached me before the contest commenced, saying, “If you get jumped, I won’t help you.” I informed the gentleman that I’d make such an example of the first person to attack me that he should have paramedics on-call. Although Marshall’s All-American defensive back nearly accepted my invitation, no violence ensued, and after App upset the top-ranked Herd, I hopped the rail and the back of future All-Pro Dexter Coakley, and ran around the turf like some LSD-crazed streaker until I decided it was time to find more drink.
A year later, a scene of abhorrent behavior took place at the RCA Dome when the Indianapolis Colts met Miami on Monday Night Football. After a mix of intoxicants that could’ve killed a rhino, I verbally assailed Dolphins fans within screaming distance for four full quarters. At one point, while running down the stairs to flip off a row of horrified spectators in Dan Marino jerseys, I slipped, slammed on my back and slid down an untold number of steps with middle fingers still raised. Why I wasn’t arrested, tased or shot, I’ll never know, as my actions had to be far worse than I can recall. I won’t even tell you about the drive home.
This code of conduct occurred at varying levels until 2005, when I got my first serious job in journalism, which included covering the Colts for three years. During this time, going to games sober, I saw just how annoying most drunk fans are. Reclaiming my Colts season ticket last season, I’m now a responsible spectator, which can no doubt be partially attributed to marriage and parenthood. Now the only chance for altercation comes with antagonistic visiting fans who infringe on our typically peaceful, small section. Thankfully, we have some good ushers that send such miscreants on their way.
Regardless of any drunken idiocy, football is one of the last great unifiers. It brings small towns and big cities together like few things can, while providing immeasurable entertainment. For me, the $1,220 my wife and I spent on 12 games this year will go down as arguably the best leisure investment of my lifetime … and trust me, that’s saying a lot. From the unforgettable celebration after the Colts’ miracle comeback against New England, to the infuriation when perfection was abandoned against New York, to the raucous conclusion and banishment of those same Jets in the AFC title game, it was an emotional release needed by many in today’s economic and political climate. Not everyone gets to enjoy the same ride, but in times like these any diversion is a good one, especially when it’s shared by those close to you.
For the true gridiron junkie, Super Bowl Sunday is like New Year’s Eve, the end of an unofficial calendar which life revolves around. Some would rather be cryogenically frozen on Monday, to be thawed by the heat of August with training camp and two-a-days underway.
If that technology becomes available, count me in.