PHOTO BY DUNCAN SULLIVAN

SHANE’S PICKS: Ravens 24, 49ers 17
DERICK’S PICKS: 49ers 28, Ravens 24

by Shane Macintosh and Derick Delloro

January 31, 2013

Shane:  All right, well unless you’ve got anything else in mind, I propose that we start by acknowledging some of the worst aspects of the Superbowl, and of football in general, so that we can preempt any criticism and make ourselves look fair and honest.

Derick: Well, It’s easy to point out the glaring flaws with the Super Bowl; rampant consumerism, violence, hypermasculinity, overt chauvinism, sexist commercials. But all that stuff’s low-hanging fruit, it all reflects poorly on our culture more than on the game itself.

Shane: And concussions and shit.

Derick: Yeah, those too.

Shane: But the Super Bowl’s so fun, it’s the American holiday!

Derick: That’s true. And is consumerism really so bad?

Shane: Consumerism bought me my truck.

Derick: Exactly. And this beer.

Shane: Are you drinking?

Derick: Aren't you?

Shane: Back to the Super Bowl. So I get what you were doing, but I’m worried that you're using a glib method of avoiding criticism that’s dangerous to our side.

Derick: Why?

Shane: Well, for a Super Bowl hater, it’s pretty easy to call the game the ultimate symbol of our culture. I think that we can avoid that kind of criticism (which is totally unfair, ungrounded, and probably French) by skipping what’s bad about the game and concentrating on the positives.

Derick: Way to stick it to the Frenchies, mon frere. Frog jokes aside, I do genuinely love the Super Bowl. I mean, our culture is so new that it sometimes lacks the unifying traditions of older, more established countries. Sports function as the great American unifier. The whole country stops for the Super Bowl. Together we sit down, eat wings, drink beer, and watch two groups of men who have dedicated their lives to physical perfection fight for supremacy.

Shane: That was almost erotic, Derick.

Derick: Hey, I’ve heard the way you talk about Tom Brady.

Shane: Well there’s nothing weird about my love of Tom Brady. Or LeBron James. Or Usain Bolt. Or Lance Armstrong (I forgive you Lance!)

Derick: Bold move.

Shane: He’s an American hero.

Derick: Anyway, I’m glad homoeroticism came up. Very rarely do we have a culturally acceptable venue for men to express their emotions. When the Super Bowl ends, watch the players on both teams. Grown men sobbing, in joy and in agony. 300-pound linemen jumping up and down like children. True, honest emotions. It’s beautiful, but it gets criticized as a hyper-masculine testosterzone.

Shane: I’m with you. So much of the game is emotional, and that emotional aspect is more important than the actual play. Coaching feuds, discontent on the sidelines, competition between teammates, rumors of misconduct. Those things defined this last season for the NY Jets. It made a boring, underwhelming team watchable and exciting. The narrative aspect isn’t only the most engaging aspect of the game, it’s often what’s most magical about football.

Derick: Sure. But to be fair, I feel like some of those storylines might be manufactured.

Shane: Whose side are you on, Derick? You think it’s part of a cynical exercise by the sports media? Fuel for the endless 24-hour commentary cycle? You probably think it’s fabricated to increase readership and advertising revenue.

Derick: Well, sometimes. Yeah.

Shane: Well, maybe sometimes. But in many ways an NFL season is no different than a great television series, or an epic novel. Except in football, every chapter ends with a gripping climax -- the Super Bowl. To clarify, what I’m saying here is that the NFL is not only equal to, but way better than War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, The Wire, or Breaking Bad.  As an old woman has her soap operas, I have my football. When I tune in this weekend, I won’t just be watching the game - I’ll be watching my story. That sounded much less sad and embarrassing in my head.

Derick: It is a fascinating story to watch. I might argue that football is more deserving of our attention and emotional investment then television shows because these are real people, with real lives, doing compelling things in reality.

Shane: So, you’re a fan of reality TV?

Derick: I love the Super Bowl. And I hate the Ravens. Go 49ers!

Shane: I get the last line.

***

PHOTO BY DUNCAN SULLIVAN

GRACE’S PICKS: Jaguars 81, Rams 19

by Grace Hirt

January 31, 2013

I’m all for sports, organized and otherwise, and while I think the culture surrounding them can be gross and chauvinistic and pro athlete salaries are obscene, I’ll be watching the Super Bowl.

I’ll be watching it because I’m willing to separate those judgments from the pure enjoyment I get from watching the strongest, fastest, most agile humans do their thang.  Like, you should have seen me during the Olympics.  That shit got REAL.  I love a good competition and a good redemption narrative as much as the next American, and I totally understand the appeal of getting rowdy with your bros about a team you actually care about, bro.

I would call myself basically knowledgeable about major sports, besides the boring stuff.  I don’t know who’s being traded where, or who’s ahead in the playoffs.  BUT I know which ball belongs on which field, and usually even where it’s supposed to end up! 

While I’m watching a game, I’m totally absorbed.  Put any kind of competition in front of me, I’m into it.  I’ll boo and hiss at a casual game of darts - but my relationship with a sport ends when the game ends.  I’ve got better things to do with my time than keep stats, bro.

With football, the case is especially acute, because I can’t even pretend to be interested in what’s going down on the field.  I want to be interested.  I try.  But the plays are like five seconds long and I only marginally understand the rules.  As far as I can tell, a play consists of about ten individual wrestling matches going on at the same time, someone throws the ball, and someone runs.

That’s basically it, right?  Whatever, don’t tell me, I don’t give a shit.  There are too many imaginary lines.  And every time one meathead collides with another meathead, all I can think about is their poor brains and how they will all basically be enormous meathead babies by the time they are 40.  Seriously, it’s kinda sad.

Despite all that, and the fact that I have no idea who is even playing in Sunday’s game, I’ll be watching it.  And rooting with mild enthusiasm for whoever the majority of my friends like.  And paying way more attention to the commercials (you guys, we get to see how this gem ends.  Looks like it could be offensive to women AND minorities!!!!).  Also, three words: Destiny’s motherfucking Child.  LIFE IS A DREAM.

And of course, any situation in which it is totally acceptable, nay, expected that I eat my weight in wings is okay by me.  The game only lasts three hours, but the glory of dominating an Aircraft Carrier with your bros lasts forever.  If it becomes competitive, so much the better.  Put that shit on television.  I would watch it.

*** 

PHOTO BY DUNCAN SULLIVAN

NARA’S PICKS: A Good Book

by Nara Bopp Williams

January 31, 2013

I'll lay it on the table: there is one thing I like about football, and that’s football butts. Those curvaceous, spandex-clad, larger-than-life backsides will encourage me to glance at a big screen pretty much any day, palms outstretched.

But literally nothing, NOTHING else compels me to watch a bunch of anonymous giants run around and throw each other into odd, mangled heaps of raw masculinity and shredded turf. Not the commercials, not the cheerleaders, not even the promise of hanging out with my best pals, eatin' wings, chuggin’ Bud Lights and makin’ vaguely ejaculatory noises every five minutes.

I'm not above some of the condemnable shit that goes along with sports enthusiasm. I've always gone to Super Bowl parties. In junior high, I went to flirt with rich boys. In high school, I went to scoff, engage in underage drinking, and spread half-baked feminist rhetoric. Now I go to avoid my work. And always, always for free food. But let me be honest: I still have NO idea what's going on with that ball, or that field, or really even those butts.
                                                                       
Listen, I'm half Nebraskan-Irish. The odds were all on the side of me wearing sexy jerseys and painting war paint on my flushed, blood-thirsty face. My four giant uncles like football as much as the next group of meat-eating, beer-guzzling Americans, and I could have been one of them. If it wasn't for my jazz musician father and my mom's general impatience with her conservative brothers, I might not have had a chance.

Sorry Hampshire, I don't hate football for political reasons. I don't really even care about the violence, or the consumerism, and those other buzz words - I mean, I do, but why start with football? I honestly just find football insufferably dull in a way that detracts from the overall meaning of my short time on this planet. And sure, it saddens me that many people take the success of their chosen team more seriously than their personal relationships, careers, or health. But again, why start with football?

Let me get a little reflective: there's a chance I just have too many dark memories of compulsory football-centric nights. At my grandma's house, the martyr-kitchen-women and the burping-couch-men have an ongoing feud regarding football mania in the family domain. Many years ago, they reached a compromise for game nights: the boys can watch in the living room, but it has to be muted. Also, they're not allowed to drink in the house.

Like, oh, hi Uncle Joe*, it's been like five years! I'm doing great. Tired from that 8 hour dri - What? You can't see the giant TV that YOU bought my grandma? I'm so sorry. I couldn't HEAR anything. Let me sit on the floor, and quietly watch something I don't understand, banking on that slight chance you'll turn into a caring considerate human again during the muted commercials.  

Have you ever been in a room with six or more grown men crowded around a TV in total silence?

It's unsettling. Really, it's hell. Personally, I'd just rather do more interesting stuff than sit and let one "football minute" stretch out over 20 real minutes with the additional "commercial minutes" and "instant replay minutes" while the men in my life gradually turn into insipid, hyper-focused brutes.

I tried - I went to a Bears game with a friend, last year. Her dad has season tickets, and we were right in the end zone, third row. She loves football, but mostly she loves yelling "Go Bears" and getting drunk, so I thought I could at least get behind that.

I'd hoped that the camaraderie of an actual game with real life people and smells and up-close boozy rage would sweeten the experience for me, or at least instill some Chicago pride. It was a no go. Sure, the butts were larger than life. But hey, sometimes I go to yoga, and there are great butts there, too.

Mostly, I froze to death, and bought $8 cheesy fries to keep my hands warm. So it was $8 I could have spent on like four rders of cheesy fries elsewhere, and I didn't get a free t-shirt, and I had to walk a lot with a bunch of angry losers.

So sorry, rich boys I used to flirt with - football is a home breaker, a bone breaker, and definitely a deal breaker. I'll be spending this Super Bowl maybe going to yoga.


*Generic uncle name used in case one of my real uncles ever reads this student-run liberal arts magazine. Hah.