There is a football game today, in case you hadn't heard.
Actually, there isn't really a football game today; today there is an American cultural tradition, of which football is only the barest part. As someone who wrote about Super Bowl commercials several years in a row for the RFT once upon a time, I fully understand that football is very much ancillary to the shared societal moment that is the Super Bowl, when for one day an enormous percentage of the American public -- and really, parts beyond America as well, though the time zone thing really sort of keeps it from being a shared moment worldwide -- sits down together to share large amounts of food, watch the very best that modern advertising can vomit out, and just generally socialise while a sporting event at least hypothetically takes place on the television screen.
In a culture increasingly fractured and divided by the entertainment realities of the modern world, in which a person can go as deep down into the well of their own particular interests as they like, while simultaneously avoiding even the most pervasive of pop culture if it fails to interest them -- I can honestly say, without any particular pride, that I have no idea who is currently the top artist on the Billboard charts (or if Billboard charts even exist), and haven't heard a single song by Justin Bieber from his most recent album (though I am aware he put one out last year), but have watched at least three dozen episodes of Garfield and Friends over the past year, know who won the main event of SummerSlam 1990 (technically, it was a double bill for the main event, but the good match was a cage match in which Ravishing Rick Rude made The Ultimate Warrior look as good as he ever managed in his awful career), and could give you a list of 150 draft prospects for the 2016 Rule IV draft if called upon to do so.
My point is that as a people, we have virtually no universal cultural touchstones any longer. There is no Johnny Carson that half the American public falls asleep to. The heyday of watercooler discussion of one particular show is long in the past, though admittedly AMC and HBO have both done their respective bests the past handful of years to try and revive that tradition, at least amongst a fairly narrow vertical slice of the viewing public. Even the death grip of religion on the collective American consciousness is not what it once was.
But we do have the Super Bowl. We have this Sunday, when we know that an overwhelming majority of people will be watching the same thing, gathering together to eat, drink, and be merry. We do have this shared cultural experience, and it is nearly unique in our modern world. I don't have a point to this; I simply find it interesting. I know Katy Perry songs only because she was the halftime entertainment at some point in the past couple years, and there was a man in a shark suit who didn't dance well. These are the things I know about pop culture, and they are all Super Bowl related.
This particular cultural touchstone is also, to the mind of a baseball obsessive such as yours truly, the moment when I can finally feel justified in turning the calendar over to baseball season. Sure, the NHL and NBA are both still going on, but once the Super Bowl passes, it's officially Baseball Season to me. And so, at least in the peculiar way I mentally mark time, this Sunday is a big landmark on the road to baseball returning. For that, if nothing else, I am excited for this day to come.
As for the game itself, I cannot muster much of a rooting interest. I am not much of a fan of the NFL, and the recent departure of a second franchise from my beloved home city has made me more ambivalent than ever about the vagaries of the league. The Football Cardinals (as they are still known to everyone of my age group who cares to remember them), left when I was seven years old, too young to be a fan of any sport beyond baseball, which had been bred into me, and the only real emotion I had toward them was a dull dislike of the name Bidwill, picked up by osmotic action from male relatives angry over the team leaving. The Rams came to St. Louis when I was fourteen, and I adopted them essentially by default, if only because it seemed like the thing to do for a young man who played a variety of sports at the time. I fell for the team when Dick Vermeil came along, grew disillusioned with the crumbling organisation left as he departed and infighting began, and then watched them pick up stakes and head for the coast with something akin to relief. I have a somewhat complicated relationship with football, is what I suppose I'm saying.
If pressed, I will probably claim to be rooting for the Broncos, as I'm growing rather tired of the Cam Newton hype train (though he does deserve most of it, from what I can tell), and think it would be nice to see Peyton Manning miraculously win another ring at the tail end of his amazing career. Also, he was brilliant on Saturday Night Live, for the most part, and I've been a fan ever since. But honestly, I don't really much care what happens in the game tonight.
So here is a thread for anyone who wishes to drop by today and escape the onslaught of media people telling you how awesome football is, and what an amazing hold it has on the American psyche. Such claims always remind me of that old Brian Eno bit, about the difference between shooting a bullseye and drawing a bullseye around whatever your arrow happened to hit, only I believe he was saying it as a positive, and I find the constant crowing of ESPN and like-minded media types regarding the primacy of the sport they have the most investment in selling to you a much more negative, or at least neutral-but-irritating, situation. Here, then, is a place made on this baseball blog for people to talk about baseball, or football if you prefer, or whatever else catches your fancy on a Sunday when our national attention turns almost entirely to this last great uniting event on the calendar, after which it will be time to properly begin discussing roster machinations of the local nine, not only within the confines of obsessivist outlets such as this, but on the sports talk radio airwaves and gas station parking lots all over this great land of ours.
Enjoy your plate of nachos, and our twenty-first century holiday celebrating the twin golden gods of football and capitalism. In spite of what I'm sure sounds like an excess of sardonic ambivalence, I can't say I won't be enjoying it myself.