The first week of the 2016 NFL season is in the books, capping off with an unpredictable matchup in which the 49ers exceeded all expectations against the newly Californian Rams, as well as a predictable Redskins loss to the Steelers. And all I can say is: thank God. After a year and a half of an interminable presidential election between two headliners who are constantly skidding down the lesser-of-two-evils slope, finally—finally!—we have something worth rooting for.
I love football season, unabashedly. This sets me apart from many conservatives who prefer the plodding pace and rich history of baseball, first among them George Will who said of my pastime: “Football combines two of the worst things in American life. It is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” That’s funny and not entirely untrue. Football is also garish ads for light beer in aluminum cans, half-clad cheerleaders with cryogenically frozen grins, Carrie Underwood belting out the virtues of keeping unholy the Sabbath. There’s nothing conservative about football. The entire 16-week season is a raucous pageant of American indulgence, as imagined by a particularly smarmy Frenchman.
And that’s what makes it so glorious. Unlike baseball, with its meandering season and rigorous daily commitments, most NFL action takes place on a single day, Sunday, when we’re all supposed to be resting anyway so why not flip on the TV and watch 11 consecutive hours of behemoths in pads running into each other? Football is like Memorial Day in that it’s inseparable from the greater context of the season around it. Autumn is for hayrides, Halloween candy, chilly strolls in jackets, and the NFL—dissenters are trampling on tradition, even if it’s a less abundant one than baseball. The experience of walking out of a sports bar after a couple beers during a September game and enjoying the cool air should be denied to no one. And if watching football is a sedentary experience, that only makes it fit seamlessly with fall, a sedentary season.
Watching Ben Roethlisberger attempt to dodge 300-pound human mack trucks is one of the sacraments of post-summer, and one we should make no apologies for. I mention Roethlisberger there and not Tom Brady, even though most of the United States would prefer to see the latter get sacked. If you’ve read this far, get ready to click away: I am a Patriots fan—no frontrunner, I was born and raised in the region with a late grandmother who used to gush over “Tawmmy and the Pats.” That’s made football less fun for me in recent years, as George Will’s on-field committee meetings have given way to actual off-field ones. Brady went to court over Deflategate, Roger Goodell’s Baathist discipline system peeved multitudes of players, and Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the National Anthem. All this pushed the NFL into territory where it doesn’t belong: the political.
It needs to stop. Football is our respite from this year’s electoral dungeon torture, as necessary and healthful a function as that performed by any political advocate. ESPN is for football and CNN is for low-IQ hyperventilating Donald Trump coverage, period. The two should be hermetically sealed from each other and patrolled by a demilitarized zone in between where any interlopers are arrested on sight. And that’s another blessed aspect of football: it’s still thoroughly the province of the middle class, and not the political one. See how far you read into the following without laughing: Hillary Clinton…sitting in a sports bar…cheering at the television….sipping Miller Lite from a can…wearing a Chicago Bears jersey. I only made it through two of those ellipses. If you stayed stoic through the entire thing, you’re a paragon of self control. That isn’t a sexist sneer; women make up almost half of NFL fans. It also isn’t anti-liberal bias; Donald Trump in Giants gear elicits similar giggles.
Which reminds me, the final advantage of the NFL is that these temperate fall games can be recovered from. The New Orleans Saints lost in a squeaker this week, but who’s to say they won’t prevail over the Giants next Sunday? Whereas if we elect Trump or Hillary, we’re stuck with that choice for the next four years.