I grew up in an almost football free environment in Eugene, Oregon. Back when I was growing up, the college football team was horrible (since then, Nike has pumped in tons of money and they are one of the best teams in the country, but that was after I moved out of state). In high school, soccer was higher prestige than football. Oregon had no NFL team. So football really was not on my radar as a kid.
Now I live in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where football is so woven into the culture, it practically IS the culture. From youth football, to college, to the Steelers, football glues this town and region together.
I see the appeal. It’s an interesting game. It also dovetails with Pittsburgh’s blue collar past. The Steelers were dominant at exactly the same time it’s steel industry collapsed in the 1970′s. People remember them as a bright spot in that bleak time, and football helps Pittsburghers feel tough as they sit behind their computers punching numbers into spreadsheets and designing logos with graphics software. And it serves as an important touchstone for the Pittsburgh diaspora who scattered around the country during the city’s economic collapse.
But it grosses me out at the same time.
It’s a brutal game, practically designed to create head trauma and other physical injury.
It’s an absurdly macho game. I would hate to go to high school here, in the shadow of this sport.
And like any institution that is venerated, that puts people on pedestals. important figures get away with behavior that is totally messed up. Jerry Sandusky? Ben Roethlisberger (OK, not proved in court, but would you leave your daughter anywhere near this guy? Ick)?
So, whatever. Enjoy your football. In point of fact, it’s growing on me. But I sure as heck would not want my kids to play it. And I would not even want them to grow up in such a football saturated environment. There’s more, and better to life. Pittsburgh is blessed with natural beauty, culture, and brains, but I think football will always be hugely important here. And that’s great for a lot of people. Me, not so much.