Football season has begun. A mysterious time for me, as I never did really enjoy my tickets to Notre Dame as I should have, and I wait through superbowl coverage for the commercials, and basically can’t stand the fitful noise–the starts, stops, whistles, and that weird crescendo of the NFL anthem as their logo flashes on screen—of the game on television.
But Joe, whom I relate to and agree with on so many levels–from the absurd minute to the morally overarching–really does love to watch the games.
And so I quizzically mull over the differences between him and me and where they feud on this matter.
Most timely, Grantland has re-published an essay by David Foster Wallace about tennis and Federer. That’s a screenshot of it above. A wonderful perk of reading DFW on Grantland‘s website is their amazing layout for footnotes. Just so much better than the bottom of the page stuff.
Anyway, in the essay was this enlightening, or at least relatable to me, paragraph about loving sports. Perhaps it will sound true to you as well:
Beauty is not the goal of competitive sports, but high-level sports are a prime venue for the expression of human beauty. The relation is roughly that of courage to war.
The human beauty we’re talking about here is beauty of a particular type; it might be called kinetic beauty. Its power and appeal are universal. It has nothing to do with sex or cultural norms. What it seems to have to do with, really, is human beings’ reconciliation with the fact of having a body.
Of course, in men’s sports no one ever talks about beauty or grace or the body. Men may profess their “love” of sports, but that love must always be cast and enacted in the symbology of war: elimination vs. advance, hierarchy of rank and standing, obsessive statistics, technical analysis, tribal and/or nationalist fervor, uniforms, mass noise, banners, chest-thumping, face-painting, etc. For reasons that are not well understood, war’s codes are safer for most of us than love’s.