This has been one long week of global bummers, between the Norway massacres and the subsequent jerky reaction, the death of Amy Winehouse and the subsequent jerky reaction, and the ongoing bizarrely self-destructive debt ceiling dispute and the ongoing jerky reaction. Borders went under, somehow prompting one sleepless night thinking about the world's imminent decline. And it's been really hot.
Amid all this, the end of the NFL lockout comes as not just a relief but an overwhelming joy. About a month ago I told the Ski Bum that I'd be fine if the NFL lockout continued through the season, that I'd use the time to do productive things. She looked at me askance, and rightly so. The past 48 hours have been a blissed-out blur of reading ESPN blogs about guys I've never heard of on teams I don't care about, wondering where Kevin Kolb will end up, stopping my fingers just short of buying 16 John Elway throwback jerseys on eBay. I'm excited about the forthcoming Premier League season and Liverpool's possibilities. I'm excited about the forthcoming NHL season and the Avalanche's possibilities. I am absolutely frothing rabid about the upcoming National Football League season and this in a year where the Broncos will be lucky to go the 6-10 that Vegas is predicting. I'm thinking about taking some days off to go visit Falcons training camp, even though that means sitting outside on an August Georgia day developing heat prostration and watching a team I don't really care about.
Should I like football this much? It's a stupid and meaningless question, yes, but that doesn't prevent me from asking myself from time to time. The whole overblown spectacle surrounding the sport, the mashup of a WWE event and one of the crasser Republicans' campaign rallies, is anathema to quiet bookish me. There's the casual response to the potentially life-ruining violence, there's the casual racism that's let much of the fan base dehumanize Vince Young, to name one. The players generally aren't too likeable, the fans are often worse (part of the reason that I've never sought out a Broncos bar here is that it lets me maintain the fiction that Denver fans are smarter/classier than the rest). It's not a sport with much of an intellectual tradition -- Paul Zimmerman (past) and David Roth (present) are the only writers on the sport that have impressed adult me (America's most popular sport should have more great writers on it, shouldn't it? Roth knocks it out of the park in the Awl, but other than that there's no one that I feel like I have to read, just the SI types that I struggle to on Monday morning because I'm reluctant to accept that the football weekend's over).
But forget all that. I'm certainly able to. Come September 11th, I'll be getting into a neck vein-popping state over failed third downs. I'll be performing ethical contortions to justify rooting for the unsavory types on my teams (a little easier for me, at least, since I don't root for the Steelers). I'll be Tweeting incoherent pre-verbalisms when Knowshon Moreno fumbles. I'll be routinely drunk and eating awful shit on Sunday afternoons.
Why? I don't know. American football's the best sport for tv, and combined with its once-a-week schedule, it seems more like an event, a happening than other sports. Childhood conditioning, too, I guess -- in our largely secular household, the NFL was the premier Sunday ritual, and my childhood happily coincided with the local team being pretty great. And for all the missteps, the NFL does know how to build up drama -- NFL Films may be frequently hokey, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I get a chill any time I see its grainy slo-mo, even if it's a presentation of "The Detroit Lions: The Less-Bad Years."
So bring on the spectacle, bring on the stupid. Bring on Frank Caliendo and Jimmy Johnson and Tim Tebow talking earnestly about believing in yourself. It isn't pretty, it isn't classy, but good lord I cannot wait for football to start.