Well, I just finished watching the carnival of humiliation, cruelty and machismo that is the Super Bowl. And that was just the commercials. Zing! Strangely, despite my own general disgust at the kind of power the Patriots represent and despite my good friend David's relentless, brilliant and hilarious deconstructions of the Pats' blandly vile aesthetic, I found myself desperately rooting for New England to pull the game out. And fully sickened when they didn't.
I have a couple of thoughts on why this might be. Obviously. Because this is a blog. First, I don't exactly share most people's adoration of the underdog. I mean, I can go for the occasional miraculous upset, especially at the high school and college levels. But mostly I like whichever team or player does the most amazing things and if that inclines me toward the traditional powerhouse from time to time, well that's the way it goes. To me "parity", the NFL's great egalitarian mission, has stood more for boredom and mediocrity, for the conservatism and fear of risk that has come to dominate the league, sucked it of its spontaneity and, well, amazingness.
More importantly, I think if we are to be honest with ourselves we'd realize that there aren't really any lovable underdogs in most professional sports and definitely not in the NFL. Sure there are shitty teams, but everyone subscribes to the same drab, faceless corporatism; the same fetishization of the body; the same exaltation of martial virtue; the same resentment of weakness; the same cruel exploitation of human frailty. The Patriots ruthlessness, their cold displays of power...these are things that every team in the NFL aspires to. Without a doubt the Giants and Tom Coughlin, their craggy, misogynist, fag-hating (probably, probably), gym-teacher/drill sergeant/sociopath of a coach aspire to this too. Depressingly, I also shared this fascination with the Patriots' ability to methodically wield their power. They certainly weren't spontaneous or much fun, but holy shit they were still unbelievably good. I realize that the part of me that still likes football at all--the part that still connects to the little kid in thrall to the armored, uniformed pageantry of a team on the field--that part can't help but respect the Patriots' basic effectiveness. This is not a fascination that makes me feel very good about myself.
The Patriots and the league and the whole fucking country exalt quantifiable success above just about anything else and what really bums me out about this game is that, although this is a huge upset, the Giants' victory does nothing to upset this order. No matter what incredible things this New England team has accomplished--the majestically powerful offense with their numerous scoring records--they, and everyone else, have staked their entire season on this all-or-nothing view of success. That only the end result justifies the effort. To me, this loss reinforces this view even more than a Patriots victory would have. At least if they had won, all of that incredible success would have been validated, would have actually meant something. Now, in the eyes of the league and the culture and probably the team itself, their entire year is just a footnote in someone else's narrative of victory, the forgettable story of just another losing team. When we view ourselves, our work, our lives this way, even our victories seem hollow and unsatisfying. This sick, inevitable, empty feeling makes me tell myself, as I seem to every year at about this time, that I'll never watch another pro football game again.