Is the NFL a barbaric distraction that diverts attention away from important issues facing the American public? Maybe.
Is the brutish sport of football on the decline because people are finally beginning to understand, on a scientific level, the inherent dangers that come with the game? Probably.
Am I ready for some football? Definitely.
The NFL’s culture of inclusivity draws in Americans of all stripes. Come as you are. All are welcome.
As the country navigates its way through an administration change, worrying about terrorism, climate change, immigration, income inequality, health care and government corruption, the NFL playoffs are a welcome distraction for millions of Americans.
I’m not suggesting people ignore climate change or stop caring about government corruption. I am suggesting a little getaway is healthy, even if it’s just an escape to the couch on a Sunday afternoon. Life is stressful. Football can help.
Fandom is a unifying force. Even fans of franchises with virtually no success in the Super Bowl era share with each other a special bond (I’m looking at you Browns and Lions fans). Team histories bring a sense of pride. Teams provide strong foundations for both regional and national communities.
I’ve been all over the Midwest. I’ve been down South. I’ve traveled to the Rocky Mountains, and I’ve visited Washington, D.C. I have yet to find a place void of Green Bay Packers fans. Not every fan base is as ubiquitous as Green Bay’s, but football’s relationship-building qualities are apparent all over the United States.
Nothing epitomizes the NFL’s inclusivity like the Super Bowl. Super Bowl Sunday is the nation’s largest television event by far. Die-hards are joined by casual fans and people who have little interest in sports altogether. Many tune in just for the commercials or to watch the halftime performance.
People come together. Families and friends celebrate. Folks who, on the surface, might not find much common ground, exchange hive-fives and share beverages. On Super Bowl Sunday, it doesn’t matter if you’re Democrat, Republican or independent. What matters is the communal experience.
When the season is over and we settle back into our daily routines, I hope we can bring some of that camaraderie to other parts of life. Can conservatives and liberals get along similarly to division rivals? The stakes are raised when making policy decisions, but can the same basic principals that sports fans display be carried out in public life?
Following a year full of political hostility and negative attitudes, I think the answer is YES. We absolutely can find ways to include others and build stronger relationships. Football isn’t going to solve all the world’s problems, but it’s more than just a grand distraction.
Contact Justin Jagler