It’s the Monday after the Superbowl and I’m dreading it. Why? Because I know that I’ll be peppered with questions like, “Did you see that play last night?” or “Man, ________ is GOAT, isn’t he?” And, I’m going to have dip into my bag of ambiguous responses and say “Oh, man. That was something!”, “You know it, brother,” or a few other non-answer answers because I did not, nor will I ever, watch another pro football game. You may wondering why I would say something like this, as being a sports fan is so ubiquitous in this country. It’s simple, I am not a sports fan. I hate sports and think they’re a cancer on the soul of America.
Why am I so bitter? In a nutshell, good ol’ toxic masculinity. Toxic masculinity tells men and boys that “winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.” According to the twisted logic of toxic masculinity, the greatest sin that an American could ever commit is losing, even though you learn so much more from losing than you ever do winning. Really, the worst sin is not being a sports fan, especially a football fan, because then you’re a pussy and even losers rank above pussies.
Toxic masculinity led other boys to look down on me because I’d rather read a book than play football/baseball/basketball during recess. So, I played. I didn’t want to, but we all know what happens to kids who are different. As I got older, I went out for a couple of teams in junior high. But my heart wasn’t in it and I never made it past the first cut. Honestly, it was a relief. But there was still P.E. to deal with and guess who teaches P.E. classes? That’s right, coaches. And, coaches can be preeminent purveyors of toxic masculinity. Not all, to be sure. But, with the way toxic masculinity is built into American sports culture, even those who didn’t buy in were complicit to one degree or another.
Later on, after I became a firefighter, I still had to deal with the fucked up ideas about masculinity and sports, because sports figure prominently in hyper-masculine spaces. Only this time, it was mostly watching. Strangely, watching sports in America is second only to playing sports in importance. Somehow, men get ready to watch a game like a teenage girl prepares for her prom (the right dress/favorite team’s jersey, the proper accessories/a football, a foam finger, etc, makeup done correctly/face painted in team colors, and hair/favorite players name shaven in somewhere). And, these guys thought I was effeminate for getting lost in “For Whom the Bell Tolls” or “Dune”? I have never understood that. But then, no one ever said toxic masculinity made sense.
There is nothing I’d love to see more than an end to American worship at the altar of sports. But sports are so inextricably woven into the American psyche, I don’t see that happening anytime soon. Until it does, I guess I’ll keep dipping into that bag of responses I mentioned earlier so I can answer all those inane sports questions and not have to deal with people wondering why I’m such a pussy. That’s why I dread the Monday after the Superbowl.