I don’t care much for the NFL. Or football in general. To me, it’s a lot of advertisements and crowds of loitering men in helmets interrupted occasionally by short bursts of sport. But I will do my best to tune in on Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl, a return engagement of New England’s Patriots with Philadelphia’s own green Eagles. A contest the Eagles narrowly lost the first time.
As irksome as the commercials are, and as often as they interrupt the flow of the game, I wouldn’t want to watch anything else. We are quite likely to witness a piece of history unfurl on the domed Minnesota field. Yet another fabled underdog – and there may be no greater underdog than Philadelphia when it comes to sport – will take on the unmovable and age-resistant force that is Tom Brady. A force that no matter how down and out it may seem, always knows how to win. The Eagles face a tall order.
I mention my own indifference of football, not to troll the myriad fan base of the Eagles, but to make a point about our larger culture in 2018. Most men in this country are expected to love the sport. I’m often engaged by well-meaning people about “the game last night,” of which I am always forced to admit my ignorance. I have absolutely nothing against people who enjoy it. I’m glad they do. It’s just never interested me a whole lot. And it’s not that I don’t like sports. I’ll watch the Tour de France. I just don’t care much for football. Give me the NBA, MLB and the EPL.
Football fandom itself is not important, but it is part of a larger trend in this country in which the shared experience can no longer be taken for granted. On the surface, we have so much divisiveness. It’s a divide that can be sampled every time one flips through the news or launches Facebook on his or her iPad. But below the surface, we disagree about much more than politics. From the important issues of our time to the run of the mill – from climate change to Game of Thrones – we are a nation for which nothing is guaranteed.
Just this past weekend, many commenters noted the steep decline of viewership of the Grammys. For decades, the Grammys had maintained a place as a unifying force for U.S. culture. It was always well watched and coverage of who won what awards and each big performance was a centerpiece of the next day’s news. Not so in 2018, in which some 10 million fewer people decided to tune in. It seems poised to be one more institution to fade from our cultural milieu.
At a time when communities fail to see eye to eye on everything from politics to their favorite TV shows, a sporting event in a city that can unite people is a great thing. It doesn’t even matter if that thing is as frivolous as a sporting event. Little in this city and this region runs deeper as a unifying force than the Eagles. You will find their flags flying in rowhouse neighborhoods and on estate lawns on the Main Line.
Sport might be one of the few things we can look forward to sharing with neighbors, regardless of their politics or any other socioeconomic status. It’s something everyone can and does enjoy. So to the Eagles, beat New England. A whole region depends on it.