I love football.
I come from earthy, Midwest stock, so it only stands to reason. My dad’s family is from Ohio, which has two football teams (although most people only claim one and spend all their extra energy hating the other).
My mom’s family is from Wisconsin. That’s Packer county, don’t cha know, and as far as I can tell, the Packers are the only reason anyone still lives in Wisconsin. I think pretty much all of the farmers would have packed things in and headed for California long ago if it wasn’t for the fact that they would never, ever give the 49ers the satisfaction.
They live for football in Wisconsin. People put up with those long, horrid winters just so they can mock the teams who show up in Green Bay wearing long sleeves and worrying about frostbite like a bunch of sissies. Packer people are so proud of that hard, inhospitable football land that if you type “Frozen Tundra” into Google you get a picture of Lambeau Field. No kidding.
I grew up watching football, even though I didn’t really appreciate it until I was married and in grad school and the only thing we could get on the three channels that came in clearly on our 19” TV was football or golf.
So when there’s nothing to watch but football, you kind of grow to like it. It’s basic survival. And it didn’t hurt that in the four years we lived in a sleepy little town just north of Boston, the Patriots won the Super Bowl three times. Three times.
Nothing wakes up a dormant football gene like blatant success. In those four years of sweet football victory, I discovered I am a screaming, raving, sit-down-I’m-trying-to-watch-the-game fan. I love the sport.
But in the last few years, I can count on my right hand the number of games I’ve watched. I still love football, I’m just not a fan of the game, the game that is selling football to the highest bidder even at the cost of morality, saturating the half-time shows and sideline acts with sex so men will watch (don’t men already watch football?), and including commercials that are definitely not approved for all audiences.
Besides, we got rid of our TV.
But last year, I sat in a room full of people while the Super Bowl played. I was there to watch the game. Those who didn’t care about the game were there to watch the commercials, so every single commercial played to a captive audience.
Steamy scenes from R-rated movies flashed up on the screen. Tank-topped Go Daddy models leaned into the camera and said “domain name” in a way that made me embarrassed to be a blogger. In place of witty writing, advertisers showed boobs. They kept things interesting by sprinkling in a little shocking violence, crude humor, and sexually-charged exchanges. I mean, I did not know Axe deodorant could do that.
I turned my face away and shielded my kids’ eyes and asked them how many birds they could see out the window. I stuffed them full of Doritos and relish tray offerings—anything to keep them distracted from the images on the screen. I watched my husband inspect his shoes and his fingernails and our host’s ceiling while other women vied for his attention right in front of me. But it wasn’t supposed to bother me because they were just actresses. It was just a commercial, after all. Just entertainment.
My stomach churned. It had been so long since we’d watched television that I guess I’d forgotten what it was like. I looked at the other faces in the room, searching for the outworkings of the rage I was feeling inside. After all, we were all Christians. We all said we believed the same things and we were all watching the same things so surely, surely, we were all equally disturbed.
I guess I had grown naive.
I saw smirks at the jokes, wide-eyes at the boobs, fathers watching the screen in front of their sons and mothers in front of daughters and no one—no one—said anything. No one changed the channel. It was just a normal Sunday, watching football.
Maybe a few years ago, I might have felt the same way.
But I had forgotten. I had forgotten we were supposed to be on entertainment mode, and in entertainment mode, it doesn’t matter if a media violates my so-called principles because it’s not real.
It only matters if the jokes are funny, the actors are hot, the music is brilliant, and the special effects blow my mind. It doesn’t matter if I don’t approve of the clothing, language, lifestyle, or choices in real life because entertainment is harmless.
Madonna can strip off her clothes during the half-time show and be fondled by a dozen young male dancers while our children watch and we can crunch our chips and say, “I can’t believe she can still dance at her age” because it’s just TV, and we want to be able to talk about it with our friends later.
We should be shocked. We should be outraged. We should not watch.
But we do because it’s so easy to become anesthetized to entertainment. We forget that it’s selling something, and we’re buying.
Only, I can’t do that anymore. Football just isn’t worth it. I want my morality to dictate my entertainment choices. I do not want to give that power to my culture, or to the National Football League, and certainly not to Hollywood.
I can’t keep myself or my family from seeing any kind of filth, nor do I want to live in a bubble, but when things come on the screen that are not consistent with what I say I believe, I want my kids to see me turn away, not drink it in. I want them to know that their mom and dad are willing to change the channel, even if it means we miss something good.
If it comes to the point that a football game is so surrounded by sex, explicit language, and violence that I am unable to avoid it, then even my recently-adopted Seahawks are going to have to play without me.
I love football.
But I’m not willing to play that game.