This weekend is what is endearingly called “The Big Game”, the Super Bowl, as if I need to tell you that. Everybody knows this. It’s, well, part of being a functioning member of this culture of ours, whether you want to be or not. And me, I’m from Indianapolis. And I live in Indianapolis, so you know that no matter how removed I might be from these sorts of cultural events, I damn well know the Super Bowl is about to commence. I know this because breweries are making blue beers. I know this because our fountains have been dyed blue. I know this because our PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM TRIED TO GO ON A TWO HOUR DELAY THE DAY AFTER THE GAME, get this, because the last time the Colts won the Super Bowl the bus drivers were so hung over or tired that over HALF of them called in sick and chaos commenced getting the kids to school. Fortunately, SOMEONE has their priorities straight and the Department of Education put the smack down on that spur of the moment policy change, well, sort of. The DOE allowed IPS to go on a one hour delay and then force the kids to stay an extra 30 minutes at the end of the day. Anyways, yeah, I know about the super bowl. Everybody does.
And no, I don’t care. Now, before you go getting all defensive on me and calling me a party pooper or whatever, let me just say this, I don’t care about the Super Bowl not because I hate football. I mean, I never watch it true, but if you sat me down with a group of people to watch the game, I would inevitably want to see it played to its conclusion, and would probably instinctually choose a side to root for…and yes, it would probably be the colts for reasons of inherent association. And yes, part of me doesn’t care about the Super Bowl because I’m reacting to dominant culture’s overwhelming acceptance and glorification of what amounts to a simple little game. Yes, I admit this. I want to rain on dominant culture’s parade. I always do. That’s what aggressors get. If they won’t leave us alone, we don’t let them alone when they want to have their little parties. There I said it. But there is something a little more simplistic to my lack of enthusiasm about this HUUUUUGE cultural event. I just don’t feel an association with the game. It’s why I don’t watch the World Series. It’s why I don’t watch the World Cup. It’s why I don’t watch much of anything sporting event-wise….except Curling. Seriously, for some reason I can’t get enough of Curling. I can’t wait for the Winter Olympics.
And running, of course. I like to watch running, which is funny, because running is BOOOOOOORING, well, at least to most of dominant culture it is….but that’s only because they don’t GET IT. Just like I don’t GET football, outside of using it as a reason to gather with friends and create one more reason to get smashed. And that’s ok. I don’t GET football and football fans don’t GET running, which is PART of the reason they don’t watch it. The other part is, unfortunately, why running will NEVER EVER EVER EVER become the cultural spectator event that sports like the Super Bowl and World Series are. That reason is simply that running is not a SPECTATOR sport. Running will never attract the masses and the sponsors like most athletic events because it INHERENTLY lacks the drama, excitement, and stop-go dynamics that make an event exciting to watch. Let’s address a comparison.
I recently read an evaluation of the average football game that stated there is only 17 minutes of ACTUAL PLAYING TIME in a football game. The rest is consumed with commercials, shots of the coaches, shots of the fans, shots of the cheerleaders, huddles, half-times, time-outs, and a clock that ticks down while all this goes on. That means that there are only 17 minutes in a game where the ball is snapped and either ran, thrown, fumbled, dropped, etc. etc. etc. That SOUNDS boring, but obviously is not. I think, these continuous breaks are actually what make football so fun to watch. Think about it, on almost every play there is discussion, anticipation, action, then release, and then the whole process starts over again. This happens repeatedly in a game, so what you end up with is not just one incredibly long game of football, but actually a plethora of tiny games playing out over and over until someone wins. There is a continuous rise and fall of energy, ever renewing itself and keeping everyone on edge until the clock finally runs out. All this translates into a hell of a cultural spectator event.
Then there is distance running, the marathon for example. Granted, a number of us can watch professional runners do nothing more than seemingly put one foot in front of the other for over 2 hours in one sitting and be ABSOLUTELY RIVETED to the screen, which should go without saying is because we GET it. We know what these runners are going through. Although, to everyone else, it just looks like some people putting one foot in front of the other, sweating, and grimacing, we know something entirely different is going on, something incredibly intense, and incredibly deep within each individual on the screen. We know an incredible human drama is playing out, no matter how calm and static everything may look. It’s because we GET it. We know what’s going on. We can watch the mile splits tick away and feel our jaws drop further and further until they scrape the floor. We can see the most minor changes in the runner’s faces and know where they are physically and mentally in the race. We can see the smallest gap as the beginning of a strategic move dynamically changing the race. We can see the exuberant triumph in a runner’s stride when the last competitor is dropped. We see this because we GET it, because from time to time, we live it. But you know what everyone else sees?
They see a mass of runners slowly leaning off the start line, anti-climactically starting an incredibly long race. They see runners putting one foot in front of the other, over and over and over and over again. Then they see runners crossing a finish line, still rather anti-climactically. And that’s it. There is no continuous rise and fall of energy. There is no break to regroup, no discussion of strategy, no cheerleaders (welsely girls don’t count), and no small races within a big race. It’s just one continuous, attention-span sucking vortex of boredom. Unless you are a runner yourself, you probably just won’t get it. I understand. It’s ok.
And that’s just too bad for you really. Because I know you look at us with disdain for not wanting to reaffirm your modern day Roman Coliseum of violence and brutality, but we’ve got athletic integrity on our side. We may not be very exciting for you to watch, but the experience we share far outweighs some drunken cultural ritual, because that is the other great thing about our sport….participation. You can raise your foam fingers all you want, and paint your face till your skin permanently changes color, but never are you included in the game itself. Us runners, however, are within reason invited to play along, to give us all a chance. Some of us will never toe the line with the professional runners, but we may be right next to them, or a few corrals back, or A LOT of corrals back, but we still got in the race didn’t we. You, unfortunately, are relegated to the sidelines where those hot dogs try to squeeze your heart like a boa constrictor.
We, on the other hand, have our greatest victories by taking part…..even if no one else is watching.