Oh did you want a long early morning rant #thread? Yes? No? Too late, here it is. Let’s talk about how the insistence on returning to college football not only a reflection of racism & capitalism, but also the deep failures of patriarchal culture. Ready? Let’s go.
Ok so yesterday I talked a bit about racism & capitalism in the organized sport industry particularly football. Here’s that thread. Note: I’m sure there are scholars who have written about this, this is just my Black feminist quick take. https://twitter.com/drsamischalk/status/1306344872836763656
So football relies heavily on the athletic performance of Black men for the entertainment & profit of predominantly white men. In the NFL when players protest, they’re told to shut up & play or that they make enough money so they shouldn’t care (racist capitalist perspective).
This isn’t to say players don’t enjoy the game but it comes at a high physical & personal expense. Many of these teams with their owners (🤢) have a real plantation vibe IMHO.
So we know players have been protesting for years & insisting on cultural & safety changes at the multiple levels. This is more difficult for college players as they’re not technically paid plus are younger & less experienced, still gunning for the money & fame of going pro.
The Big 10 return to college football reflects the capitalist failures of higher education bc our large public institutions have become too reliant on sports income to function & therefore make these wild unsafe decisions that risk lives & waste resources to try to stay afloat.
Schools will now spend tons to test & isolate all people on the field. As I said before these rapid tests should be available to school children, front line & service workers & our most vulnerable. Using these resources for entertainment purposes reflects our cultural values.
Universities will also have to employ janitorial & service workers to clean up after & feed teams & fans but note Big Ten explicitly said only those “on the field” will be regularly tested. Fuck those other workers right? Capitalist disregard of some lives over others.
Ok so it’s clear the return to college football during a pandemic is fucked up. But what’s really stuck in my head right now are all the folks who are so deeply joyful & relieved about the return of football that they get violently angry at those of us who critique it.
The culture that surrounds football (college & NFL)—a notably specifically American sport—is racist (hi Washington Redskins), sexist, capitalist & harmful. It relies on excessive drinking & heavy consumption of food & goods (tickets, tailgating gear, jerseys, etc.)—purchasing.
But this culture is, for some, the only culture, the only joy they have & that’s what’s been sticking with me lately. I think of all the men who raised me who only hugged each other or talked while watching football together.
I think about my peers who learned or pretended to care about football specifically to connect to adult men, typically fathers, who were otherwise not emotionally available. Many have important memories of connection with men & family in regard to football.
That shit is real. I want to truly acknowledge that memories of bonding & connecting are essential human experiences AND assert that the capitalist racist culture surrounding football is harmful, even to those who love it.
Football fans often trash cities. Tailgating creates immense waste. Advertisers encourage unhealthy levels of drinking that increases the risk of harm to fans & those around stadiums bc of fights and/or drunk driving. It creates high levels of income/spending but at what cost?
And then I keep thinking about how fucked up it is that many men seem unable to connect with people or feel strong emotions outside the context of cheering on their football team. I’ve seen men cry, scream, emote in ways they will do nowhere else.
The sexist masculinist culture that surrounds football is a reflection of how we deeply limit what it means to be a man & do damage to men in our culture. It hurts all of us. (& yes I know women like football too. I’m talking about trend/majority not the entirety).
I critique this shit & lay it out like this not because I blame men or hate men because I actually love so many men & get so deeply sad for the way patriarchal culture has trapped and harmed them emotionally even as it primarily benefits them materially.
I understand why folks are desperately clinging to the return of sports even if it risks lives & wastes resources when sports have been one of the few ways they connect & build memories with men in their lives. Of course yall don’t want to let it go. I get it. I do.
But it’s possible to acknowledge the good something provides AND recognize its larger collective harm. This kind of recognition is essential to social change: the ability to weigh the benefits & the harm (centering the most vulnerable) then making a choice even when it’s hard.
It does however require us to value other people’s lives & wellbeing and to assess what we as individuals actually need to be well, to be fulfilled & what we simply want, often to escape or ignore the ways we are deeply unsatisfied or unhappy.
We have to choose what does the least amount of harm & prioritize what does the most good. Good however cannot be defined by producing the most income or satisfying the most people at the expense—potentially the life—of a few.
I’m not a football fan so I can’t tell you specifically how to divest & change but I know divestment & change is needed. What I can say is that the joy, the connection, the bonding, you experience around football culture IS able to be experienced elsewhere. I promise.
When I critique the return of football I’m not saying you don’t deserve the emotional & personal benefits you receive from football culture, instead I’m asking you to consider if it’s really worth it & to invest in finding other ways to fulfill your emotional & social needs.
In a global pandemic we cling to the familiar & attempt to return to normal when normal is gone. We’re building a new world. Maybe football will be part of it & maybe not. If it is, it has to do more collective good than harm. If it’s not, you’ll learn to live happily w/out it.
If you can’t imagine a version of yourself that is happy without football, perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate your conceptualizations of happiness. Therapy is a good start as are self-help books or podcasts. Twitter won’t let me add more tweets so, the end?
Here’s the “unrolled” text version. This one got real long but I’ve been thinking about this shit since yesterday. Please know this is what it’s like in my head all the time these days. 🥴 https://twitter.com/threadreaderapp/status/1306593920718000129
You can follow @DrSamiSchalk.
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