February 8, 2008

Super Bowl-Inspired Philosophy

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I firmly believe that anything can generate food for thought. Anything. For instance, the Super Bowl. When I read that it was the second most-watched television program of all time, it made me think hard about fandom.

Since I am not a sports fan, I confess to being amused by people who are, particularly the extremes to which they take their devotion. Take the Redskins Baby Mobile I recently found at my local mall. With a “football lullaby” and dangling Redskin pigs, it promises to develop your child’s love of football. Too much too soon, perhaps?

But this intense ardor doesn’t just lie in sports fandom. Consider the following cases: Scientists who spends every waking moment doing the research they love. Fans of a band who know all the songs and the history of every band member. People who know their religious texts inside and out. Gamers who spends all their free time playing World of Warcraft. Fans of The Office who remember every single joke.

Many of these people amuse me, but I’m not any different. My vice is the TV show Smallville—the bildungsroman of comic book legends Superman and Lex Luthor. I have seen every single episode and can wax philosophical on each and every one. I suspect that many people would be amused by me as well.

In fact, it has been my observation that everyone—everyone—is obsessed about something, devoting inordinate amounts of time and energy to it that an outsider might call him or her crazy.

So I ask: Is every human being a fan of something? If so, is there something in our humanity that drives us to love things like sports and TV programs so deeply? Does what we choose to love say anything about who we are?

Why do we fall in love with the things we do? Do we obsess simply for social purposes—to belong to a community of other people? Do we obsess to burn up free leisure time? Or is there something in these activities that resonates with an emotion or idea deep within us?

Food for thought indeed.