September 19, 2016

RUBASHKIN | God Bless Football

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Full disclosure: I was going to use my column this week to announce my forthcoming presidential candidacy, but then I remembered that I once had pneumonia in second grade, so I guess I’m disqualified from ever doing that. All jokes aside, is America really going to hand over the nuclear codes to an unstable, self-serving sentient Cheeto because Hillary Clinton was dehydrated? Come on, people, a little perspective never hurt anybody.

In other news, my beloved Giants took on and defeated Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints in New York’s home opener. The Big Blue Wrecking Crew is 2-0 for the first time since 2009, Victor Cruz is catching game-winning touchdowns, Eli Manning is having his best statistical season ever and Odell Beckham Jr. is being Odell Beckham Jr. — life is pretty good for this perpetually disappointed fan. Yes, football is back, and thank God for that.

It is a gross understatement to say that America needs football right now. To paraphrase noted contemporary scholar K. Omari West, America needs football like school needs teachers and Kathie Lee needed Regis. In the midst of such turbulent times, football offers America another channel into which they can direct their emotional energy. And unlike the upcoming election, football is virtually consequence-free regardless of outcome.

I say virtually, because there are of course consequences to the outcome of the NFL season. I estimate that the weekly collapse of the Giants last season had a demoralizing effect on me worth at least a tenth of a point off my GPA, and my rapport with my roommate took a decided turn for the worse after a particularly bad outburst following a (totally avoidable) loss to the New England Patriots.

But nobody died. Nobody launched a nuclear strike after being offended by a tweet. The dollar didn’t collapse and cause a global economic meltdown. Nobody (except Tom Coughlin, bless his angry, angry heart) lost his or her job. The season came and went, and America emerged relatively unscathed, even moderately entertained.

Why do fans of the Jacksonville Jaguars put on their jerseys and watch Blake Bortles fail to live up to his potential every weekend? Why do Cowboys fans crowd by the hundreds of thousands into that glittering monstrosity in Arlington, Texas every season when they know that Tony Romo will just get injured and the team will limp to an 8-8 finish? Why do Browns fans even bother anymore?

They do it because even though their teams lose just as often as they win, there is a magical feeling that comes with being surrounded by your friends and fellow fans and watching your team take the field and perform feats of superhuman athleticism. They do it because even when their team goes 6-10 or 3-13 or 0-16, there is always the hope of “Next Year,” the promise of better things to come in the future, the assurance that, despite how bad things get this year, next season is ripe with potential.

There is no such assurance in politics. The decisions we make at the ballot box have world-altering implications. People will live or die depending on whom we select in November. The economy will go down one of two very different paths depending on America’s choices. There is no promise of “Next Year” when it comes to politics, and that alone is cause for alarm.

But all that alarm is taxing on body and soul. Many of my peers have taken to avoiding the news entirely because each latest story only creates more stress for the future of our nation. When I began to tell one friend last weekend about Hillary’s illness, she cut me off and told me she had enough to worry about already. Acquaintances with dual citizenship are seriously considering leaving this country depending on the outcome of the election. I’ve also seen friendships tested and sometimes lost over political differences this cycle. I am, more than ever, conscious of avoiding the discussion of politics with certain friends because I worry about the lasting implications of our differences.

This election cycle has also brought out the worst in otherwise decent people. Certain candidates have normalized a level of violence and racially tinged vitriol throughout the course of their campaigns that is frightening. Some people may truly hold such deplorable beliefs, but many more are swept up by the herd and are drawn to behaviors that, alone, they would never indulge in.

There is good news, though. With the arrival of football, America will be forced to divide their attention and energy. Instead of suffering minor heart attacks with the arrival of each successive twist and turn in the presidential race, I can enjoy the innocent journey of the NFL season. Instead of punching and harassing protesters at rallies, Cheeto-lovers can go back to harmlessly cussing out their TV screens and hurling insults at millionaire athletes who couldn’t care less about the haters.

Humans are simple creatures. We only have so much capacity for intense emotion. Right now, that emotion is almost 100 percent political in nature  — that’s unsustainable and often incredibly harmful. But fear not, because the good folks at the National Football League are here to offer us sweet relief. So long, CNN. Farewell, Fox News. Aloha Al Michaels and Chris Collinsworth. We’ve missed you more than you know.

Go Giants.

Jacob Rubashkin is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. He may be reached at [email protected]. The Jacobin appears alternate Tuesdays this semester.