Violence Punctuated by Committee Meetings

The Super Bowl is tomorrow. It’s possible, but not likely, I’ll be watching.

For me, football ranks a very distant third behind baseball (the runaway winner) and basketball. It wasn’t always thus. As a kid I liked football and watched it a lot. Vince Lombardi’s Green Bay Packers were on top, so I rooted for them. Then Joe Namath joined the New York Jets and led them to an upset win over the Baltimore Colts in the third Super Bowl, so I became a Jet fan.

As an ectomorph, I didn’t play football that often. In eighth grade we were asked whether we were interested in joining the high school football team, and most of us said yes. Over the summer we received a series of bizarre letters from the high school football coach, single-spaced screeds full of what today would be called toxic masculinity written in a style that, during my time as risk manager at UC Berkeley, I came to associate with mental illness. I decided not to go out for football.

By the time I graduated from high school, football had lost its appeal. I had come out as an arty kid, and with the minor exception of Brian’s Song, a movie about the relationship between star African-American running back Gale Sayers and cancer-stricken white teammate Brian Piccolo, football no longer spoke to me aesthetically.

Gale Sayers in 2008.

In my early adulthood, football might as well not have existed. When The Fabulous Wife and I were courting in 1982, we went to Muir Woods for a Sunday hike. Afterwards we drove to Mill Valley for a bite to eat. Downtown was closed up and abandoned—until all of a sudden people poured into the streets, shouting and whooping. What was up? The San Francisco 49ers had just won their first Super Bowl.

We’d been completely oblivious.

As football surpassed baseball to become America’s favorite sport — and ever more conspicuously stood for so-called traditional values — I came to dislike it. My favorite summary of the game comes from, of all people, the buttoned-up conservative pundit George Will: “Football combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings.” Amen.

Nonetheless, I can still be talked into watching a game now and then. A few weeks ago The Fabulous Wife and I were in San Diego visiting old friends and their two sons, one of whom is in college, the other in high school. We watched the playoff between the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles and had a fantastic time.

So perhaps we’ll watch tomorrow, especially if it’s raining and there’s not much else to do. Did you know UC Berkeley has sent more starting quarterbacks to the Super Bowl than any other university? Here is the list:

  1. Joe Kapp (Minnesota Vikings, 1970)
  2. Craig Morton (Dallas Cowboys, 1971, and Denver Broncos, 1978)
  3. Vince Ferragamo (Los Angeles Rams, 1980)
  4. Aaron Rodgers (Green Bay Packers, 2011)
  5. Jared Goff (Los Angeles Rams, 2019)

I actually sat down and watched Jared play every now and then while working football games as risk manager, so if I see the game tomorrow I’ll be rooting for him and the Rams.

Former Risk Manager at UC Berkeley, author of four books, ectomorphic introvert.