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Hail Hail

October 29, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments


There are few things more American than the live NFL experience.  In fact, I’m pretty sure any non-American would either vomit or spontaneously combust when brought into this volatile mix of bravado and excess.  Well, actually, let’s take a step back.

In truth, live football games are not REALLY the American experience.  They are indicative of a certain, albeit large, portion of the American people, and it just so happens to be that this portion is what we’re known for all over the world.  Obnoxiousness? Check.  Portliness? Check. Let’s cut to the chase: excess of all kinds? Check!  If your average Frenchman makes 10 casual assumptions about Americans, and has never been here, I would be willing to bet that dropping him in the middle of an NFL tailgate would confirm at least 6 of those.

But that’s why we love it, right?  Football brings us together in our shared sense of American-ness.  Most of us, from our perch on the living room couch, can tune in on Sunday and feel as if we’re participating in some grand tradition.

Last Monday I had my first NFL tailgating experience.  I was in it, on the front lines, so to speak.  And if the NFL is analogous to war, and the game is the battle, then the tailgate must be some sort of bizarre, liquored, march – replete with meat and pent up aggression.

Actually, what struck me most about the tailgate, was how it so totally completed football’s gladiator mystique.  When in a tailgate, you are amongst this feverish horde – a veritable sea of humanity.  In this horde are people from all walks of life, but all focused on one thing.  Some are betting, some are drunk, some are eyeing the guy in the eagles jersey who just put his beer on the hood of their car – whatever their stance, they are in this horde, and they are gathered in the shadow of the coliseum.  When you’re in this shadow, you’re not in real life.  Kickoff looms, and the revelry dies down as it approaches.  The horde swells towards the stadium, and everyone is still the same person they were upon arrival, only they have escaped, and will continue to do so at the expense of someone else’s bloodshed.

I’ve never been to a gladiator match, but I have to imagine the scene played somewhat like this.  I can’t really be sure of how the actual events played out, or whether they did so in congruence with the NFL experience.  But I am sure of one thing that is true of both spectacles.  When the match ends, the people of the horde, that had been so blissfully lost in the carnage, will wake up.  They will realize that they are no longer allowed in the shadow of the coliseum, as it is not a place where one exists in the hours when things must get done.  So they will return to their shops, though still thinking about the next match, and dreaming of being in the shadow once more.

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