To truly understand American-Style Football and our reasons for it, you have to go back to the deep roots. It's a sport that took its original cues from the Rugby School game (more so than association footy), a violent and chaotic pursuit that found its shape in England's 1700s. Consider the timing. This was an era of unification in the Isles, full of new acts
and sexy flags. Where once there were internal conflicts, now there was fancy paperwork that held everybody together in peace. But no kings or princes could convince the people to stay completely civil, so games were invented to serve as safe outlets for neighbor-rage.
Because we are cursed to never truly break free from our former overlords, history repeated itself on these shores. The first recorded instance of American-Style Football
was on November 6, 1869, a college game between Rutgers and Princeton. The score was six to four, and it wasn't two field goals and two safeties, and this is what it looked like.
Just four years and four months earlier, the last shot was fired in a great war in this country over style of governance. This
is what that
With the Union intact and Reconstructing, with the states sewn together and all men free (that last part would eventually need to be revisited), there was nothing to fight about anymore. The weapons were turned into ploughshares, none of which were useful anymore once the Industrial Revolution started. And the desire to fight remained. So the United States built a gridiron crucible to contain this leftover anger and bloodlust, and people drew battle lines. Where one went to college would do. Football became the linchpin of American university athletics, constructing a grand platform where our humble game of ball and hoop would eventually inhabit a small corner, years later.
I rarely get drawn into heated arguments, being a cooler sort, but "football as war" is one I can't easily sidestep. People with sensitive constitutions are bothered when American-Style Football takes on warlike allusions and allegories: "soldiers," dog tags, battlefields, head coaches as generals
, bands of brotherhood, objectification of women, life and death. I take the other side: I don't think there are enough parallels. People (especially sportswriters) don't get hysterically over-the-top enough, and don't paint this for what it is. This sport is pretend war, as authentic as imitation crabmeat, but it's a necessary part of life for society's pawns. The game serves its purpose, and I realize that it's an important one. Without the safe spectacle of fake war, brothers might actually start killing brothers again.
I, as longtime readers are aware, am a conscientious objector. Two weeks ago, I watched my first hour of televised football in almost 15 years. It was the second half of the National American-Style Football Conference (NASFC) championship game between a small-town team from Wisconsin and a city team from Illinois. These are adjoining states, and the two teams are grouped in the same geographical division during the regular season, so the rivalry is very pronounced. A socialist profit-sharing system ensures that the small-town team has similar resources as the city team, so the former (the "Green Bay Packers") won and advanced to the Super Bowl. The Super Bowl is the world championship of American-Style Football, because no other countries have any reason to play this game.
The result of the game made the person I watched the game with, a fan of the "Chicago Bears," very sad and angry. Many people in Chicago were sad and angry in the days following the game, so sad and angry that they directed their venom at the team's own players. Any city would be mad if a representative team from a town 28 times smaller beat them, especially if that town was one state over. Hard times.
The conversation eventually turned to variances between the Union's states. "People from Illinois and Indiana are just... different. They have different attitudes and outlooks on life. They're different. I couldn't tell you why, they just are." I know this feeling well. When I went to college out in Oregon, we were conditioned to view those from Washington and California as inferior. This was a hard facade to maintain back then, because people from those states would simply point out that their football teams were better than ours, and that would end most conversations. That's not the case anymore, but it's still a weird thing to argue about.
On Sunday, after a two-week break, there will be another Super Bowl. The small-town team from Wisconsin will play another city team, this one from Pennsylvania. Millions of people can't wait to see who wins. But I will not watch any of that. In fact, I will be the Last Man in America to Know Who Won the Super Bowl. This is generally shortened to "Last Man," or #LastMan.
Last Man is a game, just like football, jsut a lot less violent. It is a game that is over two decades old, and dates back to before I went to college in Oregon. The object of this game is to avoid the winner and the score of the Super Bowl for as long as possible. This data is called The Knowledge
Early in this site's life, I shared this game in order to add an extra level of difficulty. Three years ago, the Valparaiso student section ruined the score for me
on Tuesday night. In 2009, I made the mistake of taking a plane flight on Monday morning, and was immediately flushed out
after 15 hours, 52 minutes. Last year, I made it to Thursday
, when the commissioner of the West Coast Conference put me out of my paranoia. What will 2011 bring? We will see.
Last Man is a game that anybody can play. You can play it too, and you don't need permission. All you need to do is filter out as many news sources and tweets and friends as possible, and try to make it as long as you can. Monday is the toughest, Tuesday is less so. It's a reality game, and it's harder than it looks. If you choose to join me, I wish you the best of luck. More rants on ASF can be found here.