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Football Frenzy
Mom with a View

Football Frenzy

Why was I fighting back the tears at a recent Patriots game?

by

I couldn’t believe the intense emotion crackling in the air.  The Star-Spangled Banner was sung.  Flags were waved, fireworks exploded and three F-18 fighter jets flew overhead in perfect synchronicity.  I was overcome with the emotion of the moment.  I had to fight back the tears. You had to be there to feel it.  And then they introduced the players on the home team. I was at a football game. 

I have to confess my dirty little secret.  I really love football.  I can’t explain it or justify it; I just really like it.  But I exercise self-control and restrict myself to one game a year.  We go to a friend’s house that first Sunday in February and watch the Super Bowl.  Other than that I stay away.  And I haven’t been to a professional game in at least 30 years, probably more.  I thought it might be fun to go to see if it’s as good as I remember. 

So last Sunday I dragged my loyal husband (talk about role reversal!) down to San Diego to watch a game. And what struck me the most – and what frightened me the most – was the emotion.  From the intense beginning and through the game, the crowd was constantly being whipped into a frenzy.  When the opposing team had the ball, the boos were deafening. 

Life’s most important decisions can’t be decided on the basis of emotion.

And I reflected on how dangerous and easily misled emotion can be.  I was stunned by myself.  What were those tears about? I couldn’t care less about the Chargers or the Patriots.  There’s nothing particularly heart-warming about a football game.  In fact, you could probably argue the opposite is true.  But the atmosphere cleverly orchestrated an emotional response, designed to make me feel part of something bigger than myself, something important, special and transcendent – no one dared reveal the Emperor’s New Clothes.  No one dared whisper, “It’s only a game; it’s only football.” 

That’s why I’m suspicious of emotion. It’s so easily manipulated. It is a cornerstone of Jewish thinking that we lead with our heads and not our hearts. 

It’s not that our emotional experiences are invalid or irrelevant but rather that we need to bring our intellect to bear in analyzing what that experiences meant and why.  Otherwise, it’s misleading and confusing.  Otherwise, it’s dangerous. 

Watching the footage of Hitler’s rallies makes you even more conscious of the destructive capacity of emotion. 

I’m not advocating a sterile cerebral existence, only the necessity of bringing intellectual perspective to what our emotions are telling us. 

People get very worked up over sports teams. They get very emotionally involved in whether they win or lose (as if the fans themselves were playing).  The outcome becomes emotionally important (and not just because of their fantasy football team) and they lose perspective. Fists fly, blows are exchanged.  At soccer matches in England and Europe, deaths have even occurred.  Over what?  

But it’s not just about sports. Life’s most important decisions can’t be decided on the basis of emotion.   What we feel is less relevant than what the facts are, what the reality is. 

This requires discipline and strength of will. But it is ultimately the only way to make good decisions.  It’s frightening how easily we can be seduced.  We need to be on our guard.   

By the way, the Patriots won.  And for some odd reason, I was happy about it!

Published: October 31, 2010


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Visitor Comments: 7

(7) unlisted, November 9, 2010 4:31 PM

Reply to David Rivers, Comment #5

<> That's why God gave us Jews the Torah and our 613 mitzvahs! He is the Ultimate Official: the Referee, Umpire, Head Linesman, Line Judge, Back Judge, Field Judge, and Side Judge rolled into One!

(6) Bobby 5000, November 6, 2010 2:32 PM

The Value of Sports

A lot of negative comments about sports are justified, diversion from academics, emphasisis on physicality. I have a Jewish child who won a Maccabee championship and I have seen some of the benefits of sports. He deals with pressure and adversity better than most people. Having dealt with coachs who yelled, he can calmly deal with bits of criticism from a boss. Having been in front of 500 or 1,000 people, he can speak before a group with confidence. He spent time as part of a team and learned to deal with people. Parents need to be attentive and skeptical but there are benefits from sports.

(5) David Rivers, November 4, 2010 4:29 PM

A related theme

I enjoyed this article because of it's insightfulness and because I love football. It reminded me of an article that, although written from a Christian perspective, also addressed the themes of sports, faith and emotion. By shifting the theological paradigm over to Judaism, you can see how it's relevant to those themes. There are great virtues in sports, both participatory and spectator. But like so many things, we humans can go too far without some sense of boundaries.

(4) ruth housman, November 2, 2010 4:07 PM

"Frum" one place, to another

I deeply believe that life is a ball game, and baseball too, as in football, as in basket ball is a game of give, toss or pitch, and receive. Football has its "wide receivers". Baseball is so much about the perfect curve and of course, Home Plate. Basketball is a true ballet, and that word has ball within in English. And "bal" in French means "dance". I think of life as a dance, and that we are deeply meant to enjoy it, and sports is a deep part of life, and also, the learning in how it is, to be a good sport. Yes, we can be overtaken by frenzy at the extremes. I think the frenzy associated with a game, is benign, as long as we don't come to blows about who wins, and the particulars. A rally that is about hate, well that is something else again. People do get carried away, in every sense of the word. I am happy a "frum" lady likes sports. I think it's a good message for those too involved in things bookish because learning is a wide wide playing field, and does occur outside as well as, on the inside.

(3) Anonymous, November 2, 2010 1:39 PM

...they can even play it!

Yes, frum ladies can also like football. They can even play it. Football, like many other sports, can be a tremendously healthy and fun outlet. And, like every other life situation, an opportunity to either get closer to, or further from, Hashem.

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