Yesterday I abstained from the Superbowl so I could catch up on homework, like a responsible citizen. While everyone else I knew (with a few exceptions) was having an intensely emotional reaction to some sort of sportsing mishap, I was reading an Educational Psychology textbook and still vacillating about what I wanted to do my thesis proposal on.
I’ve felt emotionally pummeled in more way than one, this past week. It’s been a week of attempted suicides, public figures having sex-change operations and being eviscerated by the press for it, three year old children shooting their parents with a loaded gun they found in a handbag, global warming studies being more or less ignored, and oh so much more. It’s been a week of listening to my author friends express their concerns about the changing publishing landscape, reading my classmate’s heart-rending journal entries about the fears their preschool children have about being black in a white justice system, and trying not to get dragged down in unending debates about the widening education gap. Oh, then there’s the continuing struggle of women to be respected in the workplace and “reverse misogyny” and all of that other stuff, which I seriously don’t even want to contemplate being a thing that people actually discuss.
As I sat on my couch trying to decide what, given the breadth to write about anything at all I could research, I wanted to say, I found myself coming up completely empty.
I wish I could write a thesis about why people just have to stop being so incredibly shitty to each other, but a thesis proposal called “please stop being dicks, ‘kay?” just doesn’t seem all that professional.
I found myself, at one point in time, actually being asked to defend the fact that I didn’t care more about football. No, really, someone asked me why I posted a meme that I thought was funny, in which a grumpy cat said that it wished both teams would lose, and they wanted to know why I was being a jerk about football since football is a beautiful expression of group passions. It’s like a coming of age ritual, it’s like a pseudo-religious expression of community and togetherness. Which I do understand, mind you. I get how football is a way for people to bond, it builds a sense of community and it also becomes a way to express frustrations and hopes and even aggression that otherwise society would diminish. Football isn’t just a meaningless sport. Just as the gladiators of Ancient Rome and the Warriors of the Aztec engaged in ritualistic aggression to assuage the frustrations of the populace, we’ve got our muscular men in tight pants throwing pigskin around so we have a way to assuage our own angst- and it works. Look at the painted faces in the crowd and you can see how it, like a good old fashioned tent revival, gives us somewhere to pin our hopes and leave our anger.
But what interests me is the fact that we can be SO passionate about a game, while there is all this other meaningful stuff that we brush aside. How many children have been killed by guns since Sandy Hook elementary? How many transexuals have been beaten or shamed in the past year? How many suicides have their been? How many children have had their educations trampled into the dirt by persistent inequality?
But god save us, we care about football.
If we took an ounce of that passion, an ounce of that funding, imagine what a difference we could make.
But oh, a friend points out that football makes us feel good and talking about teen suicide rates or child death rates does not.
If only educating our children were a game, then maybe people would stop rolling their eyes when we talk about the literacy gap. If only.
But in the meantime, I drafted a thesis proposal about how systemic poverty affects the education system. My kids came home from watching the game and my son asked me if we can still root for the Seahawks since they are losers now, and we have a good talk about how no one can win every game and what makes someone a great sportsman over time is how they play every game, even the ones they lose; people aren’t only defined by winning.
And we talked about how we all have times when we feel like we “lose” in our own lives and we need to keep rooting for ourselves, anyway.
And I laid in bed late at night, thinking about all of the fights I’ll probably pick up in my own career, knowing that I’ll probably lose them.
And I wished I’d drafted a thesis proposal entitled, “don’t be dicks.”