I am most decidedly not a sports fan. About the most excited I get sports-wise is around Olympics time. I do like the summer Olympics. I do cheer for the USA, but not exclusively. I have become something of a fan of Korea’s Olympic team, but after all, I live here. And they did do their nation extremely proud last year. I do like soccer very much. Living in Korea, you hear a lot about soccer. I have students who want their English names to be Beckham. I generally, though, do not take sides in the World Cup with one exception. I generally tend to cheer on anybody who is playing against France. I do not like American football. In fact, you might say that I pretty much despise American football. Some might attribute this to treasonous Eurocentrism on my part, but I find nowhere in the Constitution where it explicitly states “all American citizens shall be fans of American football and Congress shall enforce this by appropriate legislation”.
Knowing that there are very strong feelings about American football, that most pointless of human endeavours, I must say with great respect that everybody is entitled to their own opinions in the matter and yours is wrong. I find football a profoundly tedious sport where the clock is stopped for arbitrary reasons and the games seem to go on forever and ever without end. I know that this must sound strange, coming from someone who will sit through a full eighty minute Bruckner or Mahler symphony and what is more, enjoy it. Perhaps I need to learn about football in order to understand the seeming arbitrariness of it all. I never really understood the rules, so I never really enjoyed it. But then again, I really don’t WANT to enjoy it.
There are only two games in which I can get even remotely excited about in American football and neither of them is the Superbowl. Rather, it is the annual BYU-University of Utah game and also when Notre Dame plays BYU. I was raised in the Mormon religion, though I am no longer a member. I am a Catholic, but I have no particular fondness for Notre Dame except when they are playing against BYU. There are, after all, other Catholic universities than Notre Dame in the USA. If Notre Dame loses to BYU, it is no great loss to me personally, but I rather tend to see it as divine retribution for having kept Richard McBrien on the theological faculty for so long. I don’t really have any strong loyalties to any Catholic institution with football teams. I used to live in Salt Lake City. I am, in fact, a proud former resident of Salt Lake City. I do have many fond memories of the place and it still is in some sense home, though I have no immediate family living there. Seeing as the University of Utah football team is the closest SLC is likely to get to having a professional team, my loyalties, assuming that one who doesn’t like the sport to begin with has any, lie with them. I still probably won’t watch the game, though. I’ll check the scores later. But if the Utes lose, it’s no great loss to me. IT’S ONLY A GAME!
To BYU fans, I must say that one of the best talks I ever heard as a young man came from LaVell Edwards. He was speaking over in Eagar, Arizona which is about thirty miles away from my hometown. I was intially skeptical of going. “He’s a football coach! I don’t want to hear football stories for an hour and half!” was what I was thinking as my dad and I drove to the Eagar Stake Centre. Instead an hour and a half of football stories, we heard a lot about life from a man who has lived it a great deal. I am very glad that I heard him speak.
Robert Kirby, a humour columnist for the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a very funny column about the fierceness of the BYU-U of U rivalry. I just can’t get that excited about sports, though I know many people who can. While Kirby doesn’t have great taste in university football teams, he is a very talented writer. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did.