Thursday, March 08, 2007

Why I Hate Football

Today is Blog Against Sexism Day.

I'll admit, I have watched a game or two. I have even found myself getting excited when a player catches the ball and runs to the end zone. I am enough of a sports geek to appreciate the good moments and enough of a body geek to appreciate the athleticism of the game at its best. However, I usually have a hard time watching as I am generally sickened by the images of gigantic men pounding into one another, jumping on top of one another, flying over the heads of other players and slamming full force into the turf. I know how it feels to fall down and have the wind knocked out of me and I know that the human body is not really designed to bounce. I don't like being tackled and pummeled by my 27 pound two year old, I can't imagine what it would feel like to have 3 250 pound men flatten me to the ground.

All that being said, however, the truth is that it isn't the viewing of football that makes me throw a fit and demand the channel be changed, it is the sound of it. Every time I hear that Ba Bum Ba Ba, the lead in to the commercials, the aural reminder that THIS IS FOOTBALL, it is like hearing the iron bars of a prison slamming shut. I start to panic and hyperventilate.

For many years, I credited this involuntary response to my academic behavior in high school. I went to a high-powered Jesuit college prep which took itself very seriously. The teachers all seemed to compete with one another to see who could assign us the most homework. As much of a goody two shoes as I was in the eyes of my fellow classmates (don't drink, don't smoke, never been kissed) I also had a pretty bitter view towards authority and refused to do any of the homework until the last possible moment. So Sundays were spent in my pyjamas, desperately trying to get all the homework done. My dad was somewhere in the house watching football and I couldn't block out the sounds of he game. So I assumed this conditioned me to hear that Ba Bum Ba Ba and think "I'll never get that paper written by tomorrow." Easy.

Except that wasn't really what I was thinking. The thought that would go through my head was, "Don't even think of leaving. The world is less safe for awhile."

So the Chicago Bears made it to the Superbowl this year and I started to wonder at my response to the sounds of football. And then I remembered.

My mother was a high school teacher at an inner city school for a number of years and found herself in the position of confidant to many students. One of the stories she would tell me was how one of her students was raped during the Superbowl and how, though she screamed, no one bothered even calling the police, either because they couldn't hear her over the sound of the tv set or didn't want to spend any time away from the game.

I can't remember this story making much of an impression upon me when I was younger--I mean, I had heard of Kitty Genovese, I knew I couldn't depend on the kindness (or even the basic humanity) of strangers. I was smart and wouldn't find myself in that position, ever, and I had taken self-defense classes. This would never happen to me. But somehow the story seeped in through the cracks of my consciousness and left its mark. And as I got older, I became less confident of my ability to avoid evil and more aware of the dangers that befall even smart women. A girl in my acting class was mugged and never saw the assailant--she remembered walking down the street and then she woke up, with her purse missing and a huge lump on the back of her head. The former neighbor of a woman I worked with was raped, cut up, and left for dead by a man who crawled through her window. The sex offender registry showed me the number of predators in my zip code. Suddenly the statistics that 80 percent of rapes are committed by someone known to the victim seemed less comforting (not that it was ever intended to be comforting) because it meant that 20 percent of rapes are the stereotypical "stranger danger" ones we are taught to fear. I realized I'd have to start following sports, if only to know when the important games were on, the ones which people might deem as too important to miss, more important than finding out where the creams are coming from.

So that innocuous, incessant Ba Bum Ba Ba serves as a reminder to me that I am not safe. It reminds me that there are predators out there and that if I should encounter one, no one will come when I call. It reminds me of how we were told in those high school self defense classes to yell "FIRE" and not "HELP." It reminds me not to leave the house until the game is over. And it fills me with rage. Rage that we still live in a society where this could happen to anyone. Rage that for all the so-called strides we have made in this country with regards to women's rights, we still have the highest rape rate (of countries which report such statistics). Rage that only 2% of rapists are convicted. Rage that screaming out statistics (found here, here, and here) seems as effective as screaming for help in an empty alley.

So, yeah, I really hate football.

2 Comments:

Anonymous blackbeltmama said...

They say that Super Bowl Sunday is the worst day for domestic violence against women.

I think the best thing you can do for yourself is feel confident and trained in dealing with such a situation. Having "action plans" that have been worked out in your head for what you would do in situations can help to ease your fears.

I think you should start taking some karate classes. I used to sleep in my bed with an upside down hammer between the mattress and the nightstand, and now the hammer has been replaced with nunchaku. I pity the fool who ever breaks into my house. ;-)

1:50 PM, March 08, 2007  
Anonymous thordora said...

I'm with BBM-you're not paranoid unless they really are out to get you.

I told my husband the other night that I don't fear walking late in the dark because i expect and am ready for something to happen. I am on alert, and always have been.

better to be prepared.

I'll be teaching my daughters that they fight-I have a LOT of complaints with how women have always been taught to "go with it" and not fight back. Screw that action. Fight! We need to be reconditioned to have the attack reaction, not the shut down response.

And fuck football. I cannot STAND that sport.

11:21 AM, March 13, 2007  

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