Monday, June 13, 2011

When in Rome Part Two...

Tyler Durden: Hey, you created me. I didn’t create some loser alter-ego to make myself feel better.

Ever walked into a college poster sale? It’s exactly what it sounds like. Large images tailored specifically for young men with a small section of generic coffee house images and Salvador Dali reprints. But regardless of where and when this poster sale visit may happen, I would be willing to bet the cash in my wallet (currently $12) you’ll find Tyler Durden’s bruised and bloodied face on one of those wall sized images.

If you are a male between the ages of 35 and 20, there’s a good chance watching/reading Fight Club somehow affected your path to manhood. The story of a white collar bachelor embracing his primal alter ego resonated its way through my generation like a Playboy through a boot camp barrack. Just ask any man on the the street the rules of fight club. I’ll bet another $12 he knows them.

Differing from other blockbusters, this film’s popularity is more Beowulf than Titanic. Fight Club spoke to something buried deep within me; a part of me that longed to be a conquerer with bloody knuckles. Like thousands of other young men, my friends and I in high school started our own fight club. We met in a cinder block building, paired up with someone our size, and fought. The bouts were more often an embarrassment, but we saw them as epic.

In my previous post, I posed the question of why we watch professional football, a sport that leaves its players crippled physically, mentally, and emotionally, with such religious fervor. The answer may have more to do with our basic, core selves.

Risking life and well being for the glory of victory are themes as old as athletics and are not new to American football. Ancient Mesoamerican cultures (Mayan, Aztec, etc.) typically used losers of a “ballgame” as human sacrifices in religious ceremonies and the gladiator events of Rome were based entirely around one man killing another.

This running theme of dominance over an opponent has now evolved into it’s current manifestation; the NFL. In a highly structured form of Fight Club, the line of scrimmage is the 2011 version of what’s always been a part of human history. Watching lineman crash into each other bears a striking resemblance to the 500 year old sport of sumo wrestling. When stripped to an even simpler form, lineman look more like big horn sheep fighting over a female.

To think of football (or sports in general) rationally is to admit it’s absurd. With everything we are learning about concussions and the effects of traumatic hits to the head, playing professional football is as logical as starting smoking when you’re 25. You’ll easily find yourself quoting Jerry Seinfeld in what will ultimately be a depressing conversation; “We chose instead to make little plastic hats so that we can continue our head crackin’ lifestyles.”

What is even more absurd than the fact that we play football is that the Dallas Cowboys are worth $1.8 billion and every seat in their monstrous over priced stadium (average $160 a seat) is sold out for every game.

Could it be that experiencing powerful, violent competition is as essential as sex or friendship? And the NFL is the most accessible outlet for these cravings of our suppressed alter-egos? ESPN Radio’s Colin Cowherd said America has an addiction to football. The owners can continue the lockout as long as they want because they know we’re coming back. The NFL is where we get our fix.

There are those who satisfy this part of themselves through other means. Skydivers, Wall Street executives, and entrepreneurs are all tapping into the same risk taking alter ego. For the average, “play it safe” citizen, though, these risks are simply not possible or too... risky.

Therefore, the base for our debilitating addiction to the NFL stems from a widespread inability to risk everything for glory. Whether its family, career, or phobias, a sense of self preservation or responsibility to another person drives someone from danger, yet the  inner Tyler Durden brings them to sit in the stands to see someone else put their health and well-being on the line to achieve greatness.

To be continued....

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