My good friend and colleague, Rabbi Hassan, recently posted a piece about the Seahawks game and the laws of Shabbat. You can see it here: It’s going to be very challenging for the community of devout Jews to wait until after Shabbat, but I am certain we will rise to the challenge! Kol Hakavod to Rabbi Hassan for clarifying proper Shabbat behavior.

Which brings me to the broader issue of being a fan. I may have told several people, perhaps even announced publicly, a couple of years ago, that I was planning to discontinue my role as a spectator of professional football. At the time, it seemed obvious to me that NFL football is the modern equivalent of the ancient gladiators.

My assessment seems to be supported by various writers out there, including this article in the Guardian, here and this article by a blogger, to name but a few…. here

Add to that the recent findings in the PBS documentary: “League of Denial: The NFL’s Concussion Crisis”.  Football is a dangerous sport!

To see the full film, click here

Everyone is going to have to answer to his/her actions (hopefully, after 120 years!), and I guess I am going to have to justify my continued interest in football, expressed in my decision to watch healthy portions of NFL games and highlights; I will have to explain to the Creator the additional snacks, be they popcorn or pretzel-based, consumed by yours truly at the two-minute warning.

I will have to somehow reconcile the fact that my own children’s safety (“Put your helmet on when you go bike riding!”) weighs heavily on me, while I exhibit supreme indifference to the 10,000 mini-concussive events experienced by the average lineman in the course of his NFL career…

Being a fan of any professional sport simply does not make much sense. It’s essentially a vicarious experience. When our team wins, we win. For significant streteches of time (how long is the football season, five months?) we experience emotional ups and downs along with our team. 

A head coaching job is a major promotion for an offensive or defensive coordinator, both professionally and financially. Head coaches earn between 2.5 and 7.5 million dollars a year. The pride that a fan feels for a team and its coaches is rooted in one’s pride for his city, since the players and coaching staff represent the city. And yet minutes after a Super Bowl, the devotion to the team may well make way for a lucrative offer from a rival city…..

I recently heard on the radio that the current offensive and defensive coordinators of the Seahawks are on the verge of interviewing for positions with other NFL teams.

Money talks!

In a recent article, University of Akron psychology Professor Ronald Levant explained that rooting for sports teams and athletes provides a sense of belonging for fans — known as sports identification. And sports offer an escape from the daily grind of work and life. Rooting for a team also bolsters self-esteem and creates a sense of pride. Even if it is basking in the glow of a single victory. “Identifying with your sports teams is one of the ways you can vicariously experience success, and in real life, success is hard,” said Levant, who specializes in the psychology of men and masculinity. “We have ups and downs, a lot of things don’t always go our way ... especially in this economy.”

In a surprisingly frank comment, Levant said, “I would experience kind of the July thrill and the August depression,” referring to his team’s late-season slumps. “Just because I’m a psychologist doesn’t mean I’m any saner than any of the other people.” 

Well put!

Prof. Allen McConnell of Miami University notes that some who are not sports fans sometimes “pooh-pooh sports fans as boorish (and) people who just live for tailgating or ... for the playoffs. Everyone has those needs, so the person who may pooh-pooh the football fan or the basketball fan may be a vehement supporter of local opera or ballet.”

I’m not sure I completely understand McConnell’s comparison; after all, a supporter of the arts values that art form per se.  Sure, football is entertaining; but it’s an entertainment rooted in stirring up an often intoxicated fan base obsessed with hard hits, intense competition and fierce rivalries. Take the noise level at Century Link Field. With all due respect to Prof. McConnell, I don’t remember the last time the Seattle Opera’s audience applause registered as a seismological event.

Here’s wishing the entire community a meaningful and restful Shabbat.

Oh, and yes…GO HAWKS!