What Is It About Football?

Almost every September, I vow to myself: “This year’s going to be different. Football has too many injuries and I spend too much time watching it anyway. I’ll spend my time more productively than parked in front of the TV.”

And every year I break my vow.

What is it about this sport that captures our attention in such a unique way?

Why would I — a self-avowed, practicing tennis player — rather watch a good football game than a great tennis match?

Why did I watch last night’s Super Bowl between two teams I care little about?

Sal Paolontonio’s How Football Explains America answers those questions in terms of our national identity and constant need for heroes. It’s a good, provocative read that feels more like its author is a college professor than a sports writer for a big city newspaper.

Yet, for many of us the answer to that question has less to do with Manifest Destiny and more to do with personal nostalgia.

Little boys love to dress up. And what better costume is there than a football player? We love to spend time with our dads and/or older brothers. And what more universal activity is there than throwing a football in the backyard? And we love our heroes larger-than-life — for me as a kid, who was bigger or better than Roger Staubach?

So for a lot of folks, football’s hold has to do with its place in our past. The memories it makes and the nostalgia it shapes.

Which is why you hope that Baylen Brees will somehow “remember” his dad holding him in the middle of the din of a once-in-a-lifetime Super Bowl celebration.