Football Friday

I never thought this day would come.

When I started basing my post topics on days of the week, I'd mentally made a note that "Fiction Fridays" was going to happen. One of these weeks, I told myself, I'd finally nut up and write a short story or a scene from the novel I keep imagining in my brain. However, more urgent, pressing matters have forced my hand. And I have only one person to blame:

Nancy Alcorn.

That's right. That little nugget of YouTube's electronic gold is Nancy Alcorn and Mercy Ministries' football playoff special. In case you are at work, pressed for time, or on a slow connection, I will hit some of the highlights from the clip.

Item the first. Nancy is an enormous Tennessee Titans fan. At first I thought this was ironic, since the Titans are Dave's favorite team and have been since he was a young boy and saw them do great things as the Houston Oilers. So I called him over from watching the Twilight Zone so he could share my incredulity.

Item the second. Mercy Ministries has a "Titan Day", where everybody gets to wear Titans stuff and perhaps celebrate in some fashion. There is, however, one person who is allowed to wear another team's jersey: Mandy Pryce, their fitness director, whose brother Trevor Pryce is a defensive tackle for the Ravens. (Later on in the video, Nancy mentions a couple of times how good Mandy looks in her purple Ravens gear, which had me cocking my eyebrow and cracking lesbian innuendo jokes at Dave. Then again, we see innuendo everywhere, so it might just be the eye of the beholder.)

Item the third. At about 1:56, Nancy mentions that Titans coach Jeff Fisher writes Mercy Ministries a check for $10,000 every time the Titans win a game. Dave said, "All right, I'm not gonna wait, it's time to find a new team." He went and got a pad of paper. "Can you find me a random number generator?" I did, and we got to generatin'.
Starting from a list of teams in some order he came up with:
1 in 32:
9- steelers
7- texans
The Steelers he deemed an unfit choice, as they are hot right now and it would be a bandwagony thing to do. And as anyone who's played Mafia on a message board knows, bandwagoning is the surest way to ruin one's credibility as a group member. Same in sports fandom as it is in Mafia. The Texans were a respectable choice, and after some waffling, he decided to stick with that result. Darlin', I salute you.

But watching that video filled my head with a number of thoughts.

The most inane was definitely this: I'm no longer on the front page of Followers. It's most likely due to new people signing up to follow Nancy's blog. Though I couldn't help but feel some imaginary pride at the thought that maybe I'd gotten moved off the front page for being a critic instead of a supporter. Eye of the beholder, eh?

Another thought was less silly. Mercy doesn't have a "football day", where people at differing levels of recovery, who are struggling with different issues, can each support their own teams. If they did it that way, girls at different stages of recovery who were struggling with different things could have something personal to talk about other than their problems. It could be an opportunity for a girl who might see herself in terms of a mental illness, a victimization, an addiction, to have another aspect of her personality validated by the group.

Instead, it is an opportunity for everyone to root for Nancy's team. Sports fandom exists today as an avenue of social bonding. It's about as morally neutral as you can get, suitable for all ages, and except for a few rare cases, unlikely to lead to laws being broken or people or animals getting killed. So there is no rational reason why Nancy would need to use her fiat powers to force everyone in the facility to root for her team, and her team alone. The explanation that makes the most sense to me is that it is a means by which to exert emotional dominance. And such, for a person who craves emotional dominance, is never to be passed up. Even if the subject matter is not controversial, even if refraining would have overall benefits for the group.

And for dog's sake, look at how she phrases the thing. The last time the Titans and Ravens played, the Ravens won. They did so (according to Nancy: I didn't watch the game) because Mandy's brother blocked a punt near the end of the game which would have put the Titans over the top. Thus depriving Nancy of the ten grand Jeff Fisher would have given to her. Presumably, on Fisher's part, this is a superstitious way of thanking God for his team's success: "Thanks, God, for making sure we all did our jobs better than the other guys today. Here's a little something. Keep up the good work." But Nancy--only, I swear, half joking!--tsks at Mandy because Trevor hasn't sent Nancy $10,000 of his money to make up for depriving Nancy's favorite team of the win. She even encourages viewers to write Trevor and guilt him into sending her the money.

Leaving aside the icky extortiony overtones, it's very, very likely that Trevor Pryce prays to God and/or is a Christian. A significant proportion of NFL players talk the Christian talk as easily as they rattle off sports cliches, and it's equally difficult to tell who is sincere and to what degree. I recall a recent sideline interview where a player was asked, "What do you credit with your, and your team's, outstanding success today?" and he replied, "Well, obviously prayer." Such senitments are sufficiently common that neither the player nor the reporter anyone else saw anything the least bit unusual about it.

My feelings are best expressed here with a Simpsons quote:

Lisa (as Joan of Arc): God, you told me to lead the French to victory!
Groundskeeper Willie (as Oliver Cromwell): Hey, ya two-timin' spot of light! Ya tol' me ta lead tha English ta victory!

I think sometimes people find it difficult to separate, in their own minds, two very different ideas of God.

There is the God who chooses sides in every conflict and announces his will as the result of armed struggle. That idea fought at the side of crusaders, conquistadors, and colonialists. Its use for football is considerably less harmful, but it is a viciously toxic things to be waving around at the mentally ill or unstable. Or anybody else for that matter. People like Cromwell and Joan all down through the ages, and a lot of people even today, took that idea to its logical conclusion over and over and over again. It leads to violent subjugation, dammit. It is an evil idea.

Then there is the God who looks only upon the heart, loves all people with equal divine desperation. The idea of a God who was willing to cram himself into a sack of meat and get jeered and ostracized and hideously mutilated and killed just to prove to his wonderful, agony-laden, thick-headed darlings that he really does understand. That idea of God can be a really wonderful idea. Belief in it can do amazing things to a person. "Oh! I've done horrible things, but I don't have to be defined by them; I can change. God says so. God could take revenge on me for doing horrible things, and he totally could have, but took it out on himself instead because he doesn't want to lose me. I must be worth saving, so I'm going to try and be a better person!"

It is emotionally lazy as hell to mix the two. The bad idea somehow always seems to win out, like dandelions (pretty and allegedly edible as they are) shoving the green grass out of a lawn. It is shoddy, poser-ass personality construction and I do not condone it. But everyone who freaking does it seems to get away with it.

And now one of THEM found a way to besmirch football, which was already besmirched for various reasons, and I barely liked anyway!


Anonymous said...

Maybe the Titans' loss was a message to them to stop giving $$$$ to a group that abuses young women. I pray the message gets through to them.