Understanding Cultural Codes- Football Edition

The Vikings beat the Seahawks yesterday 30-17. That may not sound like much if you don’t follow the Vikings, or the Seahawks. But it is a big deal. Russell Wilson has lead his Seattle football team right up to the threshold of the Super Bowl for the last three years running. Whereas the Vikings lost their previous game by going wide on an easy field goal in the last minutes of the game.

I was back in my twenties when I realized what it was to be a football fan, part of the football culture. I was working at a bank with a bunch of guys and the sports talk was nonstop. I couldn’t figure it out. It sounded as dull as the first line of this blog to anyone who doesn’t follow the Vikings or the Seahawks. What could be so dang exciting about the scores of athletic events that run on the TV throughout the weekend?

I started listening to their chatter a little closer. One day after work, we were headed over to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis (now long gone and replaced by the US Bank Stadium) as they had heard that Shaq O’Neil, a new rising basketball star, was in town and you could watch him practice. I was fascinated. They were so involved in the sport that they knew the youngest brightest player, and how to get a glimpse of him during a practice.

That was a watershed moment, when what it was to be part of the culture came into view. What was before me was multi-dimensional. It had history. It was not a bunch of scores and dates– even though that is the product which is most visible, most talked about. And there was the factor of time as well.

What gives sport fans emotion and compelling interest and utmost devotion to their teams is an understanding of what is being accomplished in the context of where the team has been. There’s the medical side of things with injuries and rehabilitations. There’s the training or education part of things with bringing along new recruits. There’s the stability part of things with the knowledge of the mature players. There’s the management side of things with coaches and agents. There’s economic side of things with trading and ginormous salaries. There’s a whole culture to football which is complex to follow.

That’s what makes it exciting. That’s what the fans are investing in their time and interest, supporting their favorites with viewing hours and ticket sales. They are the audience in the whole apparatus of football culture. And they love it!

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