Monday, January 15, 2007

Noam Chomsky is probably the most caustic critic of our sports culture.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor has written on the role of sports, "I suppose that's also one of the basic functions it serves society in general: It occupies the populations, and it keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.
"In fact, I presume that's part of the reason why spectator sports are supported to the degree they are by the dominant institutions," Chomsky wrote.
Chomsky's observation may be accurate as far as it goes. Americans seem to be more concerned about who will win the Super Bowl than who will win the next presidential election.
But in light of our current circumstance here in this flood-ravaged city, Chomsky's analysis seems limited.
Believing in Bush
The things that really matter in our city -- the issues of crime, rebuilding and return -- are so much with us that we can't ignore them.
Even victories by the Saints and LSU won't stem the rage at callous insurance companies and detached political leaders.
But the Saints playoff victory Saturday was probably the single most healing event since Carnival 2006.
What other event could have had a similar impact?
We've had religious services aimed at such healing, but sports binds folks of different denominations and faiths in ways that most priests, imams and rabbis are unable to do.
Not even our music and food, those most emblematic portions of our culture, bring us together in this way.
The bumper stickers welcoming Reggie Bush demonstrate the point brilliantly.
"Finally a Bush we can all agree on," the stickers say in a subtle reference to the fact that the nation is still divided over the Bush occupying the White House.
But we can gather around the coffee pot or the water fountain at work today and find common ground that has no relationship to our political or religious views.
The dream's alive
The Saints are not the champions of the National Football Conference, yet.
They are one win from the Super Bowl. But in the near term, that doesn't matter.
Our city can be fueled by Super Bowl dreams. And given how far we've come this year, even a loss wouldn't be fatal to our spirit.
We've survived on Super Bowl dreams for generations. Regardless of what happens in the next few weeks, these are the most substantive Saints dreams we've ever had.
Some people dream in color. Others in black and white.
We dream in black and gold.

1 comment:

NittanyLion said...

You don't really disagree with Noam Chomsky. He's claiming that we are depoliticized by spectator sports. Distrated from the focus points that would, perhaps, make political activists of us, or make us dangerous. You are suggesting that spectator sports (e.g., the Saints) serve a unifying function for people who socially, politically, or culturally have little in common. I suspect that's looking at the same phenomenon from two different political perspectives--one from the left, one from the right.

It's possible that spectator sports are, in fact, a release for primal urges, e.g. a cathartic substitute for the need for victory in a world where, in fact, everybody is doomed to insignificance. That might explain why my wife has no interest whatsoever in spectator sports--no primal urge for victory. And, this is also another version of depoliticization, I suppose.