Saying Goodbye to Football

In September 2001 I started watching American Football – the NFL. I had watched it a little as a kid, but never really bought into it. I always preferred to play sports than to watch them (especially baseball), but I had some good memories of the few Super Bowls I’d watched.

Anyway, after the horrible events of 9/11, I decided that I needed something light and “all-American” to take my mind off of the strangeness of the world. Needless to say, I realize that football is its own kind of strangeness. I knew that then. But I was looking for something normal to participate in. I could talk about it with people instead of talking about terrorism or war.

As an artist I was stereotypical: basically uninterested in barbaric, chauvinistic feats of strength. I got over myself a bit, however, and began to pay attention to what was swiftly becoming America’s real pastime. I took sides. I was a Manning fan.

Most of the time I watched the game were Manning/Brady years. People hotly debated their relative status in the contest of best ever quarterbacks, and I joined in. Ultimately it wasn’t close. Brady certainly is the best.

img_1997

Of course, I hated Brady with a passion. Winners always garner the most vociferous hate. Peyton Manning just wasn’t good enough. Yes, one of the best. Yes, perhaps he had a couple of the single best years in the history of the game. But he played on teams that should have won many, many championships. They – he – just couldn’t seal the deal, and a couple lack-luster Super Bowl wins don’t make up for it.

img_1995Peyton always had horrible happy feet and got nervous any time he didn’t have complete control. He was great in a dome, with no wind, at 70 degrees, and with a decent offensive line. Brady was great anywhere, any time.

I did get to experience the glory of seeing the Giants dash the hopes and dreams of Brady’s Patriots not once, but twice. Though Eli sure is dorky, thank The Christ for David Tyree’s helmet in 2007 and Ahmad Bradshaw’s flop into the end zone five years later.

img_1996But a lot of things have changed. I have four kids. I had a heart attack. There are just so many more things I need to focus on, and so many more things to be aware of. In an era of continued war, of human trafficking, of terrorism near and far, of climate change, of idiots running the show… well, I just can’t see my way to give energy to a game. I guess cardiac arrest will do that to you, maybe. I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment of the NFL, concussions and all. I just don’t enjoy it any more.

I have to admit that I’m sort of excited to be heading into the new semester and fall season without anticipating football. Those Sunday afternoons will feature lots of relaxing, playing with the kids, reading, writing, making art, and generally making good use of my time. And who knows, maybe we’ll turn a game on once in a while.

Maybe.

Ground Zero

In 2004 my cousin Chris and I made a trip to New York City. We visited Ground Zero and toured around the site, getting a view of the excavation, and seeing how the very early stages of construction were going. This was before any of the current layout for the area was even agreed upon. There was an impromptu memorial set up in the early days of the recovery – a cross made from some of the material left after the obliteration of the Twin Towers. By the time Chris and I arrived it was set aside, lit, and visited by many thousands of visitors. Here’s one of the images we took.

9-11-iron-cross

The aftermath of 9/11 is, unfortunately, mostly related to our National response to the events of that day… we can pretend that it’s about terrorism and extremism, but the negative changes are much more about the ways our leaders chose to articulate themselves  – and us with them – in the world. The world in which we have lived for the last 15 years is a result of those choices. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have been killed. Millions are displaced. The electorate of this country is fractured and disheartened. ISIS rose from the ashes of those we killed. A cross should stand for redemption and hope. Unfortunately, we can see after all of these years that we are more scared, more disrespected, and more disrespectful as a country than we were back then.

I hope we regroup and regrow. There were moments of passion, good faith, and love in the days, weeks, and years that followed 9/11. We must nurture those better angels. I hope we will, for my children and for my children’s children.

There’s still a chance to look at what we once refused to see.

There’s still a chance to come back and no longer “become the evil we deplore.”

~

 

 

Where I was on 9/11/01

I was here, in a tiny studio apartment…

…on Hinman Avenue in Evanston, IL. Alison called me and woke me up after the first plane hit.

I was working on this painting at the time… but I stopped.

I didn’t do anything for about a week – just TV coverage.

A few weeks later I’d start working at Good’s of Evanston, just down the street…