America has come to a stop

As I sit here before my computer in my apartment in New York City, smoking a cigar and sipping a Jim Beam, I sense a complete silence and stillness in the world and society around me. I realize that it’s because the entire country is watching the Super Bowl, an activity in which I am not participating. The utter quietness is like that of Christmas Eve, though without, of course, the feeling of holiness. It’s more like a vast psychic deadness.

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Sage McLaughlin writes:

Even though I am an avid fan of football (particularly the college game), I also am not watching the Super Bowl. The gratuitous fawning over the athletes, the insulting awfulness of the advertisements, the outrageous “spectacle” in which all of America self-consciously glories—it all leaves me feeling stupider for having participated. I haven’t watched it in a number of years, because it is pure pagan excess. It is exactly the sort of thing that one expects of a society that is, in Chesterton’s phrase, trying to stab its nerves back to life.

So enjoy your detachment as best you may. I will be sipping a very fine bourbon of my own, listening to Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde. I’m sorry that I can’t be with you.

Kevin H. writes:

I too am missing the Super Bowl, although not really missing it! Instead I am browsing the VFR archives and wondering where it all went wrong with our society. Worse, instead of smoking a good cigar in our Vancouver apartment, I am staring longingly at my humidor, wishing I could light up in my home. Alas, Mrs. H. would not approve.

But the streets are quiet and the weather warm, so I’ll leash up the dog and head outside for my cigar, and take some comfort that you and your readers are on the job.

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Ron K. writes:

Aren’t you being a little uncharitable toward your neighbors? “Complete silence” would be disturbing in Chicago or LA, but it certainly seems forgivable in either of the cities represented in a championship game.

I’ve ignored more than 35 “Big Games” myself, so I understand how you feel. But when my team is involved (as this year) or my wife’s team (last year), we’ll pay attention.

Ignore the hoopla and it can still be innocent fun. (Especially when the politest man in the sport is the winner, as yesterday.) For last year’s, we drove 25 miles to a Wisconsin border town for the sake of particularist authenticity—something a “traditionalist” should appreciate!

Incidentally, Minnesota has been a “Super Bowl-free zone” for 33 years. Don’t ever bring up the subject here, especially if you’re wearing green and/or yellow.

LA replies:

I did not mean to say that people should not watch the Super Bowl if they want to. I was not intending to criticize people for watching it. I was describing my own experience.

February 7

Ron K. replies:


But I was afraid for a moment there you were becoming Pauline Kael (“I don’t know a single person who voted for him!”), extrapolating a Manhattanite’s experience to the whole country. You almost never do that, so it was surprising.

The point I was making was that that particular perspective would be distorted this year, for obvious reasons.

LA replies:

I admit that my “vast psychic deadness” remark sounds uncharacteristically like something a liberal would say about America. It sounds like something Norman Mailer would have said in the Fifties, when he spoke of how America was a sterile, “totalitarian” society. It sounds like the theme of innumerable liberal movies which paint non-liberal or pre-Sixties white America as psychically dead and sexually repressed.

I didn’t mean any of that. But I do have a sense that America’s Super Bowl Cult—the more hyped-up and “exciting” it is, and the more gargantuan and aggressive the players become—is spiritually dead at its core. At the very least, there is something deeply out of whack about a society which faces the urgent crises that our society faces putting this much energy into a game. It seems that the less actual existence we have as a nation and a people, the more fervor we put into the spectacle of grotesquely oversized athletes bashing each other on a field. This is not sports in the good sense. It is a hypertrophy of sports.

As I wrote last November:

This sounds like evidence for Paul Kersey’s thesis. Southerners put all this energy and collective passion into a school sport, while passively allowing the Hispanicization, Islamization, and de-Europeanization of their country. Either their football mania is a compensation for no longer being allowed to defend their culture, or it’s a huge distraction from defending their culture. Either way it seems the height of decadence: all these white people madly cheering on their football teams (whether the players are white or black, it doesn’t matter), all these whites being transported by the passions of “football patriotism,” even as whites are being steadily degraded into a minority in their own country. These whites don’t put one billionth of the energy into defending their threatened culture and civilization that they put into cheering their football teams. That these teams consist largely of black thugs only intensifies the tragedy.

Randy writes:

Regarding your comments on the Super Bowl, I have never understood such fascination with all these spectator sports. I have never had much of an interest in them. Several years ago I did get caught up in one of the Major League baseball playoff series. I was getting very apprehensive and emotional and I saw many in the stadium in the same state. Then it occurred to me that all I was doing was WATCHING the game. That’s all, just watching. I was having absolutely no influence or impact whatsoever. Even in an election, you may have only one vote among millions but you do have an impact. You can contribute to a campaign and try to persuade others to vote for a candidate or cause. In addition, a game has no impact on your life. An election has an enormous impact. With spectator sports there is no involvement or “skin in the game.” How could a person get so excited, worked up, and motivated over something tow which he is making no personal contribution or sacrifice, while at the same time, he has total apathy regarding the most crucial aspects of life? This is a sign of civilizational decline and comes when there is no sense of a higher authority or purpose. Perhaps another manifestation of the inflluence of Darwinism.

LA replies:

Well, I don’t agree with you about sports. After all, when we listen to music, we are not composing or playing music, we are just listening to it. When we read a book or watch a play, we are not writing a book or acting in a play, we are just reading or watching. Yet such “passive” involvement can be very intense and meaningful. Similarly, a sports event can be a very meaningful thing. Only a handful can play, but many can participate in it by watching it. So I don’t think that being a spectator of sports, in and of itself, is a sign of decadence.

The extreme excess of spectator sports in our culture is another matter.

Irv P. writes:

Good commentary on the warped priorities we have as a culture. Wish it wasn’t so. But I do enjoy the games and look forward to watching them, albeit without belonging to the cult.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at February 05, 2012 06:40 PM | Send

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