“In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.” -CS Lewis, The Abolition of Man
Football season is upon us once again, capturing the attention of millions of American fans. This multi-billion dollar per year industry brings loyalists across any distance, despite any obstacle, to support their team. But the question is, why?
They come, blindly shuffling in the dark, seeking something, but knowing not what. They flip on the TV searching for a sense of purpose, for something more meaningful than the meaningless drag of modern everyday life. They idolize players and symbols, wearing jerseys and waving flags, defending their teams from criticism more forcefully than they do their God or country. Yet, as the clock runs down to the final minutes, they feel that grip of anxiety. Because they know, after the game ends, they will have to wait for another week before they can capture that feeling of purpose again. Filled with longing, a gripping inquietude, they spend days, months, years, dreaming of 60 minutes of play on a weekend. But they are seeking something greater than football. They simply do not know what.
They are looking for manliness. They seek honor, they seek strength, they seek confidence, they seek courage and virtue. But today all of these things are scorned, covered up, absent in day to day life. These goods are antiquarian, irrelevant in today’s modern world.
Gone are the days of a widespread admiration for the first patriot fighting a war for independence, the grizzled cowboy settling the hostile frontier, the college man storming the beaches of Normandy. No longer do we see a fierce allegiance to simple right and wrong, and a willingness to fight for that belief.
But the human longing for these things cannot be snuffed out.
Today, we have a nation speckled with “safe spaces.” Any display of physical strength in defense of honor is sacrilege; “words not fists” is our mantra. Compassion trumps passion, truth bows to preference, and courage is subordinate to understanding. Pride in our past, pride in nobility, is perhaps the greatest of sins. However noble the intent of those propagating this pernicious passivity may be, the effects have corroded the American soul.
Would Americans today have fired that first shot at Concord?
Would our political leaders today have signed their own death warrant, pledging to each other their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in the name of independence?
How many Nathan Hale’s would be found in America today?
How many college boys of today would charge the beaches of Normandy with a steely resolve that they were fighting for something good, for something true, for something beautiful?
Would Marxist ideology be branded the evil that it is here at home today?
Would sacred truth still be defended at all costs?
Or on an even smaller scale, would that boy catcalling the cute girl get confronted and taught a lesson?
People flock to the NFL because they see remnants of these virtues of masculinity. Though merely a cheap replica, a football game imitates power and strength, courage and resolve, dedication and commitment. The innate longing for virtue is written on the human heart itself, so that masculinity must be obscured and worshiped under a different veil to satisfy its craving. The player fighting through the pain and laying his body on the line to make a tackle becomes a sort of god, while police officer who gets shot holding that thin blue line was merely on the receiving end of an unfortunately styled response to legitimate concerns.
Football is America’s attempt to reconcile her internal contradiction. Man is unique in holding a certain disdain for the dull march of everyday life, though he has a desperation to go on living. That is because today, life has no meaning. Stripping man of virtue’s standard is to strip him of his humanity.
In our stifled search for meaning, we have turned to football to replace those virtues we seek.
You can tell men that nothing is holy. But the heart longs for more.
It’s time for us to lead the brawl for the soul of this country once again.