WHEN a friend who teaches high-school English lamented that some of her students were cutting class to attend the Seahawks Super Bowl victory parade Wednesday, my first thought was, “Go, students!”
I was raised in a university English department by a village of cerebral heavyweights who avoided organized athletic contests and their attendant dubious postgame behavior.
They might make an exception for soccer (because it’s European) or the Olympics (because they’re as old school as Homer), but they would just as soon encourage rampant absenteeism as don team colors, pump their fists in the air and shout, “Go Hawks!”
I understand these people. They are my people — the ones who don’t know what time the game starts, what a 12th Man is or even what those big yellow sticks are at the ends of the field are for. They do not own jerseys, car flags or green wigs. They would — without exception — always rather be reading a book.
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When my husband (himself a fan of literature) started wearing an oversized Seahawks jersey in September and announced he’d be wearing it every Sunday and seeking out a bar or friend’s house with a functional television, I groaned, and not just inwardly. A giant, slippery, synthetic shirt ate my husband, and I was not pleased.
Seattle has felt like home since I moved here from Iowa City more than a decade ago.
They are both towns that elect socialists to city council, are prime UNESCO Cities of Literature and lack recent national championship-winning football teams. At least in my lifetime, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes football team has not won a national title.
Iowa has no major professional sports teams, so I thought nothing of the Sonics being sent up tornado-and-thunderstorm alley or the dismissiveness with which everyone treated the Seahawks’ last Super Bowl appearance. (Was that the year I burned the queso or the time that guy who worked for Paul Allen tried to kiss me?)
I like spending my Sundays (or is it Monday nights?) reading to the kids, taking walks to the duck pond, baking bread and generally behaving as one friend calls it, “A little too ‘Little House on the Prairie.’ ”
But I am not immune to the Super Bowl and having a team in it from my new hometown.
I tentatively made cupcakes with my preschooler and sprinkled green and blue sugar on top. I got my husband a vintage-looking cotton T-shirt to wear under (or, perhaps instead of?) his nylon-mesh jersey. I trekked to Value Village and bought a navy-blue and neon-green striped sweater that I dismantled and turned into festive leg-warmers for myself and my daughters. I made bright green guacamole and insisted the chips be blue corn.
By game day, I’d even granted permission for temporary cheek tattoos and made myself a bracelet with a small football player figurine and wooden beads spelling “W-I-L-S-O-N.” (Hi, Russell! I share a name with the quarterback!)
Yes, football is brutish and punishing and violent and concussive. And yes, school, English class and being present for your own education are tremendously important.
But why must they be pitted against each other? Why can’t students attend the parade and then write thoughtful essays about teamwork, sportsmanship, patriotism, loyalty, mob mentality, sports as religion, branding, marketing, the commodification of sport, racism, rhetoric, power, sexism, elitism or pride?
We should teach our kids that participating is, sometimes, a good thing. Finding a common bond with people different from you is a good thing. Anything that unites us across racial, socioeconomic, gender, religious, educational and political divides — frat boys and hipsters, marathoners and couch potatoes, Cougars and Huskies, residents of Queen Anne, Rainier Valley and Issaquah — is a good thing.
We should encourage our kids to bear witness to and partake in the celebration of excellence and extremely hard work, even if it’s just a game and the players are paid grotesque amounts of money and the whole vibe is more than a little anti-intellectual.
The Seahawks — as my 4-year-old says — did a really good job. And for that they should be given a parade, a deafening cheering section and an A+.
Wilson Diehl’s personal essays have appeared in The New York Times, Salon, Fit Pregnancy and elsewhere. She’s lived in Seattle since 2002.