Locked Out

I'm weirdly giddy about the NFL work stoppage.


Increasingly, I feel a personal reckoning coming for me and the game I've loved since I was five. Much like diet choices, I don't have much interest in the objective question ("Is football immoral?") And much like diet choices, I feel a slow change (in my case toward the vegetarian) coming over me. I wish I could say it's just the head injuries. But it's also how big the thing has become. I'm not so anti-populist to dislike something just because a lot of other people like it. But pro football is gigantic, and the people behind it know it, and--as is their right--they're selling every inch of it. I heard the complaints about the overhype around this year's Super Bowl. I didn't watch, but I actually have felt the creep of overhype since the weekend after 9/11. That was the Sunday when playing and consuming pro football was portrayed as an act of patriotism. I like patriotism--just not the kind you buy.

It's disturbing to grow apart from things you love, and things that connect you to a greater community. In trying to avoid meat, I've found that it's not simply the act of consuming that's delicious, it's the communalism of the consuming, the sense that eating a hamburger, or a steak, connects you with the country you love. Unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoy tofu--but it it's never been communal for me. If anything, it's been dissident. 

In that sense, in losing football, in losing meat, in losing comic books, in losing hip-hop, I am losing whole languages, whole ways of being and connecting with people. Where I am going and who will greet me when I get there? And who among them will actually understand, will require no translation, when I start quoting Biggie?

I remember when everything was certain. No more.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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