Locked Out

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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. More

Born in 1975, the product of two beautiful parents. Raised in West Baltimore -- not quite The Wire, but sometimes ill all the same. Studied at the Mecca for some years in the mid-'90s. Emerged with a purpose, if not a degree. Slowly migrated up the East Coast with a baby and my beloved, until I reached the shores of Harlem. Wrote some stuff along the way.

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