I don't know how to write this article.
The issue feels too complex, but I must find the extent at which to discuss it as cohesively as possible.
I find myself jaded by the thought of the Super Bowl this Sunday.
Maybe that's because I'm not a fan of the Steelers or Packers. Fan allegiance, though, has never stopped me from being interested.
Maybe it's the thought of another round of acid trip commercials. Maybe it's the thought of Ben Roethlisberger winning another Super Bowl ring.
I spent a year of writing articles in which I questioned the collective willingness to ignore the accusations of rape against Roethlisberger. I brought up the issue of Bad Ben one night in a Bible study group at Eastern Washington U. The issue bothered me.
We prayed for him. Why? Because Bad Ben was hardly the type of person who should be a role model. Well, I guess God gave an ironic response. Right now, Bad Ben seems to have gotten his life together, all so the hated Steelers can potentially win another Super Bowl.
But okay, I guess I will learn to live with that.
Yet, the idea of the NFL shutting down for an entire season, if not more, hearkens back to the baseball strike of 1994. At least, it does for me. I was 11 at the time.
I never believed in Santa, leprechauns, the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny. I was a cynical kid. Yet, I believed in movies like The Sandlot. I guess you could say that I believed in baseball.
There isn't much that pierces my cynicism. I don't say that to sound cool or superior, because frankly, it sucks. I used to wonder what it would be like to simply follow the leader and how much easier that would be, but would always conclude that it wasn't worth it.
Baseball, however, was the Trojan horse. After the strike, the national pastime had become a national joke, either despised or simply disregarded for other sports.
One of the people who "suddenly" despised it was none other then my dad. In truth, it merely exposed what he had known for years.
Baseball was the only sport that I wanted to play, but that then seemed like a dead end. It, however, was the only sport where I could imagine a great play and then do it. Sports, when done right, are tests of the imagination and whether you have the skills to live out your imagination. A test of whether you can be vision in your mind.
Imagination when done right is the heart of enlightenment. Just ask Albert Einstein.
All I was left with was the cognitive dissonance, alienation and existential loneliness we all ultimately feel from the compartmentalization of our search for belonging, while also enduring the pains of surviving.
They were killing me, Smalls.
Still I wonder whether if that resulted from my cynicism or that they bastardized my reality.
But the more I've thought about it over the years, I've concluded that it was a trauma that bordered on emotional abuse. It was the proverbial middle finger and "f*ck you."
And then people wonder why I don't hesitate to trash talk or cook up nicknames for athletes like, "Brady the Bastard-Maker."
They say it's just a game and others repeat the cliche that it's life. I don't claim to know what it is or isn't, but simply what it was to me.
And if you want to mock me for that, then so be it.
But that is not the point of this article. The point of those ruminations is that I see no difference between then and now, except a difference in the sport at hand and my experience since then.
I've seen this all before. Both can be summarized as follows: Owners and players are fighting over a pile of money they made by enticing fans with vicarious delusions of grandeur, just like the baseball players of yore.
Their humanity is merely a manipulative calculation fueled by the flames of greed and then superimposed onto all those who follow.
It's a catch-22. But deep down, I still don't fully understand it. The only idea in sports that makes sense to me and seems above subjective reality is, "Just win, baby." Victory is not relative. You've either won or lost.
To be horribly trite only for the sake of irony, I will quote the Simpsons character Helen Lovejoy, "Won't somebody please think of the children?"
And by that I don't mean all the children of Antonio Cromartie.