Lin: Why I don’t care for American football


Angela Lin, Columnist

Here’s an unpopular opinion: I don’t like American football.

I just don’t understand it. And no, I’m not talking about the rules, the players or the strategies. I’m talking about the screaming, face-painted, beer-sloshing madness. In seventh grade, one of my good friends refused to talk to me because I was wearing purple, the color of his pro-football rival team. I’ve also heard countless news stories about people resorting to physical violence because a football game didn’t end in their favor. I thought this ridiculousness was reserved for Black Friday.

Don’t get me wrong. I am American. I was born and raised in Olympia, Wash. I like Beyonce, PB&J and free-market capitalism. However, though I understand that American football is just another social identity permeated by in-group favoritism and self-categorization, I never understood WHY football was “chosen” to be an icon for America. There are so many other things to identify with in America. What about the Second Amendment? The Kardashians? Corn dogs?

Regardless, I managed to hide my sacrilegious indifference to American football all throughout high school. However, coming to Northwestern only increased my fear that everyone would discover my deep secret. I was eventually forced to re-evaluate my own standing with football ideology. I remembered interviewing Associated Student Government President Ani Ajith for a cultural interest story a few weeks earlier. As we approached the subject of diversity within NU, Ani related his own story of coming to NU, emphasizing his willingness to embrace American culture and tradition while staying true to his Indian roots. Such incorporation truly exemplifies the American melting pot, right? I thought about my first experiences here, running onto Ryan Field during the Wildcat Dash: Now was my chance to turn around, to assimilate, to embrace this beautiful, honorable, concussion-causing art. I was tired of hiding, and I was optimistic about changing my views and opinions.

In short, it didn’t happen. I was still surrounded by screaming, face-painted, beer-sloshing madness, and my opinion remained unchanged.

Eventually, panic began to overshadow my indifference. Did my disdain for American football mean I was dispassionate, pretentious and lacking cultural tolerance? What would people think of me? And so I turned to one of my friends who recently found “interest” in professional football. I was hoping to find reassurance – maybe my unpopular opinion wasn’t so unpopular. Our conversation went as follows:

“So why did you start liking football?”

“First, being surrounded by so many Patriots fans made me want to represent my home, and I like how wearing Seahawks gear invites other people to start conversations. Also, watching games was a way to bond with a good friend here who is really interested. So I started watching them with him, but as I came to understand the game better (and got to know the players), I’ve actually become weirdly invested!”

Sigh. So maybe unpopular opinions truly are unpopular. However, all this self-reflection did lead to some sort of a revelation — here comes the most unpopular part of this opinion — I have no desire to understand American football. I say this because I’ve tried, wholeheartedly, with both internal and external incentives, to love this sport.  Although I admit that life would be easier if I could change my opinion, or even continue to hide it, I wouldn’t change it.

Yes, you may be thinking that this is all very dramatic, especially since it’s only about a sport. However, I make this statement because I know it applies to so many people, because I’m not the only one who hides their failure to openly embrace a new experience. So maybe I’m talking about football as an allegory to another matter. Maybe I’m talking about why you pretended to understand “underground electric-dubstep-opera remixes” or why you told everyone you hooked up with three girls this weekend (you watched Netflix instead) or maybe something deeper and simpler, like why you pretended to be happy when you weren’t.

To some extent, a culture where unpopular opinions are overtly deprecated creates a world full of football-crazed, pretentious-music-loving, one-night-stand-having pretenders. I am, of course, exaggerating, but I’d much rather live in a world full of people who genuinely love football, pretentious music and one-night-stands and are actually happy rather than people who pretend to be. Unfortunately, this will never happen if people aren’t completely candid about their views and opinions. Fortunately, I’m a firm believer that misery loves company; people will share their opinions once someone else is the first to break the ice. So, with this, I challenge you to share your true opinions with respect, humility and confidence.

Angela Lin is a Weinberg freshman. She can be reached at [email protected]. If you want to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].