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Notes From a Survivor: An Adventure in the Land Football Forgot

In Europe, there is an enormously popular television show called "Survivor". In it, a group of contestants are whisked away to a remote location and left to survive as best they can. Each week, one of them is voted out by the rest, and the last one left wins a huge sum of money.
Unbeknownst to most people, however, there is another version of this show, a football one. On this show, the contestants are whisked away from their familiar football-loving environment and forced to survive without any football at all. Are you prepared to take the No-Football challenge? Yes? Right, come with me now, then, as we journey to the land football forgot. Our destination - the United States!
Here, you are surrounded by football. On the radio, it's the favorite topic for hosts and guest on sports call-in shows. It makes the front pages of the sports sections in newspapers. There is even an entire TV network devoted to it. The more you listen and read, however, the more a feeling of horror engulfs you. This is not football. This is American football. Soon, you realize that you will have to take desperate measures. Somewhere, out there, there must be a land where your club still plays, where someone still knows the pleasure of meeting up in a pub and then making the trip to the stadium for a glorious afternoon cheering yourself hoarse for your club. Here, in the US, on a Saturday morning, very early, you huddle around your computer, listening to the scratchy sounds of your club playing over the internet.
As you do so, you reflect on these curious natives around you. Why on earth would they want to run up and down a pitch and pound each other into the dust when they could play the graceful game of football instead? And you begin to realise that sports are a reflection of culture, and that American football and British football each reflect their respective cultures.
True football (as we know it) is a community sport. It is meant to draw people together. This reflects the British landscape. With so many people crowded into such a small space, Britons have had to learn over the centuries how to get along with each other. What better way than by playing a team sport such as football? Although the entire community couldn't play, they could all watch and feel a part of the team.
Paradoxically, however, Britons also hold back. They are very reticent and reserved. With such a limited physical space, they had to put up mental and emotional walls. They tend to hide their passionate natures behind a sardonic exterior. Subtle, more reserved than say, American football, true football expresses the British temperament.
America and Americans, though, are exactly the opposite of everything described above. For one thing, it is a distinctly non-communal place. Indeed, many of its earliest founders went there to get away from communities. Once there, they discovered the seemingly boundless wilderness and prairies. Over the years, the American temperament evolved so that they developed a fierce independence, to the point of being what the rest of the world considers almost rude. The key to understanding Americans and their sports is to remember that in the early days they didn't have to get along with one another. If you didn't like your neighbor, you simply packed up and kept going until you found a new spot to live without any neighbors. Simple solution for a simple problem.
The rise of American sports reflected this, especially American football. The aim of that particular game is pretty straightforward: pick up the ball and smash through all the other teams' players until you get to end of the field. Simple. Direct. Blunt and to the point. Just like the American character. Wimpy sports like soccer, where a bunch of grown men run around and around a field like sissies, trying to get a ball to one end of the field without using their hands, just don't cut it in America. It would be so much easier and faster, they say, if you just picked up the stupid thing and steamrollered anyone who got in your way!
Such insights may bring you enlightenment, but they do not bring you relief in your exile from the land of football. And so you sigh with relief as you are eliminated from the competition and sent back home again. A million pounds might be a lot of money, but nothing can buy the joy of watching true football.
Adapted and reproduced courtesy of


by Lolly Lummus


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