If you're like me, much of the last week of your life has been spent alternately avoiding and ravenously searching out every dispatch from the human storm that has descended on Ferguson, Missouri.
Without getting too political: A young man is dead, and things are broken, and the fallout from Michael Brown being shot and killed on a residential street in full view of the world promises to be almost as painful as the incident itself. The story has forced me, and many others, to again grapple with the scabrous history of the United States and equality, and it has shocked and dismayed and horrified, with the moments for hope few and far between.
And you know what? There will be hours, maybe full days, this fall when that, and every other tragedy that has occurred, is occurring, or will occur on the planet, will mean nothing to me.
I linked Brian Phillips's piece on how the NFL sets the tone for our culture in Chomping at Bits this morning because I thought it was important and well-written, and because I think he's right: The NFL and many of the toxic elements of American culture go hand in hand, instead of the NFL using its considerable power, real and psychic, to do good.
But while he rightly decries the positioning of the NFL as an imagined refuge from politics, macro- or micro-level, he's also ignoring the fact that, for even some of the more patriarchy-wearied and ism-averse among us, sports provide an escape, however brief, from the awfulnesses of the world. It's not going to make me any less upset about Mike Brown, in the long-term, for me to spend three hours cheering for Vernon Hargreaves III against Idaho — and that's not going to make me any less observant of the iniquities in college football, either.
I have this theory about stress, which is supported by study after study on the effects of living in poverty, that leads me to try to avoid as much of it as possible, especially when I know I'm stressed. I go to $1 movies on Tuesdays because it's an escape. I play FIFA for hours. I read Animorphs books 10 years after they were socially acceptable for me to read and discuss.
And I watch sports.
One can escape the bad by fleeing to the good, if only for moments, and one might actually be healthier for reducing one's diet of stressors. This fall, I will, and I hope it makes me feel good, or at least a little better.
I won't be alone. And I won't be wrong.