Confession time. I cried, on Sunday, watching the SuperBowl. This may be surprising to you; I am not, after all, either a Falcons or Patriots fan, and although I am married to a Massachusetts man our household is rather indifferent to sports. You may know that for my whole life I attended schools that lacked football teams (leading to the clever joke: Binghamton football has been undefeated since 1968!). You may know that I literally attended my first football game (ever) at Bishop O’Dowd High School this fall when Claire Kelly and Jim Allardice insisted that I needed to have this important cultural experience. These surprising tears were not even the tears one might shed in jubilation at the most incredible comeback in football history — because I actually didn’t even watch any of the fourth quarter, being at Youth Group already.
But at the beginning of the game I had nothing else to do, and I sat down to watch with my husband. The leading ladies of the musical Hamilton started off singing, and when they asked God for “sisterhood from sea to shining sea” I got a little verklempt, and then out came the president of my childhood to flip the coin, and the tears started to roll. I cried again at some wonderfully artful advertisements urging us to accept one another, to open doors, and to side with women and refugees. Even Lady Gaga made me cry as she flew down from the rooftop proclaiming, like a divine messenger, “this land was made for you and me.”
These strange tears astonished me. I have for years sat through the SuperBowl without ever being interrupted with anything remotely resembling emotion. I have treated the SuperBowl ironically and sarcastically, I’ve prided myself on not knowing who the teams even were, and I even have (once) watched it with the volume all the way down and with classical music playing instead. But this year I felt… well, with no puns for the winners intended, I felt patriotic.
The SuperBowl is as American as apple pie. Perhaps it would be more correct to say it’s as American as apple pie from McDonalds (because, of course, it’s monetized and corporate-controlled but still reliably delivers nostalgia, tradition, and lots of calories)… but nonetheless, I want that pie, because this year, I really want to feel American. I think this strange emotion arose because I can no longer take America for granted. The America I can believe in – the America who summons the homeless tempest-tossed to come to us, lifting our lamp by the golden door – is not quite the same as the America envisioned by the new political majority. And so, all of a sudden, with my values uprooted, I find myself crying for my country, longing for something just a little out of reach, and even, to my great surprise, caring about football.
In these bitter times of contention and division, when our leaders thrive on dividing people against one another, we need to hold on to what is good, and we especially need to hold onto those things that can unify us. If it’s football that can keep us tied to our loved ones in different states, we’ll need to watch more football, and do whatever else we can to keep us from falling on different sides of those “us vs. them” politics. A thought-provoking article in the Washington Post (lessons from Venezuela) counsels us to stay unified, to show no contempt, and to share in community with one another. https://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2017/01/27/in-venezuela-we-couldnt-stop-chavez-dont-make-the-same-mistakes-we-did/?utm_term=.26c47e42e60f
My prayer for us all today is that we may find joy in things that unify us to one another.