Now American football, the most purely masculine of team sports, strikes a responsive chord in the male psyche and has been described by psychoanalysts as an oedipal drama in which the sacred mother earth (end zone) is defended from the aggressive father (the offense). Players’ uniforms exaggerate male characteristics: oversized head, broad shoulders, narrow waists, and supportive codpiece. The line formation, the scrum, is comprised of linemen assuming a three point stance— classic anal posturing that signals submission among lower primates. This position displays trusting vulnerability to one’s own teammates while exhibiting snarling antagonism towards opponents, who are knocked down prone or supine while other players pile on in an orgy of violence suggestive of gang rape and pillage. The offense undertakes a ritual depicting the male role in procreativity, involving “deep penetration” to “drive” the football—a seminal symbol—into an “end zone” to “score,” while cheerleaders and fans in the bleachers hoot and chant their approval.
Freudians also point out that the players engage in intimate gestures such as fanny patting, embracing, and holding hands in the huddle, which would be regarded as suspect male behavior anywhere else but the gridiron. They make a big deal out of basketball and hockey too, in which balls or pucks are slam dunked or driven into recessed netted enclosures.
But as any fool can clearly see, football isn’t sexual drama. It’s a ritual expression of reproduction or womb envy made obvious by the manner in which the downed ball is brought back into play. The egg shaped football is delivered from the center’s crotch to the quarterback, whose upper hand is pressed into the perineum, where the womb opening would be if a center had one. Indeed the position of the quarterback’s hands is the same as the obstetrician’s during delivery, dominant palm down. Of course, the center’s stance is not the usual position female homo sapiens assume when giving birth, although it’s not unheard of in anthropological circles, but it approximates the birth position of all other animals, and it is the position a male would have to assume in order to deliver offspring to a sympathetic male midwife. A plan made in the huddle that is not successfully executed is said to be aborted. The center tucks a towel in his belt like a loincloth to obscure the secrets of birth. Football is clearly an expression of empty womb envy. Hysterphilia! Hut two!
The cathartic elements of football could be enhanced if the cheerleaders and the fans had bullroarers, although whirling them in bleachers could cause injuries and put out some eyes, but why shouldn’t fans risk injury in applause when players are crippled for life. Of course, females have traditionally been forbidden the use of bullroarers, but if I can convince Whamo Industries to manufacture some, I’ll bet the girls will insist upon owning them too, acceptable in a society where male and female roles are hopelessly confused anyway.
Men talk about sports with the same enthusiasm women show for childbirth. They memorize statistics the same way wives remember post partum details and substitute sports for baby showers because their bowels bear no fruit. Even male nurses can’t get the real jargon of reproduction right.
“Boy, can she ever deliver,” I overheard from two male nurses at Phoebe Putney. “She’s a two for two on the birth/conception scale after a three hour labor and a C sect delivery of a five pound six and three quarter oz. femme that rated a 9 on the Apgar and had a head full of hair….”
When mortal thoughts intrude to make me sad
I think of all the fun I’ve had
in life and get to wanting more.
It’s then I drop my ass down to the floor
stone dead. I writhe and wind and coil
like rattlesnakes in turpentine or boiling oil,
and then I go to sloughing off my sins
till I can jump flatfooted up, reborn again.
New amniotic juices flush
The cloudy scales from rheumy eyes,
and I can’t hush condemning my old ways,
until I’m born into the blinding light and realize
debauchery and joy have sweetened my best days
and even made me the little what I am of wise,
which is to say not innocent and dumb,
and so I wrap my mouth around my thumb
and drop down dead again
to resurrect my former love of sinning
and start out one more time from the beginning.