I'm not a sports fan. I just don't really get the whole organized, professional sports team thing, the fanaticism, caring who wins what, when, by how much. And the obscene salaries and crazy prices for tickets, food and merch at the games really makes me sick. To me, it seems like there's no end to the means in sports. Once someone wins a season, they have to start playing all over again the next year. Like it never happened. Shouldn't the reward for winning the season be that you never have to play the game again? That's why I'd do it. To win forever exemption from playing, like a permanent note from your mom...
"Dear Coach Stretchyshorts, Erica's team won the state championship this year, so please excuse her FOREVER from any more games of dodgeball. Thank you, Mrs. Erica's Mom."
That would've been great, had I ever been on any team at all, let alone a winning team. I used to hide under the bleachers when we played games involving balls being thrown my way. Playing team sports in gym was sheer torture. I was short, chubby, wore glasses, and so, so, un-athletic, plus I didn't know any of the rules! Nobody ever explained them to me because it was assumed that we all had tough, sports loving, Korean War veteran dads who played and watched sports games with us.
My dad served his Korean War duty leading the Boy Scout troop for the officers' sons on his army base in New Jersey, and later taught me stuff like ceramics and leather embossing, not the rules of baseball.
The first time we played kickball in first grade, I had no idea what the rules were. So when I was called up to kick, I of course spastically kicked it up and to the side, and then started running toward first base, because that's what the other kids did. All the boys started screaming at me "you're out, you're out", the meaning of which I didn't understand. Did it mean I was out of the game completely? Like forever? (I hoped) Or like I was out for the day and could go sit quietly and read, or was I just out this time? I didn't know. Everyone, including the teacher, assumed that everyone else knew the rules. Why explain them, everyone knows the rules of kickball, right? Not this tiny nerdette. She didn't.
I'm obviously much older now, and still not a sports fan. It all still seems pretty futile to me, but I try, a little bit. My husband likes baseball and we occasionally go to a game. I actually like the stadium experience; it's kind of cool to be in a structure that's that big, in the open air, with so many people, drinking a twelve-dollar beer. It's kinda fun. The prices are ridiculous though; the beer, a five-dollar bottle of water, six-fifty for fries, it's insane! What happened to America's Pastime? What American can afford to buy that stuff for a family of four? Not even my family of two can spend that kind of dough on fried dough, or potatoes.
So, speaking of stadium food, there was an article out last week about the New York Knicks, and how badly they did this year (who knew?). The team announced that to make it up to their season ticket holder fans, about how awful the season was, they'd be giving away all the food at the last game of the season for free. Everything, except alcohol, free. Lobster rolls, bbq sandwiches, cheese-steaks, Twizzlers, cotton candy, sushi, everything. Free. So these two guys who are season ticket holders went, and wrote an article about it, about how much food they consumed. It was a lot of food... over six hundred dollars worth of food! They felt compelled, along with everyone else at that game, to eat or take or just throw away as much as they possibly could, in some sort of gluttonous, "I'm just getting my share," revenge orgy of eating and food waste. It was sickening. They described people taking stuff simply because they could, like piles of nachos, taking a bite, and then just tossing it on the ground. I guess they were saying, (in a repulsively wasteful and infantile way), eff-you, Knicks, for losing all season! Now we're gonna waste as much food as we possibly can, just to stick it to you! Now there's sound logic. American Style. The ovuh-unduh, basketball version.
A few years ago, on my husband's preferred sports radio station, I heard the commentator guys talking about something called "The Over-Under." It was really more like the "ovuh-unduh" this being New York City sports radio and all. Adam explained to me that the over-under is something about a team's record for the season, and wins, and betting... and blah, blah, blah, it was like the teacher in a Charlie Brown special to me. I don't really care what it means, so it never sticks. I've heard the explanation at least three more times since, I even asked him about it this week as I was writing my show episode. But it doesn't stick because I don't care what it means, I just like the way it sounds, the over-under. The ovuh-unduh.
To me, the over-under is not a term about sports; it's the term that sums up American culture, specifically our culture and its relationship to food. We are the over-under. We INVENTED the over-under. Look at those guys at the Knicks game.
After the industrial revolution and the mechanization and centralization of farming and the invention of post-war chemical fertilizing and the subsequent government subsidizing of commodity grains and then the engineered shift in our diets to a corn and soybean orgy of grain and grain-fed products, we are all now LIVING the over-under. Feast or famine? Well, we've got both. Only here in America is it possible to be both fat and malnourished at the same time. You can gorge on crappy, processed, nutrition-less food, (much of it pretending to be real food, or what I call Foodiness) weigh 300 pounds, and still suffer the diseases of malnutrition.
That's the REAL over-under. You can go to a restaurant and order a meal that has more calories in one entrée than most people's great-grandma ate in an entire day, that's the over-under too. And at that same restaurant you can have a slab of cheesecake that doubles that number of calories again, but wash it down with 48 ounces of a beverage that has zero calories, and that you are paying a company your money for, but that may just kill you, and that's the over-under, too.
Or that we produce more food on this planet that we can every consume, more than double the daily caloric needs of every human and animal in this country, and yet we throw away almost 40 percent of it, whether through rejecting it in the fields for not being perfect, or producing it so cheaply that there are no buyers so it's dumped before leaving the factory, or in transit when systems fail, or in supermarkets when they trash thousands of pounds of food simply because of an arbitrary date stamped on it that has no legal bearing or meaning, or in your fridge as it slowly goes bad because we're too spoiled to feel compelled to use up what we buy... America; land of the free, home of the big ovuh-unduh.
We produce so much food, so quickly and efficiently, that we then have to reject much of it because we're scared into thinking that five minutes out of refrigeration, or twelve hours past an (arbitrary and not legally required or based) expiration date, and we're dead. I've discussed food waste here before and on my show, multiple times, but this week I was lucky enough to be invited to a screening of a new documentary called "Just Eat It," a food waste story. I implore you to watch it. I thought I had a handle on the facts of food waste, but even I was shocked. The couple that made the film lived on scavenged food for six months, and between them collected $20,000 worth of food. That's only what two people taking perfectly good stuff out of dumpsters behind stores collected. That doesn't even take into consideration all the waste that happens before the food is even harvested or produced. It was really horrifying. I feel like I do a pretty good job of not wasting food, and you know I love to shop the discount produce shelf, but even I can only eat so many overripe pears. Please people, buy the overripe pears, they need love too!
We live the over-under. We overproduce like crazy, and then feel so comfortable with the excess that we allow almost half of it to be dumped. Under-utilized. unvalued, wasted. While one in twelve Americans have trouble affording food. It's sick.
So please, don't bet on the over-under, think and shop and eat more like your great-grandma, or my pretend BFF Laura Ingalls Wilder; smaller, leaner, maybe even a touch meaner. Like maybe I would have been, if I had known the damn kickball rules. I could have ruled that kickball team...eh, maybe not. The reading team though, or the daydreaming team? Now there's a sport for me.