THE BLOG
02/14/2013 03:29 pm ET Updated Apr 16, 2013

Football: Much Ado About Nothing -- Life and the Game

Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's, Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, then nothing unites us or separates us in the same way until fireworks blaze on Independence Day. After that, months meander until costumes come out of the closet again. Life and advertising in America. What's the common thread in all these holidays? Alcohol. They are all play days.

Watching XLVII brought so many memories to my mind. I remember Grandpa, my uncle and father vociferously enjoying the game. I remember my aunt making unforgettable guacamole. I remember once the Fritos were put out I had trouble concentrating on much else.

When I was a Pop Warner's cheerleader, I didn't pretend to understand the game. Two years later, I was away during a summer trip. My boyfriend wrote me funny letters about how miserable football practice was and how empty his life was without me. When I came back, he was black and blue for three months. He'd had enough stimulation and wanted only to sit on the couch with his arm around me.

Thirty-two years later I had a boyfriend who'd been MVP for three years. He was one of the ones who made my earlier boyfriend black and blue. In the beginning, he was all about the game, and his memories of it filled his life. I remember saying, "When you are about to meet your maker, you won't be thinking about the game." He soon admitted where I took him was better than any game.

Today I was watching the Super Bowl with a Vietnam vet on Skype. He was explaining how intellectual and psychological the game was, and how emotional because so much money was at stake. He could tell I didn't agree and asked why.

"Much ado about nothing." This phrase popped onto my mind's screen. I haven't seen the Shakespeare play. It wasn't until I read Wikipedia that I had a clue what William (or whoever he really was) wrote when tying these words together.

My friend said defensively, "This is not a stupid game. There's a lot of intellectualism and psychology to it." I asked him to explain exactly what he meant, and he didn't elaborate. I find the psychology of sport fascinating. Most people are unaware how much athletes use psychological warfare. Football incorporates much of this. Some players can leave it on the field. Others cannot.

Watching the game relieves unspoken stress in much the same way as watching action, thrillers and mystery movies does for some, and horror does for some more. Yet for me, someone who is aware and articulate about her stress, these games and types of movies increase my stress instead.

"Really, compared to what you know spiritually about what life and death is all about, how important is football?" We'd had many conversations about the power of the mind, and he'd sent me a book about life in between lives.

"Well, I'd have to agree with you, but don't quote me or let anyone know I said so."

Here's a man the exact opposite of me politically, and yet we found much to speak about that has nothing to do with politics and which engrossed both of us for hours at a time. I thought it was wild 108 million people would watch the Super Bowl when far fewer bothered to turn on the inauguration. My computer companion said, "That wasn't an inauguration. That was a coronation." I let him have his opinion. If only I were Barbra Streisand and I could thrive on political debates. I don't think many people give much thought to the government unless it affects their pocketbook.

During the second half, after the electrical outage, my friend commented on how much more excited I got about the game. In the first half, the SF team seemed flat. In the second half, the momentum had indeed changed and suddenly two top-notch teams were playing, and I saw intrigue, surprise, great effort, and untimely complications. I became completely engrossed in the pain and agony involved when a player has to run into a mound of guys that want to beat him up vs. the ecstasy and thrill of finding that hole and running the ball all the way for a touchdown.

I don't feel football is nothing. The hype involved in Super Bowl promotions is certainly not nothing. Okay? This bigger-than-life game/event has the most costly commercials, inspires the biggest food orgasm with potentially-unhealthy food items few can ignore, and the week before the game more television sets are purchased than any other time of the year. Every one wants the biggest and the best and pays top price for it in time for this one event!

Perhaps the Super Bowl is America's true religion. Everyone can talk about football. Everyone can shirk their diet five weeks after their resolutions have been made. Everyone can drink, party, and go crazy. There is appeal in the opulence of it all that is divinely playful, especially when it feels like everyone else is doing it and has been looking forward to doing it for weeks.

In fact, most of the holidays we celebrate together revolve around drinking, partying, and going crazy; either with costumes, and who can outdo last year's façade, or with shopping, who can get what everyone else wants. Even our beloved and sacred Thanksgiving, which is supposed to be about a deeper connection, is now interrupted by longer store hours, necessary to increase holiday spending and profit incentives.

The Romans partied hard before the end. Every civilization has ignored its own demise and partied on when real challenge and difficulty was necessary to ease through a change that seemed impossible. We can't just be about this bigger than life picture and continue ignoring what really matters.

Yesterday I saw that people are getting together sharing coffee and cake to talk about death. Max Alexander wrote recently in the Smithsonian about the "Surprising Satisfactions of a Home Funeral." He says Westerners spend 13 percent of their annual income on dealing with the dead. So many live horrible, lonely deaths with no one in their family willing to tell them the truth of what is happening, unable to deal with difficult emotions they've squashed routinely. As humans, there are so many things we can learn to do together instead of avoiding because we get squeamish.

It's more fun to watch a game than begin to face our existence, or future lack thereof, but high time we face reality. Reality pulls us closer together. Sure, shoes are fun, but you can only look forward to a new pair getting scuffed and needing to be re-heeled. But the one you love, facing fears together can bring you closer and enhance that love, no matter how scary.

We need to explore more than worshiping heroes who can score. What is the meaning of life? What did we come here to contribute? There is more to life than shopping and worshiping. Everyone can participate in the superficial, but where's the depth?

Why can't we discuss how GMOs are now integrated enough into our food system that a day can't go by when we don't eat them, even if we're trying to avoid them. For some, this is eventual life and death. For others, that eventuality might come much later. It doesn't make it less scary. Ignoring this real game between profit and poison won't make the illness these unclaimed products may cause go away.

Football is something we can all share, but there is so much more than shoes, games, food and fashion, alcohol and that which gets us to lighten our spirit. Life is about connection and communication. When a baby is born, that baby learns immediately about connection or what it feels to be disconnected. They learn about communication the moment they take their first breath. Where does it go? Why does it get stymied? Why do people stop following the lead of a newborn? Why do they rationalize it, suppress it, and not develop it? What about feeling our spirit, recognizing our soul, regaining our true footing on this planet as human beings, not human doings? Not just about how to move a ball down a field, but how to have a ball in every field, and in every moment while every lesson placed in front of us teaches us something about life itself.

Lisa's book, COURTING ME(N): Juggling Love, Lust, and Listening Within will be available on Amazon by the end of February. Read more at www.lisaguest.com.

For more by Lisa Guest, click here.

For more on mindfulness, click here.

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