NFL Anthropologist

PHILADELPHIA EAGLES WallpaperReturning to the U.S. at Christmas means watching a lot of American football. There’s nothing like a football Sunday. There are three games, at 1 pm, 4 pm, and 8:30 pm. Three games of the specific joy brought on by watching 22 men beat the remaining brain cells out of each other. If your team is playing, the intensity is dizzying. This intensity is supplemented by an atmosphere made of up other people – fans – and sometimes meat and alcohol.

Though I was a devoted fan for most of my life, I don’t watch football in the Czech Republic. I did at first, but it was a totally different experience and I found that watching a game with a grumpy cat in the middle of Europe didn’t bring the same sort of irrational pleasure. And it occurred to me shortly after that I didn’t love football as much as I did the surrounding ambiance. This has always piqued my interest.

Today, as I watch with two dozen rabid fans, I realize that I am a participant observer. And in this role I dedicate this Sunday to an embedded research in order to study the phenomenon of and surrounding NFL Sunday.

The following is my report.


The commentators play Sherpa to the spectators of the game and surely a more useless job has never been conceived. The commentator’s job is to relate completely obvious things such as: “Now, that is a broken leg,” “you need to catch a football if you’re going to win the football game,” and “Jones is pretty unhappy about this injury.”

The commentator also loves using adjectives.

“Jones absolutely has the best, most phenomenal arm in this league. He is an exceptional specimen and has a huge amount of incredible talent. Awesome. Fantastic. Great.” It’s like sleeping in James Thurber’s scrap bin.

The commentator will use these adjectives as a weapon just as quickly as he compliments. He switches his loyalties so exuberantly that he is like a veteran mob snitch.

(30 seconds later) “Jones is absolute garbage at handling the big games. He blows it with spectacular regularity. He is pathetic once you get him inside the twenty yard line. Awful. Crap. I can’t believe they let him play. Terrible. I hope his mother dies.”


The coach is the general of a team and commands his troops from the sidelines. He is a learned and wise man and succeeds or fails on his strategy, tactics, and bravado. Also, every NFL coach looks like a constipated rat.

In a fascinating phenomenon, the everyday fan assumes the role of coach to the degree that seems to be expecting the actual coach to call and ask his thoughts on the next play. Today I am in a bar with twenty-five others, twenty-two of whom are coaching the game with such volume that the other three (a dude jotting notes for his blog and his two sisters) can barely hear themselves breathe.

One man’s eloquent dictation on line of scrimmage blockers comes immediately after his teary-eyed and slurred description on the art of “sharting.”

The Fan

The fans in this pub are so dedicated to their team’s success that they undergo a transformation. They begin exhibiting all of the symptomology evident of demonic possession. They are sweating, shouting, crying, Tourette-like linguistic explosions, and imploration of the gods. I find to my delight that I am no different and that I am soon conjuring some violent spirit over an event that would not have interested me 48 hours ago.

In the fever pitch of battle, the fan is capable of such an absolute, irrational and livid hatred towards all those to whom he finds himself in opposition. This includes opposing players, opposing fans, the opposing coach, and even players on his own team who err. There is a special hatred reserved for the referee, who, in the language of the fans can’t officiate the game since he would first need to remove his “fucking head from his fucking ass.” This hatred could be bottled up and used to fuel a military aircraft that would carry the likeness of the referee being eaten by a rabid eagle.

Highlights of fan exclamations include:

Fuck your fucking mother, fuck face!

I will fucking eat your face, fuck tits!

Gah! You dropped the motherfucking ball you fuck cirm garm. *

The Ref

The ref is a fascinating character in our anthropological drama. He is charged with maintaining order on the field by enforcing an astoundingly vast regimen of rules and guidelines. He has two weapons in his repertoire, a whistle and a yellow flag, and both combined seem able to dissuade the hulking players from bludgeoning one ref to death with the other ref. Whenever the ref blows his whistle or throws his yellow flag – which he does constantly – it results in stoppage of play and then, inevitably, a commercial featuring Santa Claus and a car.

The ref’s job is extraordinarily difficult and vexing, since if he does his job effectively he goes completely unnoticed. However, he is vehemently blamed for each call a fan does not agree with. He is never complimented. Ever.  So the best he can hope for is to be ignored. The worst is probably his eventual murder.

The ref elicits so much hatred from the fans that he must cry himself to sleep every night.

Overall Assessment


That is all.

*cirm garm is not a phrase I found in any dictionary. I attribute its use to the abundance of alcohol imbibed by this fan and the fact that he was choking on his own rage.

  1. #1 by Jeremy Nicholson on December 24, 2013 - 2:53 am

    “cirm garm”, although not a phrase in and of itself, actually does possess the distinction of being root words of the english word for charm. “Charm” in this sense is essentially meaning “a song, a verse, an outcry”, which in this case is pulling its origins from whatever language is signified by a “W” (root word being garm, meaning “an outcry” or “to shout”) and the Saxon word “cirm”, which means “outcry, noise”.

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