I enjoy watching football. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a flat screen or in a stadium. There is that undeniable dopamine rush regardless of where one sits.
How weird that some men wearing plastic helmets, and chasing after an oblong (sometimes-properly-inflated) hunk of pigskin, would tease the heck out of so many neurotransmitters in our brains. But that’s the way it works. Twenty-two oversized men fall on top of each other, only to then cluster in small circles with their rear-ends jutting out at the world; and catch this: They do it all over again 25 seconds later!
Gotta love football. I called an 84-year-old woman in our congregation the other day and she told me she couldn’t talk long. I wondered why. “My Dallas Cowboys are on.” It was a 20-second call. We happily resumed conversation the next day.
Once upon a time in America, there was Saturday afternoon college football and Sunday afternoon NFL football. A few games aired on a few networks. That was it. Then big money got involved, which created an even greater dopamine rush for some owners, networks, unions, and schools. Since there is no end to the excitement that money conveys, and because there are more neuron receptors in the average brain than grains of sand on a Hawaiian beach, we have endless football.
Today it is one continuous roll. If you’re willing to pay the cable bucks, or have the right Internet hookup, you can view football every day of the week for five consecutive months. Monday Night Football is no longer exotic. Sunday Night Football and Thursday Night Football are mainstays. Tuesday and Wednesday evenings are now being grabbed by the collegiate Mid-American Conference (MAC) for yet more football coverage. That leaves high school football, for which cable channels are more than happy to replay obscure games from high schools you’ve never heard of before, with not enough players to field separate offensive and defensive squads.
Saturation? Yes, no question about it. Even the three NFL games scheduled for London’s Wembley Stadium are perfectly timed for Sunday morning broadcast in America. Who’s to say that the winning field goal won’t go through the uprights just as we celebrate Holy Communion. That’s called precision.
I don’t know what all of this means in terms of obsession for a sport that we know does a serious number on the brain health of many players. But, let’s call out the question in our own minds at least. Can we figure out some other commitments in life that also deserve a rush of dopamine?
There are plenty of beautiful causes, people, and experiences I can think of. But I’ll save attention to those for a future column. Now back to TV for a little gridiron. It’s 21-21 and I’m feeling a tremendously warm blast of something in my head.
– Peter Marty, senior pastor