I suppose as the world changes around me it is to be expected that the world inside me also changes. In fact, I just ran across a headline announcing the new director of Captain Marvel II and thought “were there any other Marvel movies coming out this year?” and then I thought “doesn’t really matter.”
“Doesn’t really matter.”
Those three words have been noticeably present of late in my inner vocabulary. Football season is another prime example. This is August 7th and usually, around this time, my thoughts have become captivated by the upcoming NFL season. Rams football, in particular. I’d have rosters all filled out and expectations all drawn up and, generally, I’ve planned my viewing. Morning game. Afternoon game. Night game. Monday game. Thursday game. Stuff I wanna buy for each victory.
I barely think about it. Doesn’t really matter.
Doesn’t really matter if there’s a football season this year. In fact, it might be best if there isn’t. Legions of men flying all around the country violating each other’s distance bubbles some 130 times a match? Sounds indulgent. Maybe even foolhardy. Especially if, in the scheme of things, it doesn’t really matter.
Or does it?
Do we need things like football to distract us from the raging pandemic, from the broken politics, from the rampant inequality in our society? Don’t we need a break from life?
Maybe the Avengers are important at a subliminal level to remind us what heroes really look like. To ensure us that, if only in our imaginations, leadership can possess morality. Threats can be identified – whether that threat be Thanos or Covid – and challenged through science or super-power. Maybe superheroes matter.
Maybe gladiators do, too. As nearly two dozen of them clash for us play after play, adorned in their armor on a patterned field of green, we get to express our emotions. Joy when the boys in blue advance the oval. Pain when the red ones cross the goal. Exasperation when the striped one steals an achievement. Dammit, ref.
Maybe football matters.
Quite possibly, though, it doesn’t. Quite possibly the critical term is the one I used 4 paragraphs up and 8 words in: distract. A pandemic isn’t a distraction, a cosmic titan is. The unnecessary death of a person because of the color of their skin isn’t a distraction, a Super Bowl is. The former in each is a real threat to all we hold dear, all we believe in, all we cherish and hope for in our lives and in the lives of others. The latter is fiction. The latter is pomp.
A distraction, in better times, is worthwhile. Pastimes have their place; they allow us to pass the time when time should be passed. These are not the best of times.
Is it possible to set aside the distractions? Is it healthy?
Can we live our lives like Captain America – or Don Quixote – tilting our shields and lances at windmill after windmill. Can we become crusaders for each and every cause? I shudder to think of a life so solemn.
But I shudder, as well, at a life of distraction. I cannot ignore what really matters, even if sometimes I need to escape. Escape to the four-color pages, the alternate realities, the thrill of entertainment. Escape.
If football resumes in 2020 – and I increasingly think that it should not – I will be a fan. I will reserve the time for each Rams game, of course, and I will rent or buy each good superhero film (from home) as I become aware of their release. But if there is no football and there are no superheroes…it doesn’t really matter. I am not a crusader for them.
I am a crusader for you. For Mrs C, for her mother, for Moxie, and Ludo, and Marvel. For my neighbors and all my best of friends. For my family, for my coworkers and employers, who are indeed family to me, as well. I am a crusader for those afflicted by plague – sick with virus or sick with worry – and for those who are victims of systemic, societal racism. That matters. What really matters is the inequality we face in criminal capitalism – how so few have so much and so many have so little. What really matters is that we are burning our world down.
When I see a person kneel on a sports field to bring awareness to injustice, I see a hero. When I see someone stand up to a president who denies the science of the moment, I see a hero. Real life ones, battling the ugliness of society the way Captain America battles Hydra. I want to be that brave.
All I have, most days, are my words. I bring them to you in the only way I can. I try to shine a little light, and often a little levity, on the things that I see. I try to keep it real, keep it sanguine.
I am sanguine. I am optimistic. I am progressive-minded and the long arc of history tends towards progress. As a snapshot of history these are the best of times. The worst, for sure, that you and I have seen, but our forebears endured worse. Much, much worse.
I know we will defeat the villains of today. Coronavirus. Racism. Inequality. Global Warming. Donald Trump. Some as soon as November, some in the year to follow, some in the decades to come. This is just a moment in time. A passage in history. Our trial.
If I don’t see a football season or a Marvel movie in the months to come, it doesn’t really matter.
I would rather see you flourish, free of spirit and of mind, healthy in body and in heart, as we endure this trial together.
That’s what really matters, to me.