The indoctrination of our youth starts early.
At age 7, my daughter Lucy has been asked to pick a team to support in the Big Game* next week (* - if I use the term ‘Super Bowl’, I have to pay the NFL a nickel for each mention). In her classroom, there is a large poster board with Pats at the top of one column and NY at the top of another. Students are asked to place their names under the heading that represents their pick. Lucy has no idea what any of this means except that she needed to make a decision. NY or Pats? So she asked the expert.
My formative years were spent in the New York/New Jersey market, so the decision was easy for me. I told her to pick NY.
Lucy must have been skeptical. “What does NY mean?”
“Winning, sweetheart. Winning.”
I did question why it was so important that her first grade class spend teaching time on this annual orgy of organized violence, gluttonous eating, and irresponsible drinking (not to mention the morally offensive commercials we would endure as a family). I know it’s un-American not to watch the Super Bowl (oops, that cost me a nickel), but she’s 7. Can’t she remain blissfully ignorant of the whole enterprise for a few more years? I’d like to watch the game in peace, and not be interrupted every few minutes with “Is NY winning?” or endure the tears should her father have steered her name into the wrong column on the poster board betting sheet hanging in classroom 1-B.
But learn she will, and not just about football and geography. This is a lesson in class warfare, comrades. Do you relate to the working class NY Giants or the Northeastern elitists represented by Tom Brady, Mr. One Percent with his supermodel wife and Bieber-licious haircut? If you are for one team, then you are against the other team. It’s the politics of division being supported by your tax dollars. There is no compromise, no common ground in a football contest or a friendly wager. The other team must be beaten. That attitude is ruining our politics, and now it is part of 1st grade curriculum.
This is training lesson for a future in gambling. These kids are learning early about how much more fun sports can be when there’s juice involved. By the 3rd grade, I fully expect March Madness brackets to be handed out under the guise of an algebra preparatory lesson, and by the 5th grade, probability theory will be applied to your fantasy baseball draft. From there, it is a short path to the hard stuff – state lotteries, scratcher games, and ultimately, Vegas baby. Everyone can be rich and popular, but first you need to pick the winner this Sunday, Lucy.
It is the genius of the NFL that this Big Game will have millions of viewers regardless of who plays. While the MLB, NHL and NBA worry about having teams from big markets in the mix for a championship, the Super Bowl (darn, that’s 15 cents so far) could pit Green Bay against Indianapolis and draw as many eyeballs as New York vs. Chicago. That kind of brand loyalty to a league starts young and requires institutional support. Thankfully for the NFL, the Fairfax County Public School system is firmly behind their product. How? Because the final Sunday of every football season is being promoted in every classroom across this great land of ours, and every kid who doesn’t watch the game didn’t do their homework.
While my daughter is learning about football, gambling, wardrobe malfunctions and class warfare, there is one other lesson that this exercise will provide, and for that I am glad:
On February 5th, not everyone will get a trophy.