This past Sunday afternoon will hopefully be a lot like the rest of my Sundays for the next 20 weeks or so. Hopefully, I’ll pull up a stool at a local bar, order a craft beer and some greasy food, talk about all the crazy things that have happened in the world, and slowly forget about all of those things as the bread and circuses of our time do their work. Yes, I’m talking about football, the crazy year-round shitshow that keeps America from devolving into actual riots by allowing the dramatization of a riot on national TV. And today our daily bread is beer (but hopefully craft beer and not some shitty megabrewery).
I hate to admit it, but beer and football are the Great American Distraction. I usually have complete and utter disdain for anything that even slightly quivers the needle on my douche-bag-o-meter: UFC, Jägermeister, things that are “dank,” motor sports, Jägerbombs, high-finance, video games, sports cars, the law and the study thereof, etc. The only things that create a blind spot for me are beer and sports. I love sports and I love beer. Probably more than anything. So as sad as it is to admit, I’m not above being a completely mindless douchebag.
I’d like to say that I’m a highly-engaged citizen. I know about current issues and take pride in being informed on both sides. I try to be thoughtful about the populations that believe in one side or the other. I’d like to think of myself as very open minded, but football and beer bring out the worst, innermost douchebag in me.
This past Sunday was no different. I pulled up a stool at a pub, ordered queso and a craft beer and immediately asked why the F golf was on TV. I didn’t know that it was the playoffs for golf (the FedEx Cup, nerds). I forgot that the most important day in golf is Sunday. I forgot that the afternoon was the most important part of the round of golf, as that’s when the whole four-day build-up of a golf tournament is decided as the leaders finish their final round. And I didn’t know that the older man sitting next to me was watching golf. He was polite and I tried to recover, asking who was winning. He offered to watch tennis when the golf tournament was over and I was just as miffed by that option, because I didn’t give two shits that it was the final of the US Open, basically the Super Bowl of tennis, and a star in the prime of his career, Novak Djokovic, was defending his title against a player that is likely his biggest current rival, Stan Wawrinka (Stan is the only player to beat Novak in the final of a Grand Slam event since 2014. And not only that, he hasn’t lost to Novak in a final ever). Yeah. I gave exactly zero shits. Just give me the cold beer and the greasy food and let me watch the Cowboys kick field goals (’cause we all know they ain’t scoring any touchdowns! ZING!).
Thinking about this little encounter made me feel guilty. It made me feel like a douchebag. And I was. At least I was drinking a nice locally-brewed beer and not some mega brew ilk. And looking at my Facebook feed Monday Night gave me a little comfort. I wasn’t the biggest douchebag. There are a lot of people that are shouting down Colin Kaepernik over his decision to kneel during the national anthem. Shut up and play, they say. No one is paying you to talk about what’s wrong with America. Let me keep being distracted. Let me keep being a douchebag.
But the crazy thing is, Kaepernik is waking me up. I’m paying attention to something besides beer and football, bread and circus. I’m paying more attention to the national anthem because of what Kaepernik started. He’s doing it without a megastar celebrity singing or a flyover by some jet or a skydiving team or a live bald eagle, soaring over the crowd. I don’t know what exactly needs to happen to make Kaepernik feel better about this country or how we fix something as megalithic as systemic racism, but I know we’re all thinking about it and we’re all talking about it and that I think is pretty cool. It’s much cooler than having a guy with a potato-shaped head telling me to buy Budweiser (I love you Peyton, but c’mon).
If you’re in the camp that says, “shut up and play,” you’re doing exactly what billions of dollars of marketing are telling you to do: Shut up and watch football and drink that shitty beer with your team’s logo on it.
Robert Alan Wendeborn is a former cellar operator at Ska Brewing and current lead cellar operator at Tin Roof Brewing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.