In Which Enlightenment is Illustrated by the NFL

“You live and you huff and puff as if it had tremendous meaning.
You appear as if it does, but yet it doesn’t.”

We are often brought up to root for a certain team. There is not much reason behind it, but it is clear that this team is superior to all the rest. Geography is usually a factor. And so we become a single-minded crybaby who want our team to score on every play and know that the other team, refs, and even announcers are against us.

Some people remain in this reality
Some people remain in this reality

At some point though, many of us start to see the bigger picture. Our complaining, we discover, is not having much effect on the game happening hundreds of miles away. So we don’t get so frustrated over each individual play, although we are happy when our team wins the game and it is difficult to get out of bed the next day if the final score did not go the right way.

If we jump to the next level, happiness is no longer based on a single team’s win-loss record. We realize that the Cowboys hoisting the Lombardi Trophy is not that different than the Chiefs. We see our rival not as evil, but as necessary to add more enjoyment to the whole show. You know that episode of The Twilight Zone where the guy died and suddenly got everything he wanted? Spoiler Alert: He wasn’t in heaven.

When Jesus said to love your enemy, he was talking about Spygate
When Jesus said to love your enemy, he was talking about Spygate

And ultimately we reach a level in which we see the whole League working in perfect balance. Where every loss is also a win. The NFL moves as a single organism in complete balance, and we can derive enjoyment out of the play for the sake of play. We now derive enjoyment out of botched extra point snaps that were once viewed with widening eyes of horror. What was chaos is now a harmonious dance.

This is not so far off life. We view the world around us on many different levels. The teacher Ram Dass says that at the most basic, animalistic level we divide others into three categories: potential partners, competitors, or irrelevant. “That’s standing on the corner watching the girls go by, that’s that reality.”

Go up a level and we label people with physiological terms, “He’s nice, she’s manic-depressive, that person is very difficult to get along with, that person is kind and responsible… And that’s a whole reality and a lot of people live in… They go around seeing it, they study it they analyze and they get analyzed and they just keep doing it on and on and on and that’s their reality.”

If you keep zooming out until you see the whole big picture that the universe is one giant, perfect process. You are that process and can derive enjoyment out of life for the sake of life.

He's enjoying life
He’s enjoying life

Robert Harris writes in his book, 101 Things Not to Do Before You Die, to never be a passive observer of sports. If you flip on a game between two teams that you could not care less about, pick one of the teams and root for them anyway. You will have fun! Pump your first with joy and cry out with disappointment—while it lasts you will have fun.

But I thought we just said it doesn’t matter who wins, that enjoyment comes out of the game rather than the outcome?

The catch is that while each level brings a different type of enjoyment, none of them is higher than the others. Dass says, “The complete cycle is going from the many into the one and then coming back into the many to delight in the forms of individual difference.”

So while you know in the back of your mind that it does not matter, and that five minutes after the final whistle you will be just fine, go ahead and root for that punt to go every yard possible. Better yet, find a friend to root for the other team.

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