My interest in football is two-fold. I’m interested because my husband’s interested, though thankfully not obsessively so. He’s just interested enough for me to have learned, over the past few years, something I hadn’t noticed before: that football — and sport in general — has a narrative power and force to rival the Iliad and the Odyssey.
To be sure, football is the prose-light version of these grand narratives, but the big themes, which might be compressed and summed up with a single moniker, “the agony and the ecstasy,” are everywhere to be found in the sporting life. Steal a look at the ESPN documentary series 30 for 30 if you have any doubt. There you’ll see lives splayed open like a corpse on autopsy day. It’s a lovelier thing than this metaphor makes it seem. A great story, after all — and 30 for 30 features some of the best, from filmmakers like Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), Steve James (Hoop Dreams), Brett Morgan (The Kid Stays In The Picture) and rapper/actor/producer Ice Cube — allows us to dissect a life and find lessons that illumine our own.