Victory

The night 74 years of loss ended.

“We just won the FUCKING Super Bowl!”

My voice, at once booming with the strength of 10 craft-brewed beers and hoarse from lopsided dialog with referees, barely managed to rise above the sudden explosion of enthusiasm from my fellow viewers. I bounced precariously on the armchair I had defended throughout the evening and screamed with joy, ex-roommates and old college friends joining me to forever stain the walls with shared ecstasy.

Confetti and players and coaches melted into one big swirl of color as thick tears formed in the bottom of my eyes. The moment absorbed me, disconnected me from reality, reduced me into a wave of pulsing energy. Victory. Pervasive and binding. Glowing and immediate. A laser beam of clarity dried my tears and fused my brain back to my skull. I managed to choke out a few words: “We gotta go.”

I grabbed my sneakers, sprinted for the door and blasted into the hallway. The door on the opposite apartment burst like a dam, releasing a torrent of cum and beer barely contained in human form. The first kid out, short and ill-shaven with thinning hair like fragmenting twine, stopped dead in his tracks and looked at me. I looked back at him.

We screamed long and loud, pure adrenaline sledgehammering any trace of coherent expression before it could leave the tongue. But we communicated with perfect clarity, the primal language of victory boiling out of guts and wailing from our throats.

We shared a massive, homoerotic hug. This kid, living mere blocks from the house in which I spent the majority of my college career, who I had bumped into on the subway or almost run over on my bike or hated for spewing long-winded nonsense in history class, was my new comrade in arms. We hurtled down the stairs and onto the street.

Nothing but eerie silence. Adam Vinatieri’s kick had split the uprights less than two minutes previous, sealing a Patriots victory as time expired. The drama, the upset, the victory: these things were hardly yet resolved. Shaggy whooped, splitting the night air and evoking a distant return ‘whoop’ that wafted over the row of student-laden buildings that line Boston’s Commonwealth Avenue. Then silence.

I summited a nearby electric box anchored to the sidewalk and waited. Slowly but suddenly, I became aware of a noise that I will not forget as long as I live. A noise so deep and massive that I felt it before I heard it. The sound of passion and love and joy ripping through the fleshy facades of dignity and restraint.

An army of camouflaged sports fans turned their voices to the ceiling, their howls absorbed by the structures of century-old brick and released into space, hauntingly muffled. The ambush had begun: the target, a terrified tradition of athletic misfortune, wheeled in panic like a lumbering colonial army about to be shredded by invisible native insurgents.

I started stamping my feet loudly on my metallic soapbox, losing myself in a conspicuous dance of whirls and hollow thunks timed to the rhythm of sudden chaos. I opened my eyes and saw a swarm of humanity pouring out of buildings and dank college bars. People dangled from windows, detonated fireworks, honked horns and jumped up and down on the hoods of cars. Random but intentional collisions of metal and metal, skin and metal, skin and skin underscored the dominant and unrestrained bellows.

Victory. Motherfucking victory.

Captains of industry have their money. Politicians have their power. But we had victory, and victory, like love, cannot be stolen or censured or restricted. Victory fellates the ego. The same people that get mind-fucked on a daily basis by middle management, self-righteous professors and inhuman politicians took life into their own hands. Traditional notions of authority and responsibility crumbled under the combined will of thousands of fans.

We threw footballs on the street. Placekicked Gatorade bottles over train tracks. Basked in the glow of a plastic-fueled bonfire burning in the middle of Brighton Avenue, one of Boston’s busiest streets. I felt happy to be alive simultaneously with millions of other human beings across the region. Our world-weary constitutions, trampled by a lack of truth and peace, were instantly restored.

I know intellectuals that look down on sports, football in particular, as brutal and unproductive wastes of time. Spectacles like the Super Bowl, resounding evidence of the lunacy of the proletariat, serve only to re-enforce their self-assigned superiority. The criticism is crude, much like the opinion fueling it: what’s the point? A bunch of steroid-fueled motherfuckers who get off on forcibly disintegrating each other’s joints. Celebrating a task as menial as moving a ball across a line. Investing oneself in a game whose outcome will grow increasingly meaningless over time. For these people, political, scientific or intellectual endeavors are infinitely more relevant than athletic ones. Value only echoes from actions that ripple with direct impact: curing a disease, passing a bill, bombing the Third World into submission … She pushed harder, driving her tongue deeper into my mouth and her breasts closer to my body. My hand spread across the small of her back and pulled, aiding her momentum. We released and stepped back, staring with glassy eyes. She felt it too. I saw it in her half-smile, half-growl. Fuck notions of value and relevance. Victory ran off us like juice. She grabbed me by the neck and pulled me close again, taking one last taste before seeping back into the crowd.

Events like the Super Bowl hope to sting our collective eyes with gooey Americana, sickening globs of jism ejaculated from the media’s omnipresent cock, furiously jerking itself off to capitalist pornography. A veritable orgy of product and sponsorship designed to exhaust our collective consciousness and lull us into a secure slumber while unfortunate assholes all over the planet are ground under the spiky, flaming, electrified heel of totalitarianism. Viewed through the thick, cold lens of pragmatism, the world kind of sucks. But for us, it’s not that bad. We’re doped up on powerful and glowing media narcotics, thank you very much. Some among us would call this evil, and maybe they’re right.

But it is too easy to be cynical. And, for most, it often requires too much effort to chip off the sugarcoating applied to force the Super Bowl down as many throats as possible. Beneath the domes and the lights and the confetti and commercials exits the game. Simple and defined. A sport, a member of the athletic hereditary tree that extends back in history past government and economy and probably the very language used to define them. Carefully constructed rules super-imposed over bitter competition. Valor. Achievement. VICTORY. Without these things, there is no love and peace on the streets of Boston.

A flaming sweatshirt whirled over my head as a bag of fireworks exploded behind me. I giggled, grinned and bounced my way through the crowd. I swam with a human emotion that has been dormant in most of us for centuries, that sense of elation that comes with total victory. We are Romans subjugating Gaul; Vikings back from a raid. Better yet, we are, like our team’s namesake: guerrillas. Ordinary people united by a cause, motivated to rampage in our homes and neighborhoods, carving the skin of our city. Together, we cut a brutal tattoo, a design of destruction that will remind each and every one of us that we were here. The Patriots won. We were alive once.

Flash forward to springtime. We’ve long since re-assumed the guise of civility and agreed to cooperate with our corporate overlords. We walk, engulfed in whatever private misery we’ve created for ourselves on that given day, silently farting out the remains of Big Macs and Coke. The head drops, the eye catches a segment of charred asphalt. The heart leaps and the lips curl.

Across the street, a guy in a fucked-up Red Sox cap glances up from the same black spot. Eyes meet. Nods are exchanged. Like members of a secret revolutionary army, we silently walk in opposite directions. The world moves on. The politicians are still in charge, the captains of industry still in their penthouses. But beating deep inside everyone one of us who danced that night, or any night like it, is victory. Pervasive and binding. Glowing and immediate.

Article © 2002 by Chris Harring