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Why Is This Lockout So Important, Anyway?

A recent FanPost called for a boycott of the NFL, whether or not the lockout ends in time for a normal 2011 season. You can read it and agree or disagree yourselves, but it brought up a question I wanted to share with all of you: Why are we taking this lockout so seriously?

It's true, some people are caught up in the politics and strategy of the whole saga (myself included). But think back to the NHL lockout. Or the MLS lockout. Did those people really care that much back then? I know I didn't. And it's pretty likely you didn't care either. Hockey and soccer are second-tier sports in this country, no matter how vehemently their fans argue otherwise. But currently, even the casual observers are caught up in this story. Why is the NFL lockout so important?

My immediate reaction: because it's a cultural cornerstone in this country. A game that has been played for over a century, drawing from traditional football (soccer) and rugby, the roots are European but the game is vividly American. You can trace the evolution of football from the 1930's to the present day and easily see parallels in the development of our nation during that time. Compare how conservative offensive gameplans were 50 years ago, and look at what is considered "conservative" now. You could say the same exact thing about American politics, business, and culture.

Sports are one of the few remaining vestiges of old-world territorialism. We identify with a certain geographic area (usually the one we are raised in), and we tend to prefer things that are linked to that area. For example, look at me. I was born in West Allis, raised in Cudahy, and the only sports team with a local following that was making any noise were the Green Bay Packers. Of course I became a fan! They were there, ready to be followed, and I conformed to the framework that my family and friends were already a part of. Were I born 100 miles south, I'd have gotten caught up with one of Chicago's many teams (probably the Bulls, but let's stay on football).

In an increasingly connected world, we are bound to come across people from various parts of the country on a regular basis. We are expected to occasionally interact with these people, and since most of us want to avoid being dubbed social nitwits, we rely on good ol' small talk. Sports are an easy subject, since the rules are universal and fandom is one way we identify ourselves. I'm a Packer fan. You're a Packer fan. That guy over there, heaven help him, is a Vikings fan. But at least we all have something in common.

Now, that common bond that millions of people share is at risk of being lost. Well, probably not lost, but postponed for a little while. Maybe shortened a little bit. Who knows? But we don't like it, and we are being loud with our displeasure.

Obviously, the pool of respondents will be biased, since we are all sports fans and nearly all Packers fans. But try to look past how awesome football is (if you can) and look at it from a more historical perspective. Just for funsies.

Why do we care so much?