Even as a femme lesbian with a hard edge, I've never been considered "sporty." I bring books, not Frisbees, to the park. My girlfriend knows to slowly underhand-throw me anything she doesn't want bouncing embarrassingly off my body before falling to the ground. I have never been known to join an adult, even just-for-funsies league of any kind, and I didn't own sneakers until I moved to Oakland a few years ago and learned about nature walks. (In fact, back in New York, when my coworkers decided to dress up as runners for an easy Halloween costume, I was mercilessly teased for showing up in Converses.)
In terms of spectating, the only one I spend any time on is the sport even sports people tend to hate on: baseball. (What can I say, I grew up as a Boston kid). OK, fine, I'm from New England, and the Patriots (and following Tom Brady wherever he goes) have always been a little bit in the background for me. But that's not what leads me to host a Super Bowl party every year.
I love tradition. I'm a spiritual organizer for the LGBTQ+ community, and I spend a lot of time considering ritual and our calendars. I follow the moon and share offerings as it grows, swells, and sheds over the month, sharing tarot spreads and prayer spells for what it can mean for us. I've been doing some work on reclaiming Valentine's Day this month, focusing on self-love and the power of LGBTQ+ spiritual community. On my weekly IG Live chat, I talk about getting to the root and weaving our own meaning into what is arguably considered the most commercial and meaningless holiday of the year. My core principle: Why reject when we can reclaim?
I think we, especially us radical LGBTQ+ activists and advocates, can all too often reject and push away what isn't working, without having something to replace it. I'm all for disrupting the norm and breaking away from stagnant traditions. Yet when we can reframe and reclaim traditions, there's magic and possibility. We're left with new traditions, deeper-rooted rituals, and more opportunities instead of bigger gaps and feeling empty.
Let's face it, we're all holding a lot right now. It's been an unprecedented two years of isolation and disconnection because of the pandemic. We've all been holding uncertainty in ways that have pushed us beyond what we thought possible. Watching the news has become an increasing challenge, as the division in our country and across the world increases. It's not easy to watch each side hardening around our edges of truth, justice, righteousness. Scrolling through news headlines for a few minutes is enough to make me want to scream my head off.
And you know where and when it's socially acceptable and even expected to scream? At a sportsball game. That's right! You can chant, cheer, and throw cans to the ground. I don't care who wins, but best believe that I will be involving my whole body in this experience of relief, riding the waves of energy and emotions that I'm seeing around me and on the screen.
In this way, my friends and I bring our presence to this ritual of Super Bowl watching. It's a time to suspend our external worlds or usual conversations and worries about the world. We can focus wholeheartedly on the programming. Once a year in February, we have a moment carved out of our regularly scheduled community agendas to join in on mainstream, hetero culture, where we can scream and release what we are holding, laugh together at ridiculous commercials, and be wowed by the budget and flair of the halftime show. It may seem small, but this moment to just be, to plug into what is happening in the world, and to experience it in our way, in our bubble, with our community, has been a healing ritual for me.
And when the game is over, unlike the news, which never ends, it's over. There's a clear winner and a loser. There's a sense of resolution and understanding on both sides. Then there's the certainty of rest and looking ahead to a new year. And we deserve that feeling of resolution.
That's why this Sunday I'll be with my pod and a surplus amount of chicken wings, watching the Super Bowl. I can't change where we are right now; I can't predict where our future will lead. But I can incorporate this small ritual, this brief escape from my daily work and fight, to reclaim and reframe this strange American ritual for myself. And I invite you to do the same.
What do you have to lose?
Bex Mui, she/her, is an LGBTQ+ and equity consultant, spiritual organizer, and founder of House of Our Queer, a QTBIPOC-centered spiritual play space.