In yesterday’s On The Square, El Jefe offers an admittedly ambivalent musing on the disappearance of a once-unified culture, captured by the once-popular, What’s My Line?

Dorothy Kilgallen was a perennial presence on that show’s panel and since I “murdered” her in a TV series a while back; forcing her to drink copious amounts of vodka at gunpoint, I should probably recuse myself from weighing in.

I would, however, point to a headline in yesterday’s Variety that suggests a kind of unity—or perhaps yearning for it—latent in the story’s statistics, “There’s no stopping the NFL, as NBC’s season opener of “Sunday Night Football” drew the highest overnight score for a Week 1 primetime game in 13 years.”

I should also mention that Thursday night’s game between defending lords of the ring, New Orleans Saints and the Minnesota Vikings, led by Brett Favre, drew the biggest primetime audience for an NFL game in 12 years. In fact, fans in Favre’s former “home town” of Green Bay tuned in at a 33 share—five points higher than the overall number, demonstrating the enduring magnetism of football’s grey gunslinger.

On top of this, the league was facing competition from such glittering cultural gems as the MTV Music Awards and HBO’s erotic gore fest, True Blood —as well as ratings bully, CSI Miami . Why then the big numbers?

Maybe, in a time of such toxic rancor and hyper-extended subjectivism, there is a yearning for something simpler, truer—something gloriously free from interpretation and posturing. Football’s rules are fairly straightforward. When a field goal is attempted, the ball either goes through the uprights or it doesn’t. And despite the emotions surrounding Calvin Johnson’s non-touchdown in Sunday’s Lions-Bears game, Rule 8, Section 1, Article 4 held and the matter was unequivocally settled.

It’s also quite a thing to look at the screen and see people who truly deserve to be there. Here I’m talking in terms of raw performance, not off-field antics.

Then there’s the pleasure of watching individuals of different races and religions working together in a common purpose, embracing each other in the good moments and exhorting each other through the tougher ones.

In a weekend marked by a somber anniversary—with a creepy parade of book-burning pastors, cagey imams, race-hypocrites and compulsive finger-pointers swelling audiences eager for the discipline, excellence, camaraderie and fun on display in the opening of the NFL season suggest a yearning for that unified culture even in this micro form. It was a tonic I know I was thirsty for.

Articles by Tim Kelleher

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