What MAGA Influencers Are Missing About Football

More than 100 million people are expected to watch this Sunday’s Super Bowl between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers, most likely making it the year’s most watched television broadcast — again. The National Football League is an American cultural behemoth: Ninety-three of 2023’s 100 most-watched television broadcasts were N.F.L. games.

Among those who will be watching the game is National Review senior editor Charles C.W. Cooke. A native of England, Cooke has become an avid football fan (specifically, of the Jacksonville Jaguars) and has written about his growing understanding of America’s one true national sport. He has also written about some on the Right’s aversion to the N.F.L., particularly as some concoct convoluted conspiracy theories involving singer Taylor Swift and her boyfriend, the Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce, while others denounce professional sports as a whole.

As Cooke wrote in National Review, “Online, one can say that Taylor Swift is a ‘Deep State psyop’ and prompt a million Lost Boys to clap their hands in glee. At a bar, a baseball game, a kids’ Christmas concert, or a church, such declarations would yield embarrassed confusion, the sound of feet slowly shuffling away, and a hasty investigation into the availability of straitjackets.”

I spoke to Mr. Cooke about falling in love with football, what the sport means to Americans, why some on the Right are fine with being “toxic” to most Americans, and why he thinks the 49ers will win the Super Bowl. This interview has been edited for length and clarity and is part of an Opinion Q. and A. series exploring modern conservatism today, its influence in society and politics and how and why it differs (and doesn’t) from the conservative movement that most Americans thought they knew.

Jane Coaston: So let’s just start here. You grew up in the U.K. and you’ve become a massive Jacksonville Jaguars fan. What do you love about football? What’s it been like being a fan of a team that had a big comeback last year, and a big collapse this year?

Charles C.W. Cooke: Well, the first thing to say about that is it’s unusual in any sports that I’ve followed before. Now, obviously, you’ve had this dynasty in the Patriots, and we seem to be watching one as well with the Chiefs, but in English soccer or European soccer, you don’t tend to see the ups and downs in quite the way that you do in the N.F.L. So just in general, watching the N.F.L. has been fascinating for that. The Jaguars in particular have been heartbreaking.

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