American football goes indie

by Kitty Drake in March 2021
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Spiral is about tribalism in the USA — a familiar subject — but this magazine looks at it through a more joyful lens: American football. Editor Shawn Ghassemitari describes how, as the child of Iranian immigrants, football was the way his family assimilated into society. His magazine looks at how life-long allegiance to a team splinters America, but it is also a celebration of tribalism: how certain games create “snippets of time that we’ve all shared together, regardless of class or culture”.

The most intriguing pieces in the magazine draw links between American society, throughout history, and what was happening on the pitch. In one feature, photographs of America’s first Super Bowl in 1967 are used to elucidate the prosperity and heightened anxiety of the Cold War era. In an essay by Ghassemitari, the gatherings that occur in living rooms on Super Sunday are aligned to the lure of the flame in ancient societies. If you are not an avid football fan, such analogies can feel a little stretched — but they are fun to read.

Spiral’s greatest appeal is its design, which is exquisite. The whole magazine looks like a thick, juicy ring binder, and images are often superimposed over one another, like collage. Slap-bang the middle of the magazine, there’s a neon orange book of illustrations called ‘Half Time’, devoted to ‘American Football traditions’: lucky charms, and trophies, and pre-game rituals. The magazine is intricate and characterful; a reflection of the football-mad love of its creator.

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