Of all the major sports – of which I include hockey, though others may disagree, believing it can’t be a major sport if its nationally televised games are broadcast on Channel two hundred and seventy-five – the sport I am least enthusiastic about is football.
There are reasons for that. I have given them before, so I’ll do it fast. First of all – no, that’s not first of all, this is first of all – critically assessed, football is a neck injury surrounded by a game. Call me wimpy, but I find the imminent possibility of paralysis interferes with my enjoyment of an event. This also explains why I rarely watch boxing, and avoid car racing. I mean, comedians “die” on stage, metaphorically. In boxing and car racing, they can actually die.
“And I saw it happen!”
And that’s a good thing?
So much for doing it fast.
My city doesn’t have a professional football team, so I have nobody to root for. I don’t bet, so there’s no financial interest. I am also troubled by a sport whose most recognizable figures are the head coaches.
The coaches are the game’s biggest stars. Control freaks with a scowl. Dictators with headsets. These maniacs retire, and when they say, “I want to spend more time with my family”, you can hear their families screaming,
The game is smotheringly micromanaged. The quarterback comes onto the field with a preset series of plays written on his wristband. And when he runs all of those, further instructions are delivered through the radio in his helmet. For me, this constricting manipulation takes all the “juice” out of the game. It’s like a movie star being forced to wear an earpiece, and during the scene, the director, sits off-camera, ordering his emotions.
“Okay – your first three reactions – happy, then angry, then really, really sad.”
“You want tears?”
“Did I say I wanted tears?”
“Sorry. I just thought…”
“Don’t. Think. This is a two hundred million dollar picture. Nobody thinks but me.”
And nobody calls the plays but the coach.
Okay. Argument against football made. Case closed.
And then I turn on the game.
And I see this:
The quarterback takes the snap, goes back to pass. The defenders break through the line. Appearing certain to be sacked, the quarterback eludes the grasp of the oncoming rush, all the while looking downfield for an open man. As he’s about to be tackled, he spots his wide receiver, steps up, and lofts a spiraling “bomb” in his direction.
Leaping high over the defensive back, the receiver makes a “fingertip” catch near the sidelines. The expected move is to run out of bounds. But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he turns away from the sidelines, racing laterally across the field. When his path is blocked, he reverses directions and heads back where he came from, picking up blockers as he goes. He finds the narrowest of seams, bursts into the clear and streaks towards the end zone.
There was undoubtedly a set play at the beginning. But at some point, it broke down.
And the players took control.
And did impossible things.
And under unbelievable pressure.
Watching it brings tears in my eyes.
And seriously confused.
What can I tell ya?
I love a game I don’t like.