When quarterback Tom Brady — poster boy for gridiron promiscuity — failed to complete a game-winning pass to the end zone on Sunday, the thought that ran through my mind (and maybe not exclusively) was something like “Thank you, Jesus! It’s over! We won’t have to endure grown men beating each other up in front of a television audience for nearly half a year.” Added benefits: no more instant replays, no more decisions made by a computer.
You know me: my preference goes to guys hitting and catching a small, stitched white ball around an asymmetrical playing field, with physical contact held to a minimum. Football? Not so much. I did enjoy the rendition that involved Howard Cosell and Dandy Don, along with a couple of rounds over at a steak house in the Valley. But now in the solidly corporate version that passes for a game, I’m left cold, and on Monday nights left pretty much by myself at the bar.
Sorry, but the whole endeavor is deadly dumb and dull. Twenty-one behemoths collide as the twenty-second runs to the opposite end of the field holding an ungainly ball. When — and if — he arrives, he throws said ball to a referee or the crowd and launches into an embarrassing dance of some sort.
You’re kidding me.
I mean I just don’t get it. At all. You win the game if your team carries the ball to the far end of the field more times than the other guys. And that’s it, “it” now being worth millions of dollars per player to successful practitioners.
And you have to admit to a firm feeling of deja vu for every game you see. You really have been there before. In times past, I’ve gone to a few Super Bowl parties and found that group interest faded significantly well before the end of the first quarter, and if the game was a complete blowout in the end, cars were already starting outside. Even a dinky pool was often not enough to sustain interest.
Somebody figured out that actual playing time, when you deleted huddle time, official time outs, and various organizational minutes and so forth, came out to be mere minutes. Compare that, for instance, to a tennis match where the ball is in play almost constantly.
Back when I was a kid playing touch football with maybe a dozen other guys on the corner lot, it made sense because it didn’t require a whole lot of brain power. Then too, the “end zones” were within reach in just four downs, so we didn’t need chains, field markings of any kind, to say nothing of officials. You scored a touchdown when you got to the sidewalk at the far end of the lot.
My older brother was the only one who brought a semblance of structure to our neighborhood games when he decided to use hot lime to indicate sidelines, yardlines and goals. I guess it worked, but then I got a small shovelful of the lime in my eye that needed medical attention for a couple of weeks. I think we only used Mauri’s Field for a couple of games; the lines were crooked.
Then too, there was the insistence of a neighbor’s dog to join in play: pretty fair unintended blocker, but there was always a concern about avoiding dog droppings, which showed up in the worst places.
Football, it turned out, began to lose its appeal when the uniforms showed up, along with a reason to win or lose, finally with cash making the imperative even worse. Now with a plethora of playoffs and championships and onward to ratings and, good god, computerized determinations of who’s best in college ball, the game for kids has gone completely bonkers. We retired our battered football when we were about 15. And unlike the fabled Johnny Unitas, who when he reached his ’60s, could no longer grasp a coffee cup, we still can.