Location: Indianapolis, Indiana, United States

I'm just trying to develop an online body of work (even if the work is throwaway nonsense) to advance my writing career.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

From the Sidelines of Life

Not again! Please tell me it isn't football season again. Every autumn the public is subjected to the endless and insipidly overblown hype machine known as the National Football League. Equally obnoxious for different reasons is the college football circuit, but that's an entirely separate discussion; the professional game will be the focus here.

Let me make this perfectly clear: my favorite sport is basketball, but I like football. And the NFL has its strengths. Indeed, it is the most popular sport in the United States, and many of the reasons why are good ones. First, the season is compact and only sixteen games are played, making every contest crucial. Second, the vast majority of games are played on Sunday, when most people are off of work and looking to be entertained. The NFL is deftly marketed, offers good drama and can certainly brighten an otherwise dull and somber Sunday afternoon.

The chief problems with professional football stem from its enormous popularity; it's the sport people in this country are most likely to take way too seriously. Fans paint their faces, their bodies, go shirtless in frigid weather, indulge in entirely too much alcohol even before the games commence, and generally come across as pathetic goons whose lives are so absurdly unfulfilling they have to attach their hopes and aspirations to the fortunes of a sports team.

Worse still are the football commentators. All sports broadcasters say moronic things; it goes with the territory when you have to talk all the time. But football telecasts seem to have upped the ante on idiocy. First of all, in other sports, the ball can just be the ball. A basketball can be "the ball" as in "he shoots the ball" and a baseball can be a ball as in "he hits the ball." In football, the object that acts as the central concern of the game is mystifyingly never referred to as simply "the ball." It's always "the football", as though you might forget which kind of "ball" you're watching. Is this connected to its non-spherical shape, perhaps? "He threw the football and the receiver caught the football in a good football play."

Here's my abbreviated Hall of Fame for dumb football quotes:

"No one in football should ever be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein."

"In order for this team to improve, they've got to get better."

And probably my personal favorite:
Announcer #1: He's built like a doorknob...

Announcer #2: And just as hard to bring down!

If you know what the last one means, I imagine you'll be the first.

But the true double bane of football season are a particularly purposeless pair known as the sideline reporter and the fantasy football enthusiast. Similar in that they add nothing to the game, they have something else in common; both are doomed to observe rather than participate. Assuming there are still unitiated people out there, a sideline reporter is called upon to provide insight from near the actual football field. Let's say there's a collison on the field and a player is struck on the head so hard his helmet falls off. In that event, a sideline reporter will generally say something like this:

"The trainer told me the player has a bad headache and may have sustained a concussion. He's very dizzy. Back to you, Phil."

Now, how could that indispensable information have been collected without a sideline reporter? A headache and possible concussion after a sharp blow to the head? Thank you very much!

Fantasy football is a loose affiliation of fans who employ a complex statistical system to "draft" players and compete against each other for prizes or cash. Unlike sideline reporters, who get paid to do a useless job, these people actually pay to do something useless! And don't get one of them started talking about it, whatever you do.

Despite my gripes, I suspect the real reason football gives me a bad feeling is it's a harbinger of the long, dark winter. This sensation accentuates all the negative and makes me grumpy. What I ought to do with all that grumpiness is rid the world of a few fantasy footballers or sideline reporters. But, you know... live and let live.


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