Last weekend, my beautiful wife made the following statement:
“I like football, but I don’t appreciate it on the same level as you.”
While honest and respectable — since she does watch every single Chiefs game with me and follows all of my heart-held traditions — deep down, it made me sad. Who can’t appreciate this game? For all it has to offer, and all of the subplots, the side stories, the intrigue of the match-up as much as the structure of the sport itself?
It drove me to wonder, what if we could explain the nuances that we as hardcore fanatics focus on, in such a way that paints this particular game in such a light as the “casual television audience” would appreciate?
Who here has been held captive to watch “The Masked Singer”? Just me? Okay, well, it’s a singing ‘talent’ show where celebrities who are hidden behind a facade come and ply their showtime talents, and a panel has to guess who each individual is under the mask.
There’s a correlation here, if you bear with me. In the show, nobody knows who these performers truly are — just as, in sports, we aren’t always sure who is going to show up during each game. In “T.M.S.”, people judge and make formulations on who is what after each performance — much as we do when we watch certain players take the field.
We constantly evaluate these athletes on a game-by-game basis, and everything has to do with their performance. Nobody cares the size of their bank account, or their nose, they only truly operate off of the assumption that they’re supposed to be the best at what they do …
The Back Story
I’m not sure this will fit perfectly into everyone else’s box, but I have a close friend who is a fan of professional wrestling — but not sports. I don’t get it, but I also know that this particular person is a huge fan of theatrics and production, which plays a big part in the National Football League.
You’ll rarely see a promotional shot of an upcoming game that simply says, “Chiefs versus Broncos, next Sunday.” It will typically outline the best position groups between the clubs — something like, Mahomes takes on the Denver defense, or Keenum/Flacco attempt to look decent against a mediocre secondary.
Okay, that last one isn’t very breathtaking.
However, this league is built on promotions and back stories and match-ups, much like any other programming. Understanding the way each team stacks up against the other, and how that translates to possible winning potential, helps to bolster the intrigue of the game. The key component to this particular aspect is the knowledge of …
The Game Play
When I was a young Warthog (feel free to sing the next part, I’ll wait …) I remember asking my father, “why does that guy just run directly into the pile of bodies when he could just run around them?”
I didn’t appreciate or understand the choreography that goes into football — the intrinsic ballet of positioning eleven men into their designated areas and ensuring they fulfilled their specific duties.
On any given play, there are 22 men on the field, each assigned with a task. These tasks are sometimes simplistic — fill the gap — and sometimes difficult; tracking a receiver to the top of a route tree and then basically using instinct and experience to anticipate the break is as complex a task as figuring out peace in the Middle East.
This required precision is what separates these athletes from the rest of us. Dedication to understanding their responsibilities and assignments, as well as the physical talents to achieve the desired results.
When appreciated at its’ finest, football is a beautiful dance. It is taught and finessed by some of the greatest teachers in the realm, and perfected with repetition and studious approach. It is a dangerous ballet of destruction that, at its’ core, is practiced and edited down to the finest of details.
When a quarterback threads the needle on a perfect pass, it most likely isn’t the first time (unless he is Mahomes). When a linebacker reads the proper gap and tallies a tackle for loss, that man probably studied more tape that week than the coaches. When a corner comes down with an interception, it is the product of years of interpreting routes and learning the proper anticipation and use of his body. When a running back hits an interior gap for a huge gain, it’s not luck …
Nobody runs into the pile for nothing.