Friday, January 08, 2016

As the football season wanes ...

... it's time for a football post. I'm almost ready to look beyond the gridiron season, but not quite yet.

Gregg Easterbrook writes the Tuesday Morning Quarterback column at the Times. And he has a new book: The Game's Not Over: In Defense of Football that I've had around the house for the last month. His title -- The Game's Not Over -- served as something of a mantra around here through end of the NFL regular season and the Armpit Bowls (more on those later.)

This isn't a deep book, but it's fun. Easterbrook's defense of football is essentially that, with all its faults, it is just the right sport for the nation we are.

... though the NFL is riven with problems, the league is here to stay. America's love affair with the National Football League should continue far into the future. ...This book began by proposing that the National Football League has assumed such an outsized role in United States life both because the games are so good and because the NFL holds up a mirror to the internal conflicts of American society.

The first factor, the quality of the games, extends beyond the outstanding skills of the players. As a living chessboard, professional football engages the mind. Many sports offer interesting action but few regularly cause the audience to say, 'I wonder what strategy will be used next?'

... The NFL's combination of strength, speed, power and thinking results in the perfect sport for a strong nation of rising education levels.

... the question of America's proper role in the world will be with us for generations, and is reflected in the king of sports. The United States is a musclebound superpower that's never really sure how to behave. Professional football is a musclebound superpower sport that can't make up its mind what's right either. The United States and and professional football were made for each other.

Corporate greed, a willingness to injure in pursuit of wealth and dominance, sexism and racism are all there, but Easterbrook predicts the sport will survive.

Much of where he goes from those observations seems poorly argued to me. I find his speculation implausible that young U.S. males do worse in school than girls because they bang their heads routinely playing football from an early age. But his proposed remedy, banning the tackling game until kids are at least 13 as their pro-QB father did for Eli and Peyton Manning, seems a sensible idea that might even catch on among a slew of measures meant to reduce head trauma.
About those Armpit Bowls -- this is the name I give to those end of season contests which pit small schools you never heard of (East Armpit U. v. West Crackerjack College) against one another in order to round out a full diet of 40 games in the last two weeks of December. Watching most of these on TV is one of my annual seasonal pleasures. These small schools thrust onto a bigger stage often bring imagination and passion unmatched by the complacent football power conference teams. This year's offerings didn't disappoint. The first weekend's contests of the obscure (including Alcorn State vs. North Carolina A&T; San Jose State vs. Georgia State; Ohio vs. Appalachian State) were exciting games. I can't say that for the much hyped "New Year's Six," including the college playoff semi-finals, all six of which were pretty much yawners.

Average margin of victory of the eight college bowl games played on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1: 27.3 points.

Peter King, MMQB

Sure, I enjoyed watching Stanford run rings around Iowa in the Rose Bowl, but this wasn't much of a game.
And just for the record, in case you missed Jerry Seinfeld interviewing the President on Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee:

Seinfeld: What sport is politics?

Obama: It's probably most like football. ..Because a lot of players, a lot of specialization, a lot of hitting, a lot of attrition, but then every once in awhile, you'll see an opening, so you hit the line, you get one yard, you try a play, you get knocked back, now it's like third and fifteen, ... you have to punt a lot. But every once in a while you'll see a hole and then there is open field.

Yup -- our national game.

1 comment:

ellen kirkendall said...

I agree: the Armpit Bowls can be some the most interesting games. College football in general is much more interesting to me than the pro games. There is improvement (or not) over the season and some pretty inventive play.

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