Football in L.A.

Football in L.A. is mostly the Trojans. Sure the town now has two pro teams, neither of which are the Raiders, and UCLA has been playing well the past few years, but still, when people here think of pro football, odds are they mean soccer.But the Rams are back in town and no matter with whom they share a stadium, be it Carl Lewis or Marcus Allen, they will all be playing in one of America’s most iconic venues.

I will watch anyone play football any where, but not every game is played in a place with an olympic cauldron {insert shout-out to the University of Utah here}. Now granted, most other venues have better luxury suites, or tailgating, or at least one modern bell or whistle, but none of them are in Los Angeles.

And being in L.A. means elote and agua fresca. Everywhere should have elote.

Now forgive my limited sample size (just LA and Philly), but here is what I can say from what I have seen- or experienced. Rams crowds are about 1/28th as aggressive as Eagles crowds. Perhaps it is because of the better weather, or because you would need a pitcher’s arm in order to hurl a battery from the cheap seats to the field in the Coliseum, but I saw people wearing the other team’s jersey in the stands without harassment. I got a sun burn. No one hurled obscenities at their own team’s players. But, in both places, the players ran, tackled, threw, caught and kicked.

And football fans were pretty much still themselves.

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A Prayer of Thanks and Thanksgiving

For some of us there is an inexplicable need to crash into another person. There is no malice in it, just a reciprocal pleasure in collision. Its fun.

At this season of giving thanks, and turkey bowls, I must offer my gratitude for those who have fostered God’s great game on Earth. Whether it be the primordial birth at English boarding school, the formation of an ivy league, or the frozen tundra of Vince Lombardi’s soul- thank you.133982157633763565_FF2pqoAT_f

Thank you to Joe Cool, Ronnie Lott, Jerry Rice, the backfield combo of high knees crazy eyed Roger Craig and smash mouth soft handed Tom Rathman and the greatest second string QB to ever play, for making the fandom of my youth worthwhile.

Thank you Walter Camp for making Web Ellis’s game into a militaristic chess match and thank you Bo Jackson for knowing.

There may possibly, but only maybe, be some other way to satisfy the mannish desire to dress up in armor and gear and run and jump and win and lose and scream and play and dance and fall down and put your face right into someone so hard that snot bubbles up in their nostrils and spit flies from their throat and then you offer your hand to help them up. Or maybe you just stand over them and roar. There may be some other way, or venue, to do these things, but they are, or would be, inherently inferior.bowlfight1905

Thank you Barry Sanders for shifting sideways better than everyone. Thank you TO for giving me reason to say out loud, “Wait! Did you see that? Did he just pull a Sharpie out of his sock and sign the ball? Did you see that!?” Thank you Lawrence Taylor for that moment of sympathetic terror we all had in those moments when you got around the corner and the QB hadn’t seen you yet. Oh yes thank you for that.

Thank you Jonah Lomu for being a freak before Jevon Kearse and thank you Jerry Collins for making my sternum hurt despite having never met you.Chabal_Rugby_Racing_vs_Stade_Toulousain_311009

Thank you Chad Hauser for that one time in wind sprints where you didn’t see me coming and thank you Asi Mohi for my first broken nose. Thank you Deb Bilbao for teaching me in 6th grade that a girl can pick a boy up over her head and toss him away like trash, and thank you Vern for teaching me every dirty trick a lineman should know despite my being 2 years and 100 pounds your inferior. Thank you gigantic racist Afrikaner for teaching me that if you reach your right arm all the way over toward the loosehead’s waistband it will keep him from boring in.270919733803588039_YMsWTYK4_c

Thank you Jon Brown for being both classy and terrifying. Thank you Randall Cunningham for throwing the ball in Randy Moss’s general vicinity so he could make amazing things look easy, and thank you Steve Atwater for nearly chopping people in half.

And thank you Thanksgiving for providing a day to celebrate gluttony and collisions together.

click here for a visual ode to beauty, grace, and truth.

Also… team in D.C…. Change your name. You are ruining everything.

Tearing Up the Front Porch: University of Chicago

The University of Chicago is one of those Rockefeller schools founded in the late 1800’s with a donation from John D. The first classes were held in 1892, not that long ago by some standards, but since then the place has housed 89 Nobel Prize winners, 50 Rhodes Scholars, and 13 billionaires.

More importantly Chicago was a founding member of the  Big Ten conference, won 2 national football championships, and a Chicago player was the recipient of the first ever Heisman trophy. That was 1935.

In 1939, Chicago stopped playing football.IMG_9687

Make no mistake, I love football. I even love college football. But Cancelling football right after winning the Heisman, at a time when college football was becoming America’s true national game, is FABULOUS!IMG_9906

It was fabulous in that more people today know about the Chicago School of Economics and its original rejection of Keynesian ideas than know about the Heisman. Which is appropriate because it is a college. A school. Odds are if one buys a Chicago Maroons sweater at Walmart they are not cheering a running back but more likely an academic.

Most schools are not that brave.IMG_9581

But to go to Chicago you have to be brave. It is a must.

Why? Because it is unbearably cold there. Freezing. Yeah, yeah, yeah, people there chose brains over sports but really, it was probably just way too cold outside. Seriously how do people live in that?IMG_9959 Ranked #4 by US News & World Report

Student body: 15,312

Endowment: $7.5 billion

Mascot…. the Phoenix!

Football Can Save the World

Football is the answer to all our problems.Don’t laugh, I’m serious.

Now I’m not just talking about sports in general but this specific one. I will concede that all sports, well most sports, have merit. It is good to learn that sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. Winning takes work, or luck, or a weaker opponent. Sometimes you just aren’t good enough, sometimes the referee robs you, and sometimes you are just unprepared.

There are rules. If you choose to disobey the rules penalties are enforced, unless they don’t catch you, but someone always notices.

Sports are proactive, or reactive, but always active. Doing is required. You have to play. There are those who watch, and they are often loud and always have an opinion, but someone has to play.

All these things apply to sport and life. These merits have made room in our academic institutions and our children’s schedules. Long live sports!

But if I was told all sports must go but one, I would need no time for deliberation. The answer is clear. If I had to choose one sport with which to instruct our youth, one sport with the most to offer, one sport with which to craft our world, it would be Football!

First, before you start, I’ll address the violence. Yes, football is rough, so is life. I am not fundamentally against spanking kids, but I’m doing everything I can not to. It is hard not to because I know that sometimes a quick smack in the mouth teaches a lesson quicker than a sermon, 5 time outs, and forfeited toys. The problem is I don’t want my children associating smacks in the mouth with me. That’s what is great about football. There are strict rules governing the use of violence. There is room to exert it with everything you have, but only while in control. When you lose control there are the most severe of penalties… you get thrown out of the game.

There are pads to protect the player. In a violent sport there must be some sort of protection but pads also change the game. What my rugby playing brothers don’t understand is that football pads are covered in plastic and metal. Plastic and metal are much harder than muscle and bone. Pads allow a player to play past the usual physical limitations. Without pads a player could not run full speed directly into another player, who is also running directly at him, exploding into the contact rather than bracing for it. The pads remove hesitation and fear, allowing the player to give it their all without inhibitions. The result is much more explosive collisions, more intensity, and more violence.

Laws, family, and society work as pads for life. All can both protect us and change the nature of the game we are playing. The more padding life or society gives us, the harder we can play without fear of pain or penalty. If we abuse this padding the consequences are also amplified.

Football, more than any other sport, must be coached. Someone is calling the plays, directing the game, orchestrating the whole show. Every play is choreographed. There are so many moving parts that must work in concert with each other, that the one moving the chess pieces must be heeded. A player must learn to take instruction, feedback, and criticism, not only in daily practices but during the heat of battle as well. Player and coach must learn to communicate and wills must bend. Someone must lead and someone must call the shots. A player who wants to play must learn that performance gets the coaches attention. If a player wants to get noticed, wants to contribute, they must gain the coaches favor. Some coaches judge solely on skill and performance, others on personality and family. A player must learn that if the coach is running the show, the player must accommodate. Most all programs have multiple coaches. A player must learn to listen to different coaches and use these coaches as advocates in their favor with the head coach. Each individual must not only perform individually, but gain favor of layers of others, be they teammates or coaches, and at the end of it, all must work together to win.

Society works the same way. Jobs, governments, neighborhoods, and families all possess layers of hierarchy and networks that must be maneuvered and navigated.

Unlike basketball, baseball, or even hockey, no one player can completely dominate a game. There is no real Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods of football. In basketball all players are more or less doing the same activities, dribbling, passing, shooting, defending. Some may perform these tasks with slightly different roles but essentially a center and a guard are both dribbling, passing, shooting, and defending. There are some players who do all these things so well they can render the rest of the team secondary or even inconsequential. A pitcher can throw a no-hitter. A goalie can amazingly shut down an entire team… not in football.

Each position in football has a unique purpose, and all must be done well to have success. A quarterback is useless without good lineman, and the two positions are absolutely nothing alike. Receivers and linebackers are nothing alike but both are essential. The different positions are so varied that they require players with a staggeringly wide range of skills and abilities. Some positions require obscene size and strength, others speed and agility. Some take aggression and reaction, others vision and cunning.

To win a team and its players must learn to perform individual tasks while also relying on others to simultaneously perform completely different tasks. You must balance individual responsibility and trust in others, as well as a system. A player must learn to trust someone who is nothing like them; doing things they can in no way do themselves. Leaders may emerge and weaknesses may become apparent, but to win all must adjust and work together.

This lesson, above all else, can make the world a better place. We must not all be alike in the world, nor should we be. Difference is good, even essential. The key is learning to appreciate that no one position, or person, can do without the other and all are important.

As long as we are all on the same team.

We perform our roles with varying levels of success, while others do the same. We win, we lose, and our actions have consequences for both ourselves and others. The way we play in life has rewards and sometimes pain. How much better prepared is a person, or a society, that has practiced living while young, before it really matters? How much better prepared is someone who has learned what it takes to win, or lost and still got up to play again?

Our world and our society are fraught with problems. We have racism, starvation, greed, and selfishness. Irresponsibility, laziness, nepotism, and politics are everywhere.

What is to be done?

Let’s play football!