American football was one of the first two sports I followed in what was then section D of the local newspapers. And Sundays after Mass, of course. I was surprised to learn sports pages kept track of wins, losses, points, percentages, and such. I liked the up and down of the numbers as much as the competition I watched on television.
I enjoyed playing football, too. I didn’t play it very often–usually at Scout camp. Very occasionally in gym class. I couldn’t throw a football very well and I didn’t have good “hands” to catch. I liked playing defense. One year at camp a friend forced a fumble and the ball bounced in front of me. I picked it up and got a touchdown.
In the 80′s and 90′s, I made it to three NFL games in various venues (Buffalo, Pontiac MI, and Minneapolis). I feel ambivalent about football these days. I follow it in the sense of watching how the upstate New York team performs. Said team rarely makes it to television here in the Midwest. One of our students is from a suburb of my hometown, so we commiserate about the woes of being a Bills fan. I wasn’t actually a Bills fan until the very late 70′s. I used to like Oakland and Pittsburgh.
But for the flip of a coin (or some such decision) my little brother would be rooting for Seattle in today’s big game. After the Steelers (his first favorite team) won two Super Bowls (IX and X) he didn’t feel he had anything left to cheer for. I told him that the NFL was adding two new teams in 1976 and maybe he could follow one of those two. I don’t know why he chose Tampa Bay ahead of Seattle, but he’s been a Buccaneer fan ever since. Even after they won a Super Bowl in 2003.
On the darker side, I remember my good friend Michael getting taken out at the knees in one of our tackle football games while on the Catholic Scout Retreat in 1973. Ambulance. Stern lectures from adult leaders and seminarians. Crutches for two months.
Michigan State women complained about football players who invaded one of their socials and trashed up the place. That was in the mid-90′s.
These days I read college players are unionizing. Probably a good thing.
Concussions. Loss of twenty to thirty years of life expectancy, on average, for a four year pro career, on average. Athletics used to be about fitness, not survival. Competition not corporations.
I wonder how long the NFL, the Super Bowl, and American-style football will be competed. And use the Roman numerals. Are we close to the apex of it? Nowhere near? Past it?