I have been a football fan since I was little. I like the crack of the tackle, and also what that contact represents. It’s the crispness of the aggression. The ballet of steel and power, the driving ahead, the impossible bounce of the ball that swings momentum like a wrecking ball. Grace under pressure, broad shoulders, snug pants, white shoes, and speed. The player is as big and as strong as he can be. He uses one hundred percent gravity to become the opposite of gravity. It is athleticism and power and drama of the game, the teamwork, movement and personality of its players.
Perhaps my childhood football fantasies were bigger still because I was a girl. Because I knew that I would never actually be able to play.
I was a physical, athletic child, refusing the pink Barbie aisle in favor of cowboy outfits and cap guns, but at the same time I was mooning over Drew Pearson’s sweet smile on a Dallas Cowboys rookie card. I could have it all in watching football. And it made me different, it made me feel special. I traded cards with a boy around the corner, and played pick-up football with boys at the park (until they realized I was a girl).
Sunday afternoons meant rooting for the Oakland Raiders’ in a fourth quarter come-from-behind win. Ken Stabler would be back to pass, the pocket crumbling aroundhim, and he’d find Dave Casper at the sideline, and Casper, the big tight-end, would tilt and bend over backward and pick the ball out the fog, sacrificing his body for the first down. The drive stays alive! And it has for me. Whether it’s Tony Dorsett behind the fullback, Lynn Swannin the corner of the end zone or a Brett Favre bullet pass into joyous jubilation and winning smile. I like watching the whole game, and how it develops.
— Fourth and one… This is a big play.
— Montana is out and Young is in…”
— Earl Campbell or Mike Alstott in a flat footed rumble, a barge barging ahead.
— The neat, straight lines before the ball is snapped, and the pool-break effectwhen the center hikes the ball and everyone goes into action. Scattering and bashing,hidden patterns and a quaterback’s threaded needle pass to a fully extended receiver.
I also like the mud soaked mistakes, the drama of the fumble, the pinched look of a coach.
When a player gets hit and grabbed at to the point of where his shoulder padshave been yanked over his jersey, I love it when the camera catches one of his teammatesfixing his shirt for him. In this mess and mass of competition and intimidation, I find this gesture so touching among the players. Team mates — this whole sense of connection and belonging comes over me. It’s the dance of a running back, the fakes and sidesteps. Moving in twodirections at once. I like the way it looks when the defender just misses the tack
le andyou see his arms fall off his opponent like feathers.
I like the instant replays, slow motion that removes it for a few moments from the raw reality and takes it to another level of beauty. I like the close-ups. Televisionlets you see their eyes. Under all those pads they are a bunch of people who mustmaintain an amazing level of intensity through all of football’s fits and starts. I won’t sayI’d rather be capable of doing this, I’m just s
aying I appreciate what they have to do to getthe job done. It’s like watching an action movie where the hero gets trampled by life’sadversity and keeps struggling — banged up and bruised, muddy and thwarted by fate – to the end toward victory. Except in football it’s just gotta be a team effort or the whole game is lost.
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