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Are you ready to play some football?

October 25, 2010

While I enjoy watching it, there are few things in life as much fun as playing football. Baseball is fine, but 9 innings in left field can be a tad tedious. Soccer, no thanks, I’d just as soon go out for a run. Hockey, nah, I don’t like playing any sport where you need to move on wheels or blades while carrying a stick.

There are two elements about football that make it a uniquely fun sport to play.

1) On every play each player has a very important responsibility. Quarterbacks, wide receivers, running backs, offensive line, defensive line, linebackers, and defensive backs all have something to do. No one can take a play off and each element of the lineup has to play well or the whole thing falls apart. It’s the perfect combination of chess match and physical ability. A lesser talent can increase their value by playing smart, while a very talented player has the luxury of skill to make-up for some mental faults.

2) This is going to sound masochistic, but I love coming home in pain. My legs hurt, my hands hurt, I’m bruised, each ding feels exquisite. I was sitting in church last night looking at my hands and appreciating the cuts around my knuckles, and that was after I had to haul myself up the church steps using the handrail like I was a 90-year-old asthmatic.

Since the mid-1990’s, I’ve played flag-football with a bunch of friends in South Jersey. We’ve had guys come and go over the years, but there’s a core of us who’ve been keeping the “league” together. We call it a league, though it’s really just a Sunday morning pick-up game played during the NFL season. For the first 10 years of so we played weekly, no matter what the elements. As we eventually found women we were able to convince to marry us and birth our spawn, the games have dropped to once or twice a month.

And that’s a little sad.

In today’s society, most men, particularly those of us relegated to the cubicle, don’t really have a chance to tap into their primal male warrior psychology and do battle with other men. Football, even flag football, has a lot of great hand-to-hand combat comparisons. Such as the battle between a pass rusher and a center as the two guys literally push and shove each other for ten seconds as the play develops. The receiver and defensive back hand checking each other for 20 yards while trying to leap for the ball. The quarterback determining whether to “fight of flight” as a pass rusher bears down on him – does he run away from the pressure or hold his ground and air out a pass after which he’ll likely be hit, hard.

How often do men, in our mamby pamby “everybody’s a winner” society, get the chance to battle one another in a manner like this? It’s essentially approved assault and battery. Somehow I don’t see too many workplaces allowing this kind of behavior. And yet it’s so necessary. It allows men to embrace their neanderthal DNA.

There’s only one thing worse than the wussification of the modern man. The fact that those of us who are still trying to hold on to what little masculinity we have left will eventually get old.

I’m 38 now. I was marginally good when I was 25. I’m the last guy picked now. I’m playing three years past the age I thought I would when I was 25. I don’t know if I’m out of shape (which I am), tired (I had split firewood for two straight days prior to yesterday’s game) or if my skills are just shot.

I used to be a better than average QB, today I was barely serviceable. I used to be an ok receiver, now I’m definitely the short yardage no one else to throw to guy. On defense, I couldn’t cover anyone and barely rushed the passer. At this point, my only real talent is long snapping the ball (and yes, that’s actually a needed talent) and committing penalties (no one holds better than me.)

But I can’t help it. I love to play football. I love it so much that after playing today, I decided to get back into some semblance of shape. One game is all it took to light a fire under me. Not an expanding waistline, double chins, nor the flexibility of a 13-year-old St. Bernard inspired me to lose weight and put on some muscle. But one frickin’ game, in which I played pretty lousy, got me right back in the frame of mind to get into shape.

I have no idea if that’s good or bad, but I have no intention of passing up this glimmer inspiration. If Jaime Moyer can play pro baseball at 46 and Brett Favre can play pro football at 41, with a little effort I should at least be able to reach mediocre in flag football at 38.

I really need to take up yoga.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. October 25, 2010 9:21 AM

    And one addition to my second point from my fellow football player and brother-in-law “The feeling of showering early in the day, with some sense of accomplishment, with nothing but NFL and junk food for the balance of the day.”

  2. Janet permalink
    October 25, 2010 10:51 AM

    ” women we were able to convince to marry us and birth our spawn”

    Spawn? Was your thesaurus unavailable?

    • October 25, 2010 11:04 AM

      What do you mean? That’s an excellent use of the word. I was going for a classically male chauvinist view of the offspring of a union. Not that I agree with it of course, as you can attest, your husband and I will do anything for our children. But back in the day, men typically didn’t want to be bothered with the children from conception until they were old enough to tend the fields or take the throne – depending on your social status.

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