Well, the Super Bowl will be upon us soon.
In recent years, I have come to watch it more for the commercials then for what happens between the end lines. Although last year was outstanding when Cheatin’ Pete Carroll got his come-uppins by trying to show just how smart he was.
From the time I was 6 years old rolling around in the mud under the bleachers at my brother’s high school football game, I knew football was something I was going to want to do.
It eventually became the dominant force in my life. Everything I did revolved around the game. I played other sports to stay in shape for football. I even joined the military to play football, thanks to the fact that my recruiter omitted to tell me that the Army had done away with organized football the year before I joined.
I did end up playing one game of football in the Army – but since we were not sanctioned, our equipment was hand-me-downs from local high schools. My head size is 7 ¾ to 7 7/8, but the biggest helmet we could get was 7 ¼. Once it got on it did not get off until the day was done.
I had hoped that one season would re-hone my skills for junior college ball when I got out. That endeavor lasted three days – after an entire summer of preparation – when a tackling drill left my shoulder in pieces. To this day it still does not work right. Turning in my playbook was the hardest thing I had ever done in my young life. Sixteen years of preparation, hope and desire came to a screeching halt.
But life has a way of going on. The 80s unfolded and that was a great time to be a Niner fan. With the 90s I got back into the game via coaching and working at football camps and the new millennium brought yet another way for me to stay in the game – reporting.
But throughout this evolution, one thing remained constant with me – the love of the game. But the game has evolved as well, and from the first spike of a football there has been an ugly aspect growing within the game that has done it much more harm than good – individualism. Everybody celebrates – but the words I heard years ago seem to be almost inaudible today: Act like you have been there before.
As a guy who played in the trenches, I find it especially nauseating when a defensive lineman does his job, makes a sack and then gyrates like a chicken with his private parts caught in a vice. He is getting paid hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars a year to do one thing – get to the ball. A fumble recovery for a touchdown or a game-ending sack may be cause for celebration, but doing what you are paid to do is not.
This sort of behavior does not pop up overnight – it is cultivated over years, or even decades.
One of the Manteca youth football teams was getting annihilated in their Super Bowl last season against a team from South Stockton when the opposing team scored yet another touchdown. As the opponent was nearing the goal line he slowed down, held the ball up and walked into the end zone. That is the textbook definition of taunting, yet no flag was thrown. I knew the officiating crew and asked them why no flag was thrown. I was told that they talked to the kid. I told them this was Week 14 and the time for talking was Week 1.
So that kid is going to continue in his career thinking it is all right to act the fool, to denigrate the game.
I hear one of the quarterbacks in Sunday’s game tends to act the same way, and he defends his actions by saying his critics line up against him because of his race. Why do people try to use their race as a shield for outlandish behavior?
So here is hoping on Sunday that the Denver defense keeps opposition celebration opportunities to a minimum. And that has nothing to do with race – it has to do with respect for the game.