Ahh, the end of summer. The kids are back in school, temperatures will remain in the 90’s for just another couple of months here in Texas and baseball, sadly, only has about another 30 or so games left to play. But, what this calendar milestone really means—excuse me ladies—is that football is back. That’s right sports fans, the coming Labor Day weekend ushers in a smorgasbord of gridiron clashes that will take us from September, I mean August, to just this side of Valentine’s Day. Does it get any better than this?
While I am a devotee of all athletic endeavors involving sticks and balls, football stands at the top of this sport watching pantheon. I’ve always felt that these festivals of modern day gladiators were uniquely American. Football combines the elements that define us as a country. It’s fast, ruthless, violent and it makes a lot of money. Some may say that baseball remains our national pastime. The political columnist, and ardent baseball fan, George Will once said that football “combines the two worst things about America: it is violence punctuated by committee meetings”. Obviously the estimable Mr. Will has never heard of the “no huddle” offense. Others may argue that basketball is the province of U.S. domination. Aside from the fact that the game’s inventor, James Naismith, was Canadian, our recent showings in major international showcases demonstrates that our superiority in the game is more in the eye of the jingoistic fan than the actual results on the hardwood.
And so we are left with football. There simply is no other sport played in the world today that we can indisputably boast of our preeminence. Football is ours and we aren’t about to relinquish our mantle to some other country that bastardizes the term to describe the two hours of knee grabbing tedium that we call soccer. The Russians? Fat chance. They might have stolen hockey from the Canadians, and although they may challenge us for missile supremacy, even they know not to question the superiority of the “cover two” defense. What about China some of you may ask? While they may be able to buy the NFL, is anybody worried that the next dominant middle linebacker is hiding out somewhere in Shanghai? Get real. Some Europeans like to make snide comments about how their rugby players don’t need pads but I don’t think many of those guys really want to know what it feels like to be hit by a 250 pound linebacker who runs a 4.6 forty, pads or no pads. And honestly, how much fear can a guy named Clive really instill in someone?
And doesn’t football bring the whole family together? There really aren’t too many activities nowadays that can bring mom, dad, and little Johnny and Janey together for three hours than a Packers-Cowboys game. I know in the Crosby household, football is always welcome on the big screen and each of us sits on the edge our designated spot on the couch until the final gun. Mrs. Crosby grew up in Newfoundland, but you don’t want to be anywhere close to her when an errant Tony Romo pass winds up in the hands of a defender. You’re just not going to get that same level of intensity watching figure skating for example. Honestly, how many sports can claim to be a family unifier and cathartic at the same time?
As I sit here writing this blog, the first kick-off of the season is less than 24 hours away. I have my Texas and Cowboys jerseys all laid out, the refrigerator stocked and the number of my favorite pizza place on speed dial. Just like the butterfly emerging from its cocoon, I feel like I am on the crest of a great awakening and I don’t think I’m alone here. Although our dreams of being the star quarterback or scoring the winning touchdown have been replaced by the reality of hunting for the ibuprofen after playing catch with our kids in the backyard, we still get a visceral thrill when we see a big hit or great catch on the flat screen. And so as we enter this Labor Day weekend, make sure no one sits in your lucky seat, keep the beer cold, the chips close and get ready for some football.