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On this weekend, it seems everyone is a football fan. The Super Bowl impacts our culture like no other single-day sporting event.
I consider myself a serious, big-time NFL fan. While other sports, other activities and interests capture my off time now and then, nothing consistently holds my interest like the 32 teams that comprise the National Football League.
Most folks who know that fact expect me to be excited about the Super Bowl. But I don’t look forward to the big game with awe.
It’s a time when the sport is captured by the casual fan. Many closet experts surface and inattentive spectators try to prompt impromptu discussions of the game that typically focus more on quarterbacks’ intelligence, sideline coaching antics or hairstyles hanging from helmets.
The game itself is kidnapped a bit by entertainment interests. The hours of pregame programming attest to its popularity but the interviews with politicans, singers and actors add little to the fun of sport. The entertainment before the game and at halftime extends the overall duration of the broadcast and the amount of time the players spend lounging rather than playing.
Worst of all, in my view, are those casual fans who “root” for a team. I watch the game. I’m watching for blitz packages, crisp tackles, well-executed pass patterns and blocking schemes. I have teams and players who I enjoy, but there’s something special about the sport.
Football is a violent science. At its highest level, athletes of extraordinary skills spend hours studying tape of their opponents’ tendencies while dozens of coaches craft a game plan as elaborate as anything Dwight Eisenhower mapped in conflict.
It’s great sport in part because it works on so many levels. In fact, I’m intimated by TV analysts like Ron Jaworski and Trent Dilfer, former Super Bowl quarterbacks who dissect the game in infinite detail. Minor fakes or first-half plays used to set up second-half success unfold in amazing detail in their hands. There’s game beyond the game that I can’t even perceive.
What some commentators describe as momentum or some emotional lift often has its basis in the basics. Who wins and loses depends on quality tackling or expert blocking that goes unnoticed in favor of the dramatics of a last-second catch. The star performers in this sport are absolutely dependent on the efforts of their teammates.
It’s much like everyday life as we make surface observations and try to analyze the reason behind another person’s actions. Typically, we just superimpose our own beliefs or experience and draw conclusions with little or no insight. There’s a deeper level that we can imagine in most cases.
I’m not sure of all the whys in my actions most of the time. But I do know that I prefer to watch the game at home rather than in a party or with others at a restaurant.
Don’t assume that I’m a loner because that’s the way I prefer to watch the game. I’m just a fan with my own relationship with the NFL.
Only one thing’s different this Sunday. I won’t flip channels during commercials.
Ben Sheroan is editor of The News-Enterprise. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (270) 505-1764.