- Football has suffered some black eyes recently, but still, there’s nothing quite like the sport.
After a week of bad takes, it’s time to feel good about football! This week on The MMQB, our writers and editors are taking time to praise what they like most about the NFL. Agree or disagree with the praise? Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Growing up, my backyard was less than a mile from Lincoln-Sudbury Regional High School, separated by woods and a big open field where there were always deer. And on Friday nights in the fall, I could see the floodlights shining through the trees and hear, a little more than faintly, the PA guy announcing player names, down-and-distance and scores.
Texas, this was not. Attendance at L-S football games averages probably around a thousand people, with the crowd growing a little for the big ones and Thanksgiving. But as a kid, going to those games, then playing on that field felt like a big deal, and I know my experience is one that so many little boys growing up in America had, and still have.
So for our “in praise of” week, I’m writing in praise of … football.
It’s been a rough decade for the sport, no doubt. The concussion crisis is real, the lockout laid bare how cutthroat the NFL really is and off-the-field problems that have included an active player involved in multiple murders and multiple players involved in heinous domestic-violence incidents have, rightfully, tarnished the game’s image on a national level.
None of that has gone away. But despite all of it, the game of football continues to have a wide-ranging impact on people in this country—at a level that no other sport comes close to touching.
It’s in the kid who dreams of growing up and playing for that high school down the street. It’s there with the people in the college towns of Alabama and Ohio and Tennessee—who treat Saturdays in the fall like holidays, who don’t need Homecoming weekends because every home game serves that purpose and who think scheduling a wedding on a Saturday in the fall is blasphemy. It’s in the tailgate lots in Green Bay and Kansas City, where those manning the grill have been hanging out with the same people, parking in those same spots, for decades.
It’s at the Super Bowl parties in millions of American living rooms, where even what we all normally fast-forward through on the DVR—the commericals—is celebrated. It’s with the 14-year-old who will get Madden 2020 the day it comes out, just like I got Madden 1995 the day it came out in the summer of ’94. It’s embedded in decades-old fantasy football leagues, that stay alive because it’s the way an old group of friends makes sure they keep in touch.
It’s Friday nights. It’s Saturday afternoons. It’s all day Sunday. It’s Monday night.
Football keeps winning because of the people and, more to the point, the effect it has on the lives of people in this country every fall.
Everything about and around this sport has always caught my attention—starting with those lights I could see from my backyard. Those lights, of course, were only a product of what football was then, and still is now, despite everything it’s gone through. And still, there’s nothing like it.
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