What is it about American football that is so compelling? Is it the preparation… the planning? The beautifully executed “set” play that works to perfection? The shocking turnabout that a turnover can cause? The athleticism? The physical energy expended? The pain endured? The victories? The losses? The “locks?” The upsets? The many ways to score? The variety of offensive and defensive schemes?
Its ability to serve as a metaphor for our lives, here in America?
Baseball, long “America’s game” and oft used to teach us about life, falls short of capturing us, because in the end, it is not so much a team sport, but simply a collection of individual efforts. We may be compelled by the late inning comeback, or a Bill Buckneresque moment, but baseball does not parallel life nearly as much as football.
Hockey and basketball were ruined by Gretzky and Jordon. Not by the Great One and Michael, but by the selfish ball and puck hogs who followed, posers and imposters who attempted to shine in the same light, but never measured up. While the fluidity of each game provides a certain grace and beauty, they are compelling only for rabid fans, and teach us little about life.
I’ve never played organized football. I play, and have coached, hockey. I am drawn to football because of its tactical AND strategic nature. I am drawn to football because of its athleticism and brutality. I am most drawn to football because of its structure. The setting of plays, allows each of us a moment to project our hopes out onto the field, for the coaches to adjust, and for the players to dig down for more effort. This setting of plays is what sets football apart from all other games. As much as I love hockey, it is not football.
Life is a lot like football. We all run set plays sent in by the coaches. Grade school, middle school, high school, college maybe, work, family, joy, happiness, tragedy, and finally death. Set plays.
Perfect execution often, not always, produces outstanding results. We emulate successful set plays…high school graduation, college degrees, marriage…and we execute according to the play book, we score in the game of life. But sometimes there are fumbles, interceptions, blocked kicks, botched plays, and career ending injuries. These miscues often send our lives into different directions, re-shape us, or re-enforce our successes.
Sometimes, tragically, there are broken plays, broken bones, and broken lives. Some lives are not lived as the playbook designed. They are beset by illness or injury. They are burdened with continuous and repeated challenges that never reveal the goal line. They are cut short by death.
We Are Marshall, is such a story.