Football is so addictive. Make no mistake about it; football is the nation’s pastime. Yes, a long time ago, baseball ruled the collective psyche, but it has faded into the background, just like horse racing and boxing before it. But that’s fine. Things change all of the time.
Like the times, teams change too. Some are on the rise; some are on a downward swing. The NFL is an institution that prides itself on the attempt to create a league of teams that are all a play or two from the playoffs. Which is smart. It sells tickets to have as many horses, as possible, in the running for the big prize. No complaints here. I wish all of the fans, of every sport, had a good show and would root their home team on to the end.
Like the Saints, how about Luke McCown’s performance? I don’t think enough people are giving props to McCown. It was a great game and McCown’s play kept the Saints in it until the end. He never over-extended himself, and made the smart pass all day long. The interception, that effectively killed the comeback bid, wasn’t a bad play. It was just a great defensive play by the Panthers.
But what a game! The Saints traveled into the Panthers den, and gave ‘em hell. The defense was strong early, as was the McCown-led passing attack, and the boys in Black and Gold jumped out to an early 10-0 lead. It was really exciting, and had the fan base abuzz. Sure, the Panthers got them in the end, but, once again, the Saints were in the hunt for victory, and it was a great show. I know the Saints fans, at least, were jumping up in the fourth quarter, cheering on the home team to get a victory. One reader, Anne from Ocean Springs, said she, “worked so hard in this game that I have to take a nap!” That’s a fan, folks, and that’s what it’s all about.
Plus, don’t forget about the glory that is college football. With a bounty of teams, you never are quite sure where a dark horse will come from. Did you see Utah dismantle Oregon, the pride of the Pac-12, this weekend? Utah is now in the mix for the “final four” of college football. Yes, Utah. “Utah Utes – National Champions.” Say it aloud, it’s hilarious to say. TCU, another championship contender, played a video game against Texas Tech, winning 55-52. And, of course, with a score like that, it came down to a crazy play. While our collective SEC mentality says those games are just wacky, and those teams couldn’t handle one of our own, you have to admit, they are fun to watch.
Speaking of the SEC, the LSU Tigers headed north and, surprisingly, did NOT crush the Syracuse Orangemen. It was a victory, but no walkover. The Tigers won 34-24, behind Leonard Fournette’s 26 rushes for 244 yards and two runs for touchdowns. Some times the best of plans, and the obvious outcome, isn’t so obvious, and people have to adapt to make the best of things. Sometimes you get the victory, and sometimes you have to accept the defeat. It’s all part of the game.
LSU can go to war, and unleash Leonard Fournette and get a big victory, or the Saints can take the field with Luke McCown at quarterback and take a hard fought loss, it’s all the same. As these beautifully breezy New Orleans days walk us into October, some teams are looking at their season as a lost cause, and some are thinking about championships. It’s all the same.
Sure, which one would you want to be a part of? That answer is simple, but everyone can’t win them all. Everyone can’t be the champion. What fun would there be in that? None. I’m all for participation trophies for young kids, because it’s important to acknowledge their efforts. But as we grow older, the ‘sport’ takes over, and victories become the acknowledgement of a season sacrificed. However, even with that, winner or loser, it all boils down the same thing.
It’s just a game.
It’s just a game. Repeat that again, too – because that’s what it is. Forget about the college rankings and major leagues. Forget about the hometown gods built up by an ever-embracing community at home. Forget about the bellicose brayers at the bar. It’s just a game. In the beginning it was a game created, and then it was a game adapted, and even now, as a game revered, it is still just that – a game. Leonard Fournette and Drew Brees began their careers just the same – playing a game. I played the game, you played a game, just like many other girls and boys. Now, just like many other women and men, I cheer on a team, and want our team to win. You feel the same.
But please remember – it’s just a game.
No, this isn’t an “everybody cheer up, it’s going to be okay Saints fans” missive. This is just a wake up call that these games are entertainment. So, there’s no reason to get on twitter and attack people’s opinions, just like you shouldn’t get in a vein-popping argument at a bar over “who is better at this,” or “WE (even though you’re not on the team) can blah, blah, blah.” Sports are merely some of the best dramas created. Get drawn in, but realize when to pull back, and see it for what it is. While there are many reasons to shake your fist in the air, there’s never a reason to ruin someone’s day. Root, root, root for the home team – I understand, it’s really fun, but it’s not reality.
Reality is a stadium going silent, on a Saturday afternoon, as Devon Gales lay on the field.
For a minute or two, it was the usual after-play buzz that hummed throughout Sanford Stadium, home of the Georgia Bulldogs. The Southern Jaguars had just returned a kickoff, and the Bulldog crowd was happy with their expected victory. Then a pause, as the teams stepped back and away, to see Gales was still on the ground. As time passed, the buzz would turn into a murmur, and the murmur into respectful silence, as a stretcher was brought out for Gales. Then the young man was taken to a hospital, and the game – just a game – went on.
Gales, a red shirt sophomore, suffered several fractures in his neck, and last Sunday, underwent a successful spinal surgery. He had movement in his upper body and is in good spirits, as reported by The Advocate.
Devon Gales is someone who has chased, and achieved the dream of playing a game, so others can watch his team, and cheer them on. He, like so many other boys and girls, has committed himself to hours upon hours of work to fulfill a dream of being a champion. A dream that we, as viewers, just sit and watch. So root for the home team, and be proud of their accomplishments, but just remember what you are doing. You are watching a game.
From the reports on Gales’ condition, I hope that he is comfortable, and I pray that he will be back on his feet one day. I also have to guess that, as a player, he is not only thinking about that one play – but all of the plays that he has been involved in. The great ones throughout his career that made the crowd go wild, and the ones that he wishes he had another shot at. The plays that made him smile, and the plays that made him mad. As fans, we watch these same plays, and cheer and curse, but as a player, you feel every single one of them. Some will haunt you, and some will lift you into the highest of heavens.
And, as a player, you understand and you love them all – because it’s all a game, and games are fun to play.