Friday, October 3, 2014

Football in the Southland

When it comes to passion, football here in the Southland is right up there with The War Between the States.  And fighting the good fight is the name of the game now just as it was back then.

I am long out of the sports press box these days. I'm not unhappy about this since sitting in the Heineken section of our Little Florida Hideout is much more relaxed than having to deal with uncomfortable seats surrounded by cynics who have to meet deadlines.

But I do love football. This sport is exciting to play and exciting to watch. This is certainly true when measured against the lifetime that passes between any two shots on the golf course. And baseball is no quick-step either. Yep, it's true that multi-camera locations and video replays have given some television viewers a perception that things are moving along at a quicker pace on the diamond even when they are not.

Football is unquestionably America's favorite sport. The game we watched on the tube the other day had over 100,000 people in the stadium. If you add the hundreds of thousands watching on TV and listening on radio, you have an audience to die for.

Unhappily, the professional end of this game is mired in the madness and disgrace of spousal abuse. My hope is that this NFL mess will be straightened out in the best interest of the sport itself as well as the public. But don't expect it to happen overnight. There is just too much money involved for the franchise owners and the people on the payroll, like Commissioner Roger Goodall, to completely come clean in the sunlight. PR spinning has a life of its own, so it will take time under the best of circumstances.

In the meantime it's good that we have college football, although this is not squeaky clean either.  We are talking about human beings here and you know what that means – there is both good and bad in all of us. Alabama's Nick Saban, admittedly a great football coach, is less commendable on the leadership front. Ballistic behavior when chewing out a player who dropped the ball, literally or otherwise, is not a good move when there are hundreds of thousands of adults, and their children, in a television audience watching it all.

Joan and I are automatically in the Florida camp when it comes to sports because we live in Palm Beach Shores, just north of the city of Fort Lauderdale. The CBS sports team commenting on that Florida-Georgia game we watched recently was headed by Verne Lundquist who has been in the announcing booth since Jim Thorpe was playing JV ball. His teammate Gary Danieleson is almost as bad as Phil Simms when it comes to on-the-field insights. Still the game speaks for itself. This Florida-Alabama contest was great even with the sound off.  Much has changed since Mr. Lundquist first spoke into a microphone. There are now players with shoulder-length hair, some even longer than that and orange-colored. There is also the relatively new wrinkle of adding “Jr” to the jerseys of same-name sons of former stars, even an occasional one with “Sr.” or “III.”

Surely the game of football has ardent fans in every section of the country, but the Southland brings a devotion that even Mom and Apple Pie can't touch. Whole families are involved 24/7, no holds barred.  If you are ever in the South on game day drop by any gridiron to see just what I mean.

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