Oh how far we’ve come…
Oh how far we’ve come…
The single-most cold-blooded goal I’ve seen in 13 years of watching this infuriating game. Trudat.
I loved this piece, and have one objection only, related to the bold:
Sports is a unifying cultural force, and it is a meritocratic institution where the color of one’s skin does not matter. The same is true for fans–there are no “black” or “yellow” “brown” or “white” or “mixed” fans of college football teams–everyone is a part of the same team. And as the country celebrated the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech this week, it is worth noting that a college football game in 1970–between integrated USC and an Alabama team that wanted to play black players on the field–may have done as much to fully integrate the South than Martin Luther King.
If the adage that Sunday is the most segregated time in America is true, Saturday may now be the most integrated time in America, with Americans of all backgrounds and ethnicities gathering at college football stadiums that double as cathedrals.
I’m a pathological, die-hard fan of the NFL (I probably used pathological in the wrong spot, but you get my drift – if you don’t, I’m one of those assholes that references “the shield” when talking about obscure league business no one I know has any interest in).
Futhermore, I’m an Oklahoma State alum and grew up in the second hey-day of Barry Switzer’s Oklahoma teams, so I get college football, and I don’t dislike it. In my own state, I’m a traitor – I was raised on OU, but am OSU by degree and by rooting-interest.
The Sundays Tony Lee refers to regards church, obviously, but there is nothing that brings Americans together now – sporting-wise, but cultural too – like the NFL. I traveled from Tulsa to Dallas to South Dakota on the first Sunday of the NFL season (no, seriously, check out my Twitter timeline) and at my layover at DFW, ever bar was packed, and every TV was crowded, because Americans – men and women, of all stripes – want to watch the NFL. It’s our national soap opera, our national Game, our national water cooler. I hate Fantasy Football, but that’s part of it. I hate the Pink Plague, but that’s part of it too. I hate much of what’d invaded the NFL, but much of what I hate has fueled the popularity of the NFL.
At the bar at DFW I spent 20 minutes, three different people were furious the Pats game wasn’t on, and not all of them struck me as people who’d spend time at a Hahvahd Bah.
My view on this – why the NFL trumps college football as a truly American experience – is that college football is too much (not a bad thing): when I was in Bozeman-MT, everyone’s a Bobcats fan, obviously. Related to college, in Green Bay, most seemed to be Badgers fans. College football offers a Balkanizing effect – it divides us into tiny tribes, some more serious than others. But get down to it, people who support any number of colleges get deadly-serious when it comes to their NFL affiliations.
The NFL is what it is: 32 teams. Some claim “their” team by locality – you live in Cleveland your entire life, and you root for the Browns and you hate Baltimore for stealing your team just as much as those people hate Indy for stealing their, and then you root for the new iteration no matter how terrible they are. And then, it gets fun.
The other claim is by fandom or by generation, the weaker of the two I admit up front: I’ve never lived in New York, but my dad’s a Giants fan so I’m a Giants fan, far more hardcore than he is. His sister moved to San Francisco decades ago, and she’s as fanatical a Niners fan as I’m a Giants fan (I’ve never seen it, but rumor is she has a piece of sod from Candlestick from the corner of said stadium from the day that Dwight Clark made The Catch).
Because of its propaganda, its regionalism, its history and its few teams, the NFL, not college football, is our demarcation point regarding our melting point. College football is fun, sort of a gateway drug to what is, for the most part, a very expensive, very boring game. The NFL introduces the casual fan to the cartel, and the cartel is fun.
Normally as the NFL season gets underway I try to write something lyrical regarding my love of said League and Game. My heart, though, just isn’t in it. I’m a Giants fan, yes, hardcore as they come, and I’ll watch every game I can, and this has been a fine generation to be a Giants’ fan – four titles in my lifetime, not bad in a League that brooks few dynasties.
Adrian Peterson targeting Emmitt’s rushing record by end of 2017:
Eric Dickerson needs to worry about Adrian Peterson. So does Emmitt Smith.Peterson, who holds the single-game rushing record, openly has talked about toppling Dickerson’s single-season mark. Now, Peterson is talking about becoming the all-time leading rusher.With 9,506 yards to go, Peterson predicts he’ll surpass Smith’s mark of 18,355 within five seasons.“I have to do some calculations,” Peterson told Dan Wiederer of the Minneapolis Star Tribune. ”I’ve been in the league seven years. I’m already right around [9,000]. Calculate it out. . . . Let’s think. Maybe get a couple 2,000 yard seasons. . . . I’ve got . . . hmmm . . . 2017.”
If he stays consistently healthy with no more catastrophic knee injuries, I could see it by the halfway point of the ’18 season. If he does it by the end of 2017, it would be a miracle, especially considering the way the fun police are trying to put a stop to hard hitting, physical runners like Peterson.
If he breaks it, call him the GOAT. He can join Barry Sanders and Jim Brown in the most enjoyable barroom NFL debate there is – who’s the best? Wasn’t Smith, never will be.
Peterson’s first two seasons were fantastic, but he was a fumbler, and I worried it would end his career before it really got off the ground. He got it together, and is now one of the most entertaining players in the League.
That’s what I heard. I was approaching a woman my age, and what I heard was hiyaglenn. I spoke to her on the phone earlier in the day, had announced my name, she accepted it, and we agreed to meet at a set time.
So, when I saw her for the first time and heard hiyaglenn I was confused.
Hubris, naivete in a form of maturity, kills the careers of young professional athletes. Many of them have grown up poor, not a pot to piss in or a window to throw it out of, yet told again and again that they’re going to make it in the big leagues. Although the film adaptation of Friday Night Lights should illustrate this delusion as a cautionary tale, there’s not much satisfaction in telling an 18-year-old elite athlete that, um, you might wanna plan.
Several years ago, I recall reading a story about Oklahoma’s ridiculously-talented defensive lineman Tommie Harris, who was drafted in the first round of the NFL draft by the Chicago Bears. Harris wisely hired a money-manager, and in that story, said money manager was quoted: “If you can drink it, drive it or wear it, it’s not good money management.” If the NFL cared about its players future – heh – that quote would be plastered to every locker in every locker room in every NFL facility.
Love this piece, but like most good advice, it will be disregarded:
“Most of you will not be in this league three years from now. I promise you,” Ballard said. “If we had this little get-together again three years from now, I could probably cut the room, and three-quarters of you would not be in it.
“Your talent alone will not let you survive. You understand? It’s got to be more than that.”
Ballard is correct. The average length of an NFL career in little more than three seasons. For rookies entering the league, it’s a concept that’s probably difficult to grasp as most players believe they have the ability to play in the league. The message from Ballard was to inform them it will take more than ability alone to make a career in the league.
I love this extended quote by Adrian Peterson, discussing a Lions linebacker implying he was using Performance-Enhancing Drugs to facilitate his remarkable 2012 comeback from a catastrophic knee injury:
“It was like turning a negative into a positive,” Peterson said. “To be honest with you, it makes me feel good when people say little stuff like that, and I’m sure it happens all the time. I guess I am performing that well that people think I’m juicing, that I am taking something. That really shows me how much God has blessed me to be able to come back and play the way I played.
“To me, it’s a compliment [the PED talk]. I’ve always been an honest person. I never cheated the system. I am big on taking advantage of my natural abilities and applying work ethic to it to be able to climb the highest level. People make that decision to do that [PEDS], but I’m not that individual. I feel like I’d be cheating myself. And things I’ve accomplished would be void. That’s not what I am about.”
Interesting tidbit at PFT about the late, great James Gandolfini. I was a moderate fan of The Sopranos, but I was a huge fan of Gandolfini. He first came to my notice, like most people, in the brutal fight scene with Patricia Arquette in True Romance. His monologue about the first kill being “the bitch of the bunch” and how he only does it to see the person’s face change was priceless dialogue. May he rest in peace:
But Gandolfini was also a great football fan who loved the Jets and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Greg Schiano, the Buccaneers coach who was at Rutgers when Gandolfini rose to stardom on The Sopranos, praised Gandolfini for using his fame to help attract attention to the Rutgers football program.
“I am sad to hear of the passing of Jim Gandolfini,” Schiano said. “He was a great supporter of Rutgers Football long before it was fashionable to be so. His generosity in helping us lent relevance to our football program at a time when it was desperately needed. In addition to his acting acclaim, he will be remembered by all Rutgers people as a compassionate alum and a great New Jerseyian.”
Gandolfini spent many of his autumn Sundays attending Jets games, and former Jets coach Eric Mangini appeared in one episode, with Tony seeing “the Mangenius” out at dinner and deciding to go say hello. The Jets released a statement saying, “We’re deeply saddened to hear about the passing of our friend James Gandolfini. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family & friends.”
On Monday’s edition of Pro Football Talk on NBCSN, we unveiled the Lions’ Mt. Rushmore.
To little surprise, running back Barry Sanders was the favorite of PFT Planet.
I’m biased on this.
I am an Oklahoma State alum, so naturally my fealty to Barry Sanders is understood. Yet, I’m also a far bigger fan of the NFL than I am of college or high school football, and – grunt – I take the happenings of The Shield quite seriously.
At 38 I’m obviously too young to have seen Jim Brown, Gayle Sayers, Red Grange or Jim Thorpe play. I’m just old enough to remember Walter Payton’s later years – the 1985 Bears are the first team, beyond Montana’s 49ers, that strike a memory. To me, Adrian Peterson is a borderline machine, and I love the guy.
Barry Sanders remains the most electrifying football player I’ve personally ever watched, and I say this as a New York Giants fanatic, and complete respect to Lawrence Taylor, the only player I can think of in my lifetime who could completely change, for lack of a better explanation, the field of the game as it is normally played.
Barry Sanders’ absurd stats and his early departure (immediately bringing up the “what coulda’ been scenario) speak for themselves, yet it’s highlights that people remember.
The absurd one-yard-gains and one-yard-losses. The explosiveness when his Lions’ line created the tiniest of keyhole-sized gaps for him to get through. That run, turning the Cowboys’ defense, round-and-round. That other one, where he ran through what seemed to be the first- and second-teams of the Chicago Defense. The up-the-middle gallop that took him over 2,000. The ankle-breakers. The physics-defying cuts and turns and spins. The mythical ball-security. Oh, and yep, the endzone celebration that included tossing the ball to the ref and nothing else.
I was in junior high when Sanders won the Heisman, and Oklahoma State was sequestered in Japan (I think it was Japan – correct me if I’m wrong – The Holiday Bowl, yes?) for a bowl game. When he won that Heisman – himself being broadcast via satellite – you could hear his teammates hooping and hollering in the background, and it seemed difficult for him to produce a smile. That was Barry Sanders then and now – all that humility. It wasn’t a show – it was who he was. Media was different then, but it should be noted that until that mythical season was underway, he was on no Heisman watchlists that I can remember.
Oklahoma lore has it that in Sanders’ sophomore season, the year before he made staring tailback and won the Heisman, Barry Switzer watched OSU film and concluded that his hope was Thurman Thomas – himself a Heisman candidate and future NFL star – didn’t get hurt. Thurman Thomas was a damn good football player.
In one respect, I’ve always felt bad for Emmitt Smith. He was a great back at Florida and earned his Hall of Fame status in Dallas playing for the Cowboys (does it deserve mention that Mr. Smth is the all-time leading rusher in NFL history). A contemporary of Sanders, Smith had to listen to the business about having a great line to run behind, while Sanders ran behind scrubs, producing the same or better numbers. Sanders was Mozart to Smith’s Saliere, a comparison unfair to both men but one that played out year after year after year. Sanders had no media ambitions, while Smith’s media ambitions failed miserably. While Barry gave the ball to the ref after each touchdown, Smith kept each ball, and took off his helmet after each score, a tendency that was so annoying the NFL banned the habit. Smith wasn’t (isn’t, I should say) a bad guy by all reports I’ve read, Sanders was simply an oddly unique one. Emmitt Smith is the all-time NFL rushing yardage leader, but he would be picked second in back-yard game of touch if paired with Sanders.
That’s a fact.
For guys who play for storied, ancient franchises, it’s a fact of life that you rarely become the face of said franchise. As a Giants man, it takes a lot to climb the mountain built by the Maras, honed by Parcells, and made legend after all those year by LT. Sanders, like Montana and Marino and Brown, ascends those heights cleanly. He produced, year-after-year, often when the team he played for didn’t deserve that production. He was great when the team ain’t, bluntly.
Sanders, like Marino, has the bridesmaid distinction of being a GOAT who never won a title. The closest he ever came was an NFC Championship game – unlike Marino, Sanders never played in the Big Game, and without knowing the man personally, I’m willing to bet that far more than rushing titles seasonal or career, this bothers him most. Also like Marino, Sanders came of age professionally in the shadow of a player far more hyped but ever bit as much lauded as he – Marino had Elway, and Sanders had Smith.
Sometimes it works like that.