Have you ever wondered what the NFL pays Hank Williams, Jr. to holler those six little words: “Are you ready for some football” in the most glorious of rebel yells each Monday night?
Six little words that instantaneously bring the blood (alcohol) level of every man in America to a boiling point much like a redneck watching a hunting show somewhere in a vowel state armed with only a Busch pounder and an old pair of cut-off sweats.
Football is as American as the hamburger, the hotdog and the 25-cent watered down domestic draft. Since baseball metaphorically is standing in line for the bathroom stall with its needle and performance enhancing drugs, football has become the biggest sport and favorite weekend pastime from September to February.
Football is one of the simple things that men need in order to survive. It is as important as eating, drinking and sleeping (sometimes with someone else).
Here’s pretty much how the pecking order of manliness goes in this country as far as sports are concerned:
— The kids that show few signs of hyperactivity and do well in math and science classes play baseball as it requires a slight knowledge of physics, good hand-eye-coordination, and the look of a young Robert Redford.
— If you are tall, lanky, listen to hip-hop or are from a nameless town in a mid-western state (see Larry Bird), you play basketball.
–If you have a rich dad, a penchant for pink polo’s and patchwork shorts, and you go by initials as your first name, you are a lacrosse player.
— If you have a bad haircut, live in the northeast, you think that “Youngblood” is Rob Lowe’s best movie, and your first trip to Canada was NOT to get into strip clubs and drink at age 18, you are definitely a hockey player.
Then there is soccer, or futbol to everyone except Americans.
Basically, soccer is ranked on the coolness scale somewhere between cross country, badminton and a Yanni concert, even though the entire planet except for us thinks it’s pretty much the “bees nees” (to resurrect a 50’s slang phrase meaning “fly”).
So, if you are a wannabe euro-trash outcast who would rather have a pint with David Beckham (and his $250 million injured knee) than be Tom Brady’s wingman or go to the dog track with Michael Vick, then you are a soccer player/fan/Chardonnay drinker.
The popular kids are the football players. The Jake Ryan’s that bed the Molly Ringwald’s, so to speak, or in my high school memory, the guys/freaks of nature that all had more chest hair than my father at age 16. The start of the football season is as much a part of Autumn as the changing leaves, cheap beer consumption out of a keg and pop quizzes.
Don’t get me wrong, I welcome the start of the football season, and I’m a recreational fan. I don’t do face paint, play fantasy football, or even own a jersey (unless you count my dad’s old polyester Terry Bradshaw jersey from the late 70’s that fits about as well as a pair of your Levi’s that were last worn regularly in the Reagan years.)
My point is that every fall, the braggadocio level resonates so highly with football fans whether it’s how awesome their team is or how much every other sport sucks, that it’s just plain embarrassing.
I recall once almost getting into a bar fight while I was living in Europe because I wanted to check the score of the Steelers game during the commercial break of a Manchester United v. Arsenal match. You would have thought that I told all of the people in the pub that I had religious experiences with their “mums” as I was almost lynched in the middle of England just for “INQUIRING” about the score of a game in which the sport was called “bogus”, “crap” and “u’er bollocks.”
I bring up that story because most people in America would do the exact same thing to a foreigner that wanted to see the score of a soccer match even if it was during the Sunday NFL Countdown (which is the pre-game show for chrissakes). What right does some little euro creep have to belittle a sport that is so unbelievably American and manly and friggin’ awesome, right?
Truth is, football isn’t that American if you dig into history a bit.
Walter Chauncey Camp (1859-1925) is considered “The Father of American Football” and who, along with a few guys with names like Heisman, Warner (as in Pop, not Kurt), and Rockne took the European game of Rugby and turned it into what we know as American football.
Three rule changes (and a bunch of pads) were all that it took to take rugby and make it football and they are: 1.The forward pass, 2.The line of scrimmage and 3.The first down.
So football, though it is violent, action filled, and undeniably masculine, is about as truly American as the hamburger, which history tells us originated in Hamburg, Germany in the 11th century by way of Mongols that traveled with hand-patted hunks of meat to consume on long horseback trips after assumed pillaging and plundering.
History is always a bit skewed, and it’s amazing what we as Americans grab onto and make our own like it’s a passing trend (like the Cuban Mojito) or embrace as a national pastime like football. We are the same people that started calling sauerkraut “Liberty Cabbage” after WWII, French Fries were changed to Freedom Fries at the start of the Iraq War, and in a fit of irony, the hamburger had a good run at being called a “Liberty Steak” for a short stint.
That kind of patriotism is just as ridiculous as painting your entire body to look like a Cincinnati Bengal.
Look, I love sports, but to those folks that live and die for the right to argue the pros and cons of Astroturf and whether or not Barry Bonds’ new homerun record should have an asterisk beside it in the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown should be thrown to the rabid soccer hooligans in Wembley Stadium or the nutball Philly fans in the 700 section at the old Veteran’s Stadium.
It’s just a game.
So stop the gloating and proverbial cheesy end zone dances and just cheer like civilized people who want to escape from the mundane existence of merely getting up and going to work all week.
Maybe, if you cheer loud enough, your team will even score a “try.”
That being said, I’m now officially ready for some football.
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