Why football matters

“Football is so important.”

-John Jacobs, comedian

Last Sunday was special, more special in some parts of the country than in others but special nonetheless.

As we all know, most NFL games are played on Sunday but last Sunday was different.  Last Sunday fell on December 31st, the last day of the calendar year.  That ending proved symbolic for some teams as it meant not only the year’s end, but their season’s end as well.  For other teams, it meant an all new beginning.

The NFL finally got something right (it does more than you think) by scheduling the bulk of the games with playoff implications for 4 o’clock kickoffs, making us wait just a little longer for the myriad of outcomes that awaited.

If Atlanta won, they were in… and Seattle was out.  If Tennessee won, THEY were in.  Same thing for Baltimore, a substantial favorite over the visiting Cincinnati Bengals who had already verbally parted ways with their head coach Marvin Lewis.

Teams like Buffalo waited in the wings.  They had won earlier that afternoon but needed a little help from the outcome of other games, more specifically that of the Bengals-Ravens game.

Inexplicably, the Baltimore Ravens found a way to lose their game at home.  That allowed two absolutely bizarre things to happen.  Marvin Lewis would remain head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals and the Buffalo Bills made the playoffs.  That unlikeliest of endings snapped a 17-year playoff drought for Buffalo, the longest in professional sports.

Other than those who lived in Buffalo, who knew the drought had been that long?

I tended bar that afternoon, sporting my tuxedo shirt and bowtie as I prepared for the evening’s festivities.  The sun had gone down with the games running long.  People were gearing up for one of the biggest party nights of the year.  Football fans who had been drinking all day continued to watch knowing playoff spots were still up for grabs… even for Buffalo.

One gentleman, who had had a few, was watching the Bengals game intently.  I was busy and didn’t realize what was on the line.  When Cincy scored with seconds left, eliminating Baltimore and qualifying Buffalo, the man became a whole new human being.  The pitch of his voice rang an octave higher than normal.

And that was just in Florida.

Buffalo bars must have been going bananas.

17 years is a long time.  To give you an idea how long it’s been since Buffalo has made the playoffs, Tom Brady wasn’t even in the league the last time they did which is ironic considering it’s been primarily Tom Brady who’s kept them out of the playoffs these last 17 years.

This sports fan, originally from upstate New York, was beside himself with joy.  For one second during the game, I changed the channel of the TV he was watching to put on the Lightning game.  He politely asked me not to change it.  Busy with work, I hadn’t realized what was at stake.

As De La Soul once said, the stakes is HIGH!

Ravens lost, Buffalo won and this man celebrated.  Shouts of “Dilly, Dilly!” rang through the bar. He began buying shots for all those around him.  Sure, it was annoying to some.  But this man was experiencing a joy he hadn’t felt since he was a young man.  The team he had rooted for so many years so fruitlessly had just put the biggest smile on his face.  It had been that long.

“Cloud nine,” I told him.  He continued to beam and high-five as only elated sports fans and expecting fathers do.

So that, my friends, is why football is so important. While some in the bar might have found his behavior abhorrent or offensive, I saw the beauty in it.  As one who observed from afar, I couldn’t help but regale in it all.  The NFL had capped off the season with a monster of Sundays, leaving those who made the playoffs ready for round two and those who missed it already ready for next autumn.

Sure, they make a wrong call now and then and yes, all that physical contact is hazardous to one’s health but damn if it isn’t fun to watch and more importantly a huge part of our nation’s culture.

Every so often, it even puts a smile on our faces.  Despite all the ups and downs of a pretty controversial season, the NFL playoffs are upon us, ladies and gentlemen.  Let’s enjoy them.  I know I will.  I’m pretty sure Buffalo will too.

18 thoughts on “Why football matters

  1. I love football but watching the drama around Gruden, Lewis, Belichek, Brady, Kraft, Goodell, refs and reviews, what is a catch, what is a touchdown, what is a fumble gets tiresome. Just play and let us bitch about calls, coaches, refs, etc. We do anyway no matter how many reviews they have and how many pundits try to tell us who was right and who was wrong.

  2. Kudos to the Bills but the postseason will be short lived for Tyrod Taylor and his Buffalo teammates. I can’t see them getting beyond the divisional round of the postseason.

    As for the potential Jon Gruden hire , let’s just see it for what it is . The Raiders circumventing the Rooney Rule while Roger Goodell simply looks the other way.

    The NFL remains a frigging sham while claiming to be all inclusive and socially responsible. That’s the biggest crock of $hit going and it’s an undeniable fact.

  3. Moose…

    I’m not buying anything ESPN has to say about Brady, Kraft and Gruden.

    Would it surprise anyone at all if someone within the Pats organization planted that BS inside ESPN for them to report it when actually nothing was wrong at all? I wouldn’t put it past them.

    As far as the “what’s a catch” dilemma, that’s on the league. Here’s hoping they figure the damn thing out.

  4. Al…

    I’m betting the Bills against the Jags this weekend.

    Don’t overlook them. Despite the season the Jags had, this is still a young team. I have a feeling the Bills are going to be more than happy to just be there.

  5. Let’s Play Buffalo Bills $10,000 Pyramid…

    The clues:

    JP Losman. Kelly Holcomb. Trent Edwards. Ryan Fitzpatrick. Brian Brohm. EJ Manuel. Kyle Orton…

    The Category: Quarterbacks who had more to do with keeping the Bills out of the play-offs than Tom Fucking Brady did.

  6. The test will come with the Jags’ defense and how good they are . The game could go either way but I believe Bortles’ season and the way he’s played should lead to Jacksonville prevailing.

  7. Chris, here’s the problem with the NFL. 56% of the time a game takes to play is spent on instant replay or plays reviewed. Only 11 minutes of the three hours plus is pure action. And the commercials! OMG.

    Hockey with sixty minutes of non-stop action and no primping by players is far more entertaining than football.

    As for Gruden and his ridiculous Raiders deal: if he got $10 mil for 100 wins and a Super Bowl win with Tony Dungy’s players, how much are the Giants going to pay Belichick for his 200 wins and five Super Bowls?

  8. Coach…

    Those numbers sound a little off but you’re right about the stoppages in play. I’m not too sure the NFL can keep up the pace of hockey but they can probably expedite the reviewing or at least get it right when they do.

    I’m not too sure I’m buying the Belichick to New York rumors either… but if they’re true, that sounds about the going rate.

  9. Tophat,

    Bortles is NOT VERY GOOD. Without his youthful legs, Tom Coughlin mighta been coaching next year. Hell he still might.

  10. Al…

    If Bortles goes up to Pittsburgh and wins that game, he’ll be fine.

    Otherwise, that home game against the Bills might have just sealed his fate.

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