Football is a numbers game, and not just because of gambling

The other day the New York Giants and New England Patriots won their respective NFL conferences, leading to a vague and simultaneous sense of déjà vu and malaise for the majority of the country outside of the Northeast.

Actually, most of the Boston area is probably feeling that, too, because they still have the sting of the Super Bowl following the 2007 season when the Patriots started with 18 consecutive wins only to finish with one Giant loss. Continue reading “Football is a numbers game, and not just because of gambling”

Elitism isn’t a good thing — it’s the best thing

When I was in elementary, people would sometimes ask me who my favorite football team was, and I’d say, “The Panthers.”

Then they’d say, “No, no, no. We mean the NFL, not high school.”

“I know,” I’d say. “I’m a fan of the Carolina Panthers.”

Then they’d laugh and make fun of me. (“They” are quite unkind, as Edward Lear well knew.)

Continue reading “Elitism isn’t a good thing — it’s the best thing”

I couldn’t decide what to do a column about this week

I sort of thought about doing something about the Super Bowl, but it’s now four days past, so the relevancy of the moment has escaped. Unfortunately, I don’t have aphorisms or anecdotes to illustrate that point. Erm, seize the day and make flee the sun. Or something. (I’m sorry.)

In any case, I’m entirely too happy about the outcome of the game: that the Pittsburgh Steelers lost and Green Bay Packers won, in that order.

Continue reading “I couldn’t decide what to do a column about this week”

Vaya con Dios, Coach Neely

Mike Neely, longtime president of the Odessa YMCA, is retiring.

Maybe you saw the article in the paper or, like many, knew him personally. I didn’t, or at least I never knew anyone by that name.

There was a Mike Neely who seemed to practically rebuild the YMCA during the past 10 years, but I never met this Mike person. I only ever knew one guy named Neely, and I always call him “Coach.”

Before he took the job at the YMCA, he was a seventh-grade coach at Bonham Junior High, and his first and last year there was the first of my three.

Continue reading “Vaya con Dios, Coach Neely”

Remember, it’s only toilet humor if you laugh at it

When I was in high school, I played a football game at Shotwell Stadium in Abilene. It was a JV match, so very sparsely attended, and other than the fact that it was very cold, and we won, I don’t remember much else about the game apart from the halftime.

See, partway through the first quarter I began to feel a call of nature of the second variety.

Continue reading “Remember, it’s only toilet humor if you laugh at it”

I think I need a new obsession

I apologize in advance for my column this week. I had a very bad weekend, and the worst thing about it is nothing bad actually happened to me.

OHS’s playoff game slipped away from them, and Texas Tech got absolutely humiliated by Oklahoma. And none of you care, but Atlanta knocked Carolina out of first place in the NFC South.

Odessa and Tech weren’t alma maters. I graduated from Permian and never even sniffed Lubbock when college application season came around. Nor did I gamble on any of these games. I just invested myself emotionally to a degree that the losses have stayed with me, and I’ll feel a lingering sense of disappointment all week.

Clearly, I care too much about football, but sometimes it works out well. My giddiness about the Patriots’ Super Bowl loss lasted through most of the summer.

(“Hey bartender, who’s that guy sitting down next to the girl I bought a drink for?”

“Her husband.”

“Oh. Well at least the Patriots went 18-1.”)

I’m not alone in this – although to this extent, I may be – because there are some very valid reasons why sports are so compelling, and why the excitement and drama of football have made it the national obsession, to borrow Sal Paolantonio’s phrase.

That’s part of why an e-mail forwarded to me that pretended No Child Left Behind was being applied to high school football was a very effective comparison. The unfairness of it, nevermind federal government involvement, was plainly apparent. It’s a satire, not intended to be closely dissected, but at another level I take it at face value.

I once heard it said that if people followed their politicians half as well as they did baseball players, our democracy would become perfect. Well if people cared half as much about education as they did football, our nation would approach perfection.

This is a common complaint, I know, but when LBJ Elementary (which I actually did attend) lost to Reagan for the sixth-grade championship, I was sincerely disappointed. Certainly, many people were justifiably saddened by OHS’s playoff loss, as well. But how many outside the school system (how many inside the school system) were upset by the academic performance of any school in the district, not just on government standards but actual learning? How many parents who wouldn’t stand to see their child on second-string are content that their child isn’t taking AP classes, not earning – and I stress earning – all A’s, not studying hard enough for the next exam?

Because it is plainly ridiculous to mandate that every high school football team make the playoffs and win the championship, or that every kid have the same skills at all times, but no one would claim West Texans have any biological athleticism to succeed at sports, at yet for several decades, it seemed true. Or if not all sports, generally, then football specifically.

It’s amazing what a good program can consistently accomplish with average people who are driven to accomplish great things and supported materially and emotionally by a community who heaps rewards on their success.

It isn’t an either-or between academics and sports: the valedictorian of my graduating class was a first-string football player. And obviously, debates and midterms aren’t compelling spectator events. Even so, we should care as much about substantive things to push and enthrall our children into working hard at the things that will benefit them – and us – in the future. We should get a vicarious thrill out of what they do between the desks at least as much as between the sidelines.

And we don’t, because most of us don’t care.

I certainly don’t care. For all this, I can’t make myself care. But I do wish the matriculations of school children enraptured me as much as matriculations down the field.

And that field goal hadn’t gone wide left.