I really wasn't sure which forum to put this post in. It's about football, but it's not about the Rams or the NFL. It's also very personal, or at least it's very personal in the sense that it's purely about my sensory perceptions of the first ten minutes of a football game from a players point of view. So, I plumped for the the default choice of the lounge, on the basis that in the unlikely event that I offended anyone with my musings, not very many people would see it.:)
As I think we can all agree, whether Ram fans or not, (and there are some who grace our forums who add to this site and aren't) the start of the football season is something to be savoured and anticipated. We start thinking about the future as soon as our teams last snap is concluded. Whether we were happy with the achievments of our chosen team or not,the future provides the panacea for all ills. Anything is possible in the virtual nirvana that is the future. Worst to first in one season is possible, we all know it, so what's to stop us from dreaming?
It's one of the best features of the human condition, a natural optimism, that, guided by the love of the sport, finds itself a comfortable chair, a jaundiced view and dreams of glories to come. I've already discussed this somewhere else of course, and informed you all of my intention to look for the best this season. I'm sincere in that and hope that I'm pleasantly surprised, but I realised this morning that as I did so, I was talking from a fans point of view.
This is natural of course because I am an armchair fan, but I was also a player for nearly eight years, and so realised that there are other points of view to explore. Player and fan aren't necessarily related either. At college, I knew guys who loved playing the game and were very good at it but who hated watching it and regarded the three hours spent doing so as a complete waste of time. Happy to have their own bones broken, but not too interested in seeing others break theirs.
So there is a difference that we often ignore when it comes to being passionate about the result of a football game and the outcome of a season and the vantage point from which you view it.
We're all guilty of it too. How often have we screamed at the television, berating those players who are on the wrong end of a caning for not caring quite as much as we do? How often have we held them culpable for dashing our dreams? How often have we accused them of being paycheque(paycheck) players with all that is implied in that statement?
I know that I felt that I had cause to do all those things for virtually the entire 90's.:x
However at work this morning, whilst writing a lesson plan that would teach chinese children whose native language is Cantonese, to write Japanese Haiku poetry in English, (Not as hard as it sounds) I thought about this very pertinent fact, something I was surprised I hadn't considered before. How did I feel when approaching and playing in, the first ten minutes of a football game and, in fact, a football season?
Now I don't flatter myself in relating what I'm about to relate in thinking that my experiences are either earth shattering or revelatory because I'm an Englishman who played amateur and college ball in England for 8 years, but it does relate in part to what I said elsewhere in these forums about grasping the best. Because I think, that to do that we need to have a certain empathy for the people who do what we always wanted to and never will, that is, professional football players.
And to have empathy, you have to have understanding and to have understanding you need experience.
For me the first ten minutes of the first football game of the season was the most gut wrenching, lung bursting, and bone bruising football that could be played. It didn't matter how many passes you caught as an individual, how many yards the offensive unit got, or the fact you were undefeated the season before (And my college team didn't lose a game for nearly three years over a span of nearly 30 games.............forgive me my one boast) that first game assumed more importance than nearly any other.
How many players did they pick up, who was coaching them, which players did we lose, who was coaching us (No-one usually), did I get injured the year before?Did their strong safety hand me my ass last year? Is their field pristine or pisstine? How many americans have they got and is one of them their QB? (Lots of exchange students, some were good high school players) All were questions amongst many that flooded through my head as the first game approached.
Added to this stress is the fact that you have your own job to do and things to remember. As a tight end in a relatively uncomplicated pass happy offence, the calls were formation, strongside, 3,5 or 7 step drop and passing route on a pass play or forget the drop and back and hole on a running play. Blocking assigments were predominantly man rather than zone and you were expected to get it right.
Now that part was mental, pre-bash, if you would excuse the term, then the game started then everything would change.
Call, pre-snap read, (Where's the defensive end? ****, he's lined up over me............christ he knows my name, did I go for a beer with him last year?........oh hell yes we stole a McDonalds high chair out of that restaraunt in Hull whilst absolutely ****faced....wheres the strong safety...hmmmm he's very close he might blitz....free safety is that porky hitter whose a swine against the run but a liability against the pass............strongside linebacker's got plenty to say as usual but he's not up to much..........I've only got to run a five and out etc, etc, etc...............) snap, play and then all hell would break loose and you would go through that strange period of silence whilst the play unfolded followed by a noisy conclusion, the realisation that you'd been feeling sick on adrenaline for the last 3 hours, you'd just cracked your finger again, the two plates in your ankle from the previous season were holding up fine, that defensive end was as funny as you remebered him, you really wished you hadn't had a couple of beers the night before, your centre had just kneed someone in the balls and was laughing his arse off about it as you went back to the huddle and............................................after the first awful ten minutes...................nothing else exists.
Playcall, snap, hit, catch, run , pass, hit, whistlle, win, lose.
It's that simple and it's that painful.
So, I can forgive a hell of a lot and grasp the best because it's a lottery out there, a maelstrom of mental and physical processes that is complicated by the physics of an ovoid pigskin.
The first ten minutes are vital, they set the tone for the game and the game sets the tone for the rest of the season.
Not half as simple as it sounds or looks
Forgive me if I rambled but I was remembering stuff I'd almost forgotten.
For me, you can tell a fair amount after the first ten minutes so watch them closely.