Sunday, November 2, 2008

Sunday, Sunday, Sunday!

Today is Sunday, and that means the NFL.

I know, it's contradictory to my appearance, if only because so many people have expressed surprise on hearing that I not only follow a team but follow the League from week to week. It's as if I just don't look the part, but when the batos in the kitchen hear me hollerin' for the Horns, they nod their heads and marvel at the old egghead who, believe it or not, actually watches football.

I confess, I've been watching football on Sundays since my parents bought our first TV in 1967. While my father listened to Opera--Sunday Afternoon at the Met--on the radio in the living room as he stamped gold leaf letters on black leather Bibles in the adjoining den, I would turn on the TV in the room next to the kitchen (where it was relegated in our 'book' house)and watch tiny, grainy black and white images of the game of the day. With the sound turned down to just above zero so the opera could be heard in every corner of the house, I had to sit six inches from the screen to hear and see the action.

The Dallas Cowboys and the Los Angeles Rams were my favorite teams, but LA only because I loved their quarterback at the time, Roman Gabriel. Dallas was and always has been 'my' team.

I am a great fan of quarterbacks, as, I suppose, most NFL fans are. It makes sense to me because more than any other player on the team, they define the game on the field each week. No other team sport (save sailing) requires the skill and charisma of a leader like the NFL quarterback. Don Meredith was the QB for the 'Boys back then, and then came Craig Morton and Roger Staubach. I particularly enjoy watching the great passing quarterbacks, like Aikman and Staubach, but I also like the guys who can scramble, like Vince Young and Tony Romo. Both types have the ability to orchestrate the actions of big men, flying around at full speed and doing their best to execute a series of pre-planned yet entirely spontaneous physical actions. Each man is in his own world in the moment of live action, covering his own territory or running his own route, so it is the quarterback who must unite them, often in just less than three or four seconds.

This is the magic of the 'play'; 'the' moment that millions hold their breaths for a thousand times or more every Sunday. The play is a dance, really, but unlike dance, where the perfect execution of the plan is expected as a measure for the quality of the performance, the football play deviates from the plan in the first millisecond after the ball moves. By the time of the exchange between center and quarterback, chaos reigns on the stage; perfect execution is never achieved nor expected. It is assumed that even the best performance by either offense or defense will disrupt the other. It's like ballet with consequences. And I love it.

So, if you are looking for me on a Sunday afternoon, and you drop by my house and see the ladder up on the outside of the house but no paint being applied, come inside. I am in the bedroom, in front of the flat screen TV--about twelve inches, now--with the sound turned way up. No opera here.

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