After exploring the darker side of the NFL in my previous post, I wanted to round back and actually answer the original question that I was asked: “Why do you enjoy watching football?”
The first reason is because I believe that watching football is like watching a supersized game of Chess. I’m sure there are strategies to be found when watching MLB or NBA games, but nothing as intricate as in the NFL.
Each team has eleven players on the field at a given time, and each of those players has a job to do according to the play that was drawn up by the coaching staff. A team will substitute in different players until they get the grouping of skills required to execute the play.
But it’s not just executing, either. It’s disguising what you’re doing. In many ways the best NFL coaches are like illusionists, even though they do need the right players who can help them pull off the illusion. To simplify things: Bill Belichick is David Copperfield and Tom Brady is his lovely assistant.
Alright, that’s a little bit reductive on the player side, because before the ball is even snapped, there is gamesmanship going on between the people on the field. Guys are moving or shifting, the QB is altering the play at the line of scrimmage according to what he sees the defense doing, the defense is trying to adjust to the QB’s adjustments, and every single player has to make sure they know what those changes mean or else the play will go nowhere. Teams will come out with the exact same formation, and then run a completely different type of play out of it. Or, maybe it’ll be the same play, and they’re betting on the other team thinking they’re going to run something different.
Of course there’s also the fun of watching top flight athletes doing things that no one else can do. The stopping on a dime and changing direction on a receiver route or a long run play. The leaping, one-handed catches and interceptions. The quarterback zipping a pass into the smallest space imaginable, or mere centimeters over or around a defender’s outstretched fingertips. The guys getting popped out of their sneakers by a defender, then bouncing back up as if to say “Is that all you’ve got?”
Then there’s the less flashy aspects, such as coaches trying to take a much or as little time off the clock as benefits them the most. They can utilize, or not utilize, their timeouts in ways other than if their player need a breather. Maybe they want to see what formation the other team comes out in, and then call a timeout once then have an idea about what their opponent is trying to run. Maybe the other team looks discombobulated, but doesn’t want to use their timeout while still hoping that the opposing coaches use theirs. It’s like a three hour round of Game of Thrones every week.
The benefit of having breaks between snaps is that the commentators (at least the good ones) can those break things down for the viewers either during the play or after its conclusion. Don’t get me wrong, I could do with a lot less commercial breaks during the span of a game, but at least it gives the analysts more time to revisit a play and give the viewer even more info on the intricacies of it. I may differ from many other fans, as I actually am very interested in the nuts and bolts of the plays.
The other reason why I enjoy watching football is the same reasons why people enjoy going to see their favorite band in concert: A bit of wish fulfillment: “If these people can live their dream, then maybe I can too.” And a bit of it is how watching these guys play a game that I always enjoyed playing.
Going outside in the fresh, crisp autumn air and tossing a ball around with friends or family for a little while triggers good memories for a lot of people. And that’s what keeps me coming back, year after year.