Baseball once was called the national pastime. That was generations ago. Now, it’s football, as it always was in my region of the United States. Young men get permanent brain damage from playing our favorite game, and some can hardly walk by the time they reach middle age. Others, tragically, take their own lives after playing.
But, it is our de facto national pastime, and Six Points is here to try to explain it. Here goes…
1. What Makes Football Special?
Baseball teams play 162 games in a season.Lose on Tuesday, screw it. Play again on Wednesday, win, and all is good. And is there anything more worthless than April basketball in the NBA? ‘Eighty-two games is much more than enough.
With football, on the other hand, every game is an event.It takes a week, not a day, before every game, and we have the build-up to each game, the review of the last game and the projections of the next game before kickoff.Over coffee pots in offices and water fountains in factories, we all discuss our teams with anticipation.
2. Old Friends, New Friends And Rituals:
.In elementary school, when school started, I would reunite with people who lived miles away, and the small talk would turn to football more often than not.
“How do you think the Browns will do this year?” “What do you think about the Buckeyes?” “My cousin plays for the Knights.”
In this region, where the forerunner of the NFL was founded in a Hupmobile dealership, that was normal. In fact, it was expected.
Later, when we were barely of drinking age, we would gather around 19-inch color TVs and watch the Browns while becoming inebriated. It was the age of “Just Say No,” and we were playing along. Alcohol good; marijuana bad.
After that, I had season tickets in the original Dawg Pound in the now-demolished Cleveland Municipal Stadium. I’d like to say our tailgate parties were legendary, but I am sure they have been surpassed.
We were still poor college kids from the suburbs then, but we fed the homeless from our grills, and we even gave them beer. That which came from our grills (and our coolers) were probably the best meals they had all week.
Now, I refuse to set foot in the new stadium, named after FirstEnergy, the electricity provider in my region. A city that cannot graduate half of its high school students had no business spending $350 million in corporate welfare on a stadium used ten times annually..
And,, it’s great to make new friends over football games. I’ve made several over the new national pastime.
But, these days, it’s still great to fire up the grill and get together with people over a game.It’s been a long time since fifth grade, but football season still brings people back together. And, win or lose, that’s why I love this time of year.
In my region, we begin football season wearing T-shirts and shorts and end it wearing North Face parkas and thermal underwear.
We begin with steaks on the grill, and we end with steaks on the grill. Yes, we love our football here.And, we love to grill.
In this region, hayrides, carved pumpkins and clambakes come with football season, along with Oktoberfest beer and racks of ribs.
We begin the season with optimism about our chosen teams and end it with pessimism, or if we are fortunate, the beginning and the end are inverted.
International crises will occur, energy costs will fluctuate, politicians will say asinine things, but we will still have our football. And, we love it.
Buy groceries in my area. The dominant supermarket, ironically based in Pittsburgh, displays plenty of apparel supporting the high school that serves my township.
We love this sport. Even though it literally kills some who played it. And, I am as guilty as anyone.
4. The High School Level
I never played in high school. I loved the game, as I still do, and a friend of my parents coached a high school team. I came to understand the game in fourth and fifth grades.
But, where I went to high school, our defensive line was twice my size. Literally. By the time I graduated high school, I weighed a buck-twenty. When I was in eighth grade, our whole D-line was over 200, running a 4-3.
I decided I had no death wish.
The high school I graduated from was relatively young at the time, being a product of the merger of two rural schools after World War II. Northfield High and Macedonia High had become Nordonia, and most years, you did not want to play them.
Now, you still don’t want to play them. Now, grandfathers sit with fathers in that school’s stands to watch their offspring play.
A few years ago, I was playing trivia in a Garfield Heights (OH) bar, it was autumn, and football talk came up.I mentioned where I had gone to high school, and an older man, who played linebacker for Maple Heights in the 1970s, said “We hated playing you guys! Big farm boys! We’d play you on Friday, and we’d still be hurting on Wednesday!”
Now, Nordonia has fast black kids along with their big white kids. Maple Heights, predominantly white in the 1970s, is now overwhelmingly black. Several years ago, Maple won the state Division II title with its all-black team, and pictures of their stands showed middle-aged white men.
The Beach Boys once sang “Be True To Your School,’ and in this region, we still are.true.We still cheer for our Knights, as those who live in Streetsboro cheer for their Rockets and those who are alumni of Farview cheer for their Warriors. That’s who we are.
5. The college level:
Where I went to college, we had no football team.
But, our entire state roots for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Every Saturday, more than 105,000 people fill Ohio Stadium to contribute to a deafening cacophony previously unheard by the human species.
Even people who had graduated from MAC schools, such as Akron, Kent, or Ohio University watch the Buckeyes on Saturday.That’s us. We’re that.
We don’t even care if our quarterback prospect says “I’m going to the University of Ohio State.”
Just win, baby.
6. The Pro Game.
I was in a bar once, and I said “I remember when the Browns were good!”
“Damn, dude, you’re old!”
When I was in elementary school, the Cleveland Browns were competitive. In my parents’ generation, they were dominant.
Thus, we grew up as fans of the Cleveland Browns.
Their generation had certitude of victory with Otto Graham and Lou Groza, and ours had prayers with Brian Sipe and Bernie Kosar. Nonetheless, we watch every Sunday to this day, expecting disappointment but praying to this day that the Browns will be somewhat less brown, but something that lives up to the name of the late Paul Brown.
Now, we have plenty of Pittsburgh Steelers fans here, and I can’t blame them. Why not root for a winner? Your team is two hours down the road, and our team sucks. I remember the Steel Curtain, but I still remained a Browns fan. But, I had something to cling to.
After the City of Cleveland spent $350 million to build a generic excuse for a stadium for a home for an embarrassment of a team, the Browns have barely worth been watching.
This is a city that could not graduate half of its high school students when that corporate welfare was spent on the NFL. I refuse to set foot in that building.
And, as adults, let’s think about the NFL for a moment.
Picture this: You and I both went to college with the same major. Only one corporation is hiring in our trade. That corporation has 32 divisions.
The Cleveland division of that corporation hired me. The Pittsburgh division of that corporation hired you. Shit, we studied together, smoked pot together, and now, we should hate each other?
And, a milion morons in Pittsburgh hate me and a million morons in Cleveland hate you for just doing our jobs?
We’ll make money, but we’ll walk away if we’re able after numerous concussions, and we’re likely to blow our brains out by the time we reach age 50.
I love football, it’s a social ritual of the autumn, but is it really worth it?
Is this sport really worth it?
Extra Point: Be Careful Out There!
That comes from the 1980s series Hill Street Blues, where the staff sergeant admonished his patrolmen to do just that. Six Points doubles down on that.
Yes, it’s football season. Yes, we like to party during football season.
And yes, municipalities and courts like to make money, and we can be easy targets.Four beers during the course of a game can put us over the legal limit of 0.08 percent alcohol, and our Fourth Amendment rights are basically nonexistent these days.
Have a designated driver, or better yet, be one. If you are the designated driver, you will not be as disappointed when the Browns lose again. Walking into and out of the situation sober, you will accept that the Browns still suck. Better yet, after not paying the court, you’ll easily be able to afford that Steelers jersey.