Fanatics Rejoice: Football Is Back With A Vengeance

The Saints are ready to kick off the 2011 NFL season Thursday night against the reigning champion Packers at Lambeau Field. (AP)
The New Orleans Saints are ready to kick off the 2011 NFL season against the reigning champion Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Thursday night. (AP)

It doesn't matter whether you're ready for some football, some football is back.

A lot of football, in fact.

College football last week, big-time as well as small-time. The distinction between the two is sometimes hard to determine for passionate, small-time team fans who have never visited Columbus, South Bend, or Tuscaloosa on game day, where crowds that would make lots of NFL owners drool have spent several nights in the adjacent campus parking lots, listening to fight songs in their RV's and mobile homes.

And Thursday, spring and summer rumors of no games notwithstanding, the NFL will be back, as well.

The World Series is grand with history and spectacle; the NCAA Final Four concludes a gloriously frenetic tournament; the NHL provides us annually with the happy image of players skating around the rink, holding aloft the magnificently ostentatious and unwieldy Stanley Cup; tennis and golf each give us their "majors," as well as the international adventures of the Ryder and Davis Cup competitions.

It's all very nice, but in the U.S., football is king.

This is partly because no sport partners as dramatically and effectively with television. Televised football is a loud, colorful drama, tense with violence, real and potential, present and future, and the package is garnished with cheerleaders. The sport is built for replay, which does not so much serve to clarify what has happened as to magnify its significance. Beyond that, most of the time spent watching football consists of waiting for the next play to happen. It's the game that best fits with that which makes our world go 'round: those times of waiting are made for the marketing of beer, trucks, and various other products meant to make a man feel more like a man, and there are also ads for insurance, in case he has doubts.

So I come not to praise football, which certainly doesn't lack for praise or treasure, but not to bury it, either, because that would be dumb. In much of the world soccer is king. Across the Pacific there are significant pockets of passionate badminton fans, ping pong delights the Chinese, and it's baseball over everything in the Dominican Republic. Here, football rules. Make of it what you will.

This program aired on September 7, 2011. The audio for this program is not available.

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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