While watching some of the recent National Football League wild card and championship games with my husband, I asked him about some of the finer points of the game.
I understand the basics of scoring and the role of key players like the quarterback, but how do they determine where field goals are kicked, how does the wild card system work, and what is the backfield, anyway? Last weekend during the AFC/NFC championship games I finally learned what the secondary is. He likes it that I’m asking questions. By the way, go Indy!
Then I began pondering another question.
What is the draw of football for men?
When I asked him, my husband said it’s the competition, the physicality, and the aggressiveness of the game. It sounded so brutal. Not at all what I expected him to say.
Thinking further I understand what he meant and as a result I have a few more theories as to why men love football.
Like the relentless pounding of surf on the beach, football keeps coming back. Every year. It’s as predictable as seasonal changes. At the same time every year. It’s something we can count on no matter what happens in the economy or who is living in the White House.
I think the fact that the game has a myriad of rules is part of its appeal. Loyal followers know the rules, understand why the rules are there, and count on them being enforced fairly. The rules change very little from year to year which brings continuity to the game.
When a foul is called, one team may feel it was unfair but within a matter of minutes or less, it is accepted and the game continues. No lawsuits in federal court, no changing of the rules so the offending team gets off the hook, no recount of votes, and rarely any fights or scandalous accusations. The players understand the rules and play by the rules. Done.
And because the rules are followed, the games finish in a reasonable time frame. And most importantly there is always a clear winner and loser. No one worries about the feelings of the losing team. It’s what they signed up for and it’s part of the game.
Our men who love the sport love that sure outcome because most of life is not so clearly defined. Men today are confused about their roles as men. They are built to be competitive, to aggressively protect (not the quarterback, but their families and communities and country), but they live in a world so conscious of being offensive, so fearful of being sued that they are constantly worried that they will be held back. A holding penalty is when a player literally grabs an opponent and holds him so he can’t do his job. And a lot of men today feel that way—they’re being held back.
To be sure, there are plenty of unsavory aspects to the game, but in balance the good outweighs the bad. In this confusing, shifting world of ours the predictable sport of football gives our men a respite—a place to watch men exercise their God-given aggressive, physical, and competitive natures with self-control under the watchful eye of a higher authority—the coaches and refs.
They love watching men be men. It’s a microcosm of what the world should be like.
I think it’s why I like football, too.