American Football. Ask anyone I know and there’ll be a high chance that nobody likes it, or nobody understands it, so something like that. I was like that too. Until about 2 weeks ago.
Talking to a few of my American friends online, they were naturally amped for the release of the newest Madden NFL game, counting down the days to Madden Tuesday, one of the most popular non-holidays of the year, and the one day that the rate of calling into work sick skyrockets off the charts. EA were counting down to it as well, and celebrated the release in lavish fashion with Madden Gras (a play on Mardi Gras) in New Orleans, home of current NFL champions, the Saints. I had to get in on the action. I had to figure out Football.
Now I’ve watched a Superbowl or 2 on TV and not known what the hell is going on, and why there are so many damn stoppages in play, and a plethora of ads during them. I get why the advertising’s such a big deal for this one night of the year (the Superbowl is often the highest rated show of the year, so mass exposure’s the key), but never understood the appeal of the spectacle.
So with that in mind, I took to the greatest sports educator I could think of: videogames. Figuring that I’d understand it a damn sight better if I was involved, I downloaded this year’s Madden NFL 11 demo and gave it a go. And LOVED IT.
As what happened me in the early days of the PS2 when I stumbled and fell in love with ice hockey through a chance encounter with an NHL demo, the same happened here. I understood why they stand at the line of scrimmage. Why they stopped after every tackle, why the deep passes are so awesome when they land.
Football’s pretty much a game of set pieces. To put it in the context of a conventional video game, it’s almost like a turn based strategy game. You just have to play your plans better than the opposition plays theirs. That’s all there is to it. It’s a game of both brains and muscle, but to a lot of outsiders they just see the big bulky guys charging at each other and tackling that they fail to look beyond that and see the planning that goes behind it. I sure did.
To put it in simple terms, football’s not all as bad as some of us non-Americans make it out to be. It’s why the sport is starting to get a huge following even outside of the US, why the NFL are even bringing some marquee matches abroad to tap into that new audience. It’s certainly not justified of all the “lol handegg” jokes us Europeans always throw at it – just because our football (Association Football/Soccer) is different. It’s pretty enjoyable, at least in video game terms. Whether or not watching it is like that, that’s yet to be determined, now that I’m armed with these new insights.
Oh, and the title’s a reference to a line in The Longest Yard. I tried looking for a clip of it being said, but no joy. 😦