Sports

Pete: Bring us back our football!

MATT RYAN of the Atlanta Falcons in action against the Jacksonville Jaguars in a 2018 NFL game (Shutterstock/Jamie Lamar Thompson).

We are so divided these days; as a nation we have even managed to polarize a virus. You can tell in these mad times how somebody stands on social distancing or masks by reading their bumper stickers.

Americans can agree on one thing, though. We want our football back.

It’s my feeling that we can put up living with take-out food, arrows on the floor of our local supermarket and trying to focus the attention of your 8-year-old kid to be home-schooled as the weather turns gorgeous outside.

We, sons and daughters of the pioneers, have put up with brush fires, terrorist attacks, earthquakes and riots with a fair degree of stoicism. But when August and September rolls around, Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth better be broadcasting the Sunday Night Football game or there will be mayhem in the streets.

I think I know the problems that would go along with trying to reboot (good pun, eh?) pro football in the midst of a pandemic, but – Mister Newsom, Mister Trump, Mister Fauci, Mister Cuomo – we gotta have this.

For better or worse, nothing binds this nation together like the NFL. We might disagree earnestly (sometimes stupidly) on public issues with our neighbors, but which of us does not think that Aaron Rodgers and Stephon Gilmore aren’t more than a match for Johnny Unitas and Night Train Lane?

Pro football carries us out of the heat of the summer into the crispness of the autumn, stands alongside the joy and merriment of Christmas and makes the otherwise dreary month of January a time of excitement and friendly debate.

I’m not taking anything away from high school or college football: they have their loyal fans, although both are taking on a professional flavor, what with prep stars bouncing from one school to another and collitch athletes just about to get money from endorsements and such.

The NFL is straightforward. These are guys who get paid outrageous money to knock the stuffing out of the other guy, and when it’s OUR guy that does the knocking, WE feel very good about it.  Intense fans are elated or depressed based on whether the ball hit the upright or not. It’s great.

And it’s not just men, trying to “relive” a glory they probably never had. It’s estimated that at least 40 percent of pro football fans are women.  In California, some are both.

Yeah, I know there are a lot of obstacles to doing this. You can’t really have 80,000 pumped-up fans jamming a stadium who – at the same time – are carefully socially distancing, wearing a mask and sanitizing after every series. Ever tried to use the latrines at an NFL game?  The horror! The horror!

But let’s look at this from a rock-bottom perspective. Most NFL fans never go to an NFL game in person. And most of that big money the NFL teams get is from television.

So let’s let Americans do what we do best. Play the damn games in near-empty stadiums. Turn Industrial Light and Magic (the folks behind the “Star Wars” special effects) loose to create realistic green screen fans. Pipe in the music and sound.

We’ve grown up with laugh tracks on TV shows. Why not have the roar and the groans today as we used to have the chuckles and snickers?

Americans can do anything. So let’s – if we have to – stay at home, watch the game like we already do, and tailgate in the backyard.

If we sent a man to the moon, why can’t we send Patrick Mahomes back onto the field?

Pete Zarustica’s column appears on Mondays.

Categories: Sports

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