Sunday, January 26, 2003

We know what game 'football' players play

Now that Super Bowl Sunday is here, I have a request:

Can we please get a moratorium on the word "football'' from every TV and radio broadcaster in America?

Can we go, oh, five seconds before some Troy, Phil or Greg inserts another "football'' into his diatribe about yet another crucial, uh, football play? John, Al, Melissa: Please. Spare us the obvious adjective. We know it's a "football'' game.

If we wanted to spend Sundays watching Emeril make crawdad crepes, we would.

And we would know what he was doing without him injecting the words "crawdad'' and "crepes'' into every declarative sentence.

You've heard this for years, this football, football, football. It's worse than ever: The football team that makes the fewest mistakes will win this football game.

Because you can't turn the football over and win in the National Football League.

What dopes they must think we are.

We can sit for seven hours, like we did last Sunday, and not know what we're watching.

Can you see some mental defective on his couch for months at a time, drifting in and out of coherence, saying to his pal in the Barcalounger, "Hey, George, I'm glad that guy said we was watching a football game 'cause for a minute there I couldn't remember what season it was."

Saying "football'' a few million times in one, three-hour broadcast is what passes for erudition on the Sunday airwaves.

Broadcasters think that saying "football'' over and over, until it's lying there with its little head kicked in, makes them sound smart.

Of Warren Sapp: "He's a great football player.''

How could he be anything else? Have you seen Warren Sapp?

He's standing there in a helmet and pads. He has legs the size of a baobab tree. He weighs more than 300 pounds, for goodness' sake.

What else do you suppose Sapp could be? A Rockette?

It's bad enough we have to hear about "young rookies'' and "good success'' and, oh, dear God, "the next level.'' Tell us something we don't know. Anything. Warren Sapp is a great figure skater. He builds rockets in the offseason. That would be enlightening.

You don't hear broadcasters in other sports do this.

You will never hear Marty Brennaman say, "The Reds won a close baseball game today, thanks to some fine baseball defense and excellent baseball relief pitching.'' Brennaman wouldn't do that because he'd sound like an idiot if he did.

Yet these, ahem, football announcers doing these football games on the Bengals/NFL football broadcasts feel compelled every 15 seconds to remind us what sport we're watching.

Phil Simms said "football'' 7,000 times in the first half of the Oakland-Tennessee game last week. He murdered the word. His partner, Greg Gumbel, read it its last rites.

"Lost the football,'' Greg said after a player fumbled.

We wondered about that. What he'd lost. We thought the player might have lost his mind or his car keys or the neighbor's dog.

"Jerry Porter takes his eyes off the football,'' said Simms.

What else would Porter be taking his eyes off, in the end zone, the ball bouncing off his hands? The situation in Iraq?

"Made him throw the football away,'' said Phil.

"Great job of getting rid of the football,'' Greg added.

Can they ever say "ball''? Those of us watching, we're pretty sure it's not a wasp's nest, a bag of money or an acorn squash.

Better yet, can't they just leave out the word altogether?

After watching the game for 40 years, after writing about it for the last 20, after witnessing probably 500 games, I've reached the point where I pretty much know a football game when I see one.

It's a small thing, I know. But some of life's best pleasures are small.

As for tonight's Super extravaganza: It should be a good . . . game.


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