I dread network TV on the weekends during football season. Football is more important than the six o’clock news. Generates more revenue, I imagine. Knocks out America’s Funniest Videos, too. At least PBS hasn’t jumped on the bandwagon. Not yet, anyhow.
Every Saturday and Sunday now is a marathon drudge of Pro football, College football, and even high school football if you live in the sticks. Every network channel has one game or another on all afternoon and into the evening.
America loves its football, and I did once, when I was young. I lived for the weekly Giants games on TV, back when there were only one or two games you could watch on any given weekend. That pun came out of nowhere.
I even joined the football team my first year of high school.
My high school had one of the best records in high school football, 10 all-city championships under the tutelage of the famous Adam Cirillo, and the year I joined the team was the next to last year he was the coach, in 1968.
Coach Cirillo coincidentally owned the sporting goods store we were supposed to buy our equipment from- Cirillo’s sporting goods on DeKalb Avenue just down the block from Brooklyn Tech. Keeping the bucks in the family, the American way.
I didn’t last long, and I didn’t get to buy much equipment either. I was fortunate enough to get some hand-me downs for a family friend who’d gone to Xavier High School so I had the helmet and pads and cleats needed for practice. I quit the team before I needed to buy an actual uniform.
I didn’t quit because I hated football; the real hate (indifference, really) came later. I quit because it was hard as hell.
We didn’t have a field. Brooklyn Tech is in downtown Brooklyn and some practice scrimmages were done in Ft. Greene park across the street. All our games were played at Bay Ridge High’s field.
In order to toughen kids up for the team coach Cirillo, a big mean Italian man with bushy eyebrows and a blue nylon windbreaker made us run up and down the ten flights of stairs that made up Brooklyn Tech’s physical structure. A month of that and being used as a tackle dummy by the upperclassmen was enough for me.
But I still loved to watch football and there was a new exciting quarterback on the New York Jets, Joe Namath. The following year, 1969 I watched Joe Namath and the Jets give the Baltimore Colts a drubbing on national TV. Unfortunately for the Jets that was the first and last time they ever won a Super Bowl.
53 years later The Baltimore Colts play in Indiana now, and the Jets play in New Jersey but still call themselves the N.Y. Jets.
I started losing interest in Football when I started smoking pot in earnest, when I was 16. That was the year after the Jet’s spectacular Super Bowl upset.
In 1973, my second year in college I read A Fan’s Notes, by Fredrick Exley. It was germane to stuff I was doing at the time, like going to art history class with a Tropicana orange juice jar half-filled with gin and Tropicana at 10 o’clock in the morning. I really loved the book and it proved to me that I wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the guy in the book. But I was 19 and there was still time, I later learned. The book also took me back to the weekends spent watching football, waiting for the quarterback to throw the long ball, for the spectacular catch or 70-yard return. I yearned to punt pigskin, the only thing I was ever really good at when I played. I think that was a big factor in falling out of love with football, my lack of playing ability. It was much easier to roll a joint or half fill a bottle with gin.
I have other interests now; I still like baseball and watch when the Yankees are doing well, which means I don’t watch much baseball, actually. And I don’t roll joints or drink gin anymore.
Sometimes on the news I’ll see a fabulous replay from a football game, some incredible leaping catch or 70-yard return with guys falling away like chicken feathers while trying to tackle the running back, and I like it. But like my writing teacher Charles likes to say, men are usually satisfied with the highlights.
Maybe that’s what they ought to do. Pay per view only, with highlights for the masses. I would be happy with that. Then they could run more episodes of America’s Funniest Videos. Or a good movie.