Football season is here again and one can see, by watching some of the NFL pre-season games on TV, that the same-old same-old will be the story in the 2004-05 comedy of errors leading to the colossal orgy of the Super Bowl. Admittedly, I watch very little, since the timeouts for commercials create boredom too heavy to bear not just in the pro game, but also in the college game, as well. The Bud-Lite frogs and the various and assorted other monstrosities that are the subjects of the commercials are sometimes (hate to admit it) better than the games, but still can do no better, after about five minutes, than also establishing boredom to a degree too intense to tolerate.
When the ref calls timeout for no apparent reason as a team is driving down the field, he loses me and probably a few more thousand of like mind each time. There was a time when play continued after a team punted or scored, but now great gobs of time are necessary in positioning the ball and, apparently, getting the go-ahead from the commercial-mongers that the last razor advertisement has been aired, or maybe the latest lingerie cheesecake creation has sizzled the boob tube in good order. Coaches never have to worry about players becoming tired, since the big-ad guys make it possible for them to rest after three or four plays. Official timeouts can be saved for the end of the half or the game, so that a half-hour can be used up in playing the last five minutes, making it possible for multi-mega-commercials to be aired at maybe a cool half-mil per sordid shot. Before long, a normal time-frame for a game will be some four hours or so.
It's not altogether that there isn't skullduggery afoot in other sports. Extra timeouts have to be taken in basketball since positioning sideline markers or positioning the ball (great time-consuming efforts in football) never have to be done. So, when the players all flop down for no apparent reason, my finger twirls the trusty dial, commercials creating boredom too great to bear. Actually, I have to admit that I probably haven't watched a total of 10 minutes of NBA action this whole last season, simply because the game itself is so unbearably boring. When guys can just reach up and touch the rim…well…a slam dunk is something a fourth-grader could pull off if he could reach up and touch the rim. Since a generic dunk is so boring, the players have devised backward dunks, flying dunks, sideways dunks, behind-the-back dunks…any kind of showboating that can make at least the soccer moms, good ole boys (sober or drunk) and little old ladies with blue hair squeal with delight. Too, they can connect that devil-may-care, risky-dunk operation (ruptured finger-nail, for instance) with the articles they read in the paper the next day about the most recent rape-claim against one of the NBAers, perhaps fantasizing a bit about "what it would be like."
Baseball is not as bad, since there is time, when the players change from offense to defense and vice versa, for the myriad of commercials that have to be aired. Great opportunities are also presented when a pitching change takes place. However, one still must watch the pitcher spit, scratch, lean-in, lean-out, walk around the mound, spit again, look over to first, glare at the umpire, spit on his hands, tug at his cap, look at his wife in the third row, glare at his mother-in-law beside her, then ask for a new ball, give it a good rubbing, and finally make a pitch. The batter, after each pitch, takes a stroll around the plate or down toward first or third, sneers at the umpire (though quietly), blows a bubble or spits some RedMan or a sunflower seed, spits on his hands or gloves or both, etc., making a great show for the crowd and the TV cameras. A game can still be played in a reasonable amount of time, though steroid-use makes current statistics laughable when compared to those of past players.
Back to football. Taunting and teasing, as well as celebrating, are back. Trash-talk is back, with a vengeance. A player making a tackle can still be seen doing the crotch-hop through the opposing team's backfield, pointing to himself and then to God and then to the spectators (as if to say "I'm the real man, y'see."), and telling the fallen quarterback in no uncertain terms what a low-life he is and how unworthy he is to be on the same field with a genuine he-man. After making a touchdown, a player's teammate will treat him to a chest-banger, causing each to fall backwards, or give him a straight-arm to the helmet, rattling his teeth, but making it plain to the crowd that a veritable god has just descended from Mt. Olympus. The lucky scorer will jump into the crowd for some back-slapping worship or whip out his cell phone and call his girl-friend or groupie from the end-zone and tell her what a package from heaven he actually is (and maybe make a shack-up date while he's at it). For their part, the ever-present scantily-clad cheerleaders are still flashing their navels (and anything else that wiggles) at the crowd and waving their pom-poms with a skill that bespeaks artistry carried to a fine extreme.
Coaches are still "prowling the sidelines," as the reporters would have it, and talking into their headphone microphones to their partners in crime (known as coordinators or whatever) up in the press box (or maybe to some gal in Kalamazoo - who knows?), said partners ostensibly devising ways to outdo the opposing team, but more likely just eating free hot dogs and getting in out of the weather. Sportscasters, always lucky enough to get in out of the weather, are still telling viewers exactly what the viewers are watching and explaining why it was the wrong thing to do, or reminiscing about the days when they played and it was a man's game. For their part, the referees, field judges, linesmen, umpires, time-keepers, etc., ad infinitum, have increased their number to an extent that one wonders if they will eventually outnumber the players. They still must be extremely careful, lest a coach call for a replay that will prove them wrong before all those in the stands and the supposed millions watching the tube.
Yeah, football is back, some of the best theater around…if one can stomach all the down-time for frogs, lingerie, new cars, razor blades, whatever.