I have to admit I wasn’t all that excited about the Super Bowl this year. I’m not a huge football fan. Sometimes I like playing it, I guess. Mostly when it involves holding a Nintendo controller, eating chicken wings, or wearing a belt with colored flags tied around my ass. Beyond that, I’d way rather watch the television show “Friday Night Lights” than a professional sporting event. I’m a sucker for sports shows and movies. Maybe it’s just that I feel I can more easily connect with the drama and intrigue of scripted shows, or maybe it’s due to my lack of a storied past with success at team sports.
There’s a new storyline on “Friday Night Lights” this season in which a young quarterback, JD, has joined the fierce Dillon Panthers. He has quite an arm on him, and his talent seems to be a threat to leading man (and current quarterback) Matt Saracen. JD’s father is constantly hounding Coach Taylor to give his son a chance to play.
It’s sort of like when I was in 7th grade and I tried out to play football. I made the team — the fifth quarter team. The fifth quarter team is like the B team, only more humiliating, because they make you play a short game before the real game, and the points don’t count. They should just cut you rather than put you on that team. The only thing more damaging to a 7th grader’s psyche than not being accepted is being fooled into thinking they’ve been accepted when really all of the adults are just laughing. I couldn’t really catch or tackle. I could run, and I was pretty good at pass interference. I accomplished this by grabbing hold of the receiver’s jersey and hanging on for dear life until the referee told me to stop.
I guess I should be glad my story wasn’t like JD’s. My dad has never pushed me to excel at inflicting pain upon others. He always thinks I’m going to break my neck or get robbed. He keeps his cash in a money belt and carries a fake wallet when we go on trips. I think he might also wear it when he goes to work, or out in the yard. He played football, basketball and ran track in high school, and set a school record of a 51-second 400-m run, which propelled him straight into a career of literary theory and making sure I didn’t play football.
I didn’t even know who was playing in the Super Bowl until it started, but like I said, a well-crafted television series (read: romantic plot, anyone?) draws you into the characters’ lives enough that each competition becomes a matter of life and death. You don’t have to sit through commercials and stoppage time, you get to see the huddle and everything important is in slow-motion and set to music. On “Friday Night Lights,” when Smash hurts his knee, you pine for him to run a perfect 40 again. When Saracen is bruised and bloody, charging for the end zone, you know what’s at stake — his friends, his family and the future of the team.
But all that is worth shit next to James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return last Sunday. It was nothing short of breath-taking. I’ve watched it about 20 times. That’s more times than I’ve watched “Chocolate Rain.” It was the longest play in Super Bowl history, and it was better than any damned movie.
It’s the end of the first half, with the Cardinals at the 1-yard line. Quarterback Kurt Warner fires a pass into the end zone at Anquan Boldin, but he’s behind the Steelers’ linebacker Harrison, who catches it dead-on (I had to look up the names on the Internet). The entire team jumps into action. They form a moving shield around Harrison, picking off every single Cardinal that comes within hitting range, and Harrison shakes off a couple himself before busting through a tackle into the end zone. And just like that, I’m a convert.
I’ve seen “Hoosiers,” “Miracle,” “Friday Night Lights,” “The Mighty Ducks,” you name it. It’s all crap compared to this play. Living proof that the truth is stranger than fiction. I didn’t breathe once during Harrison’s run because I was screaming the whole time. If that play had been scripted and performed in a movie, I would have laughed out loud and called for the writers to at least try for realism. You want me to believe a 100-yard run? Seriously? I’m not John Madden, but I’m also not an idiot. That run was impossible. It was impossible, but it really happened. And for that reason, it was perfect.