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February 5, 2012 / jwaxo

NFL Blitz (Safeties)

My understanding of whatever’s going on just took a huge drop.

Judging from what I’ve talked about in the blog, my early life’s main sport was baseball. This is not true: I actually played soccer on public recreational teams for some six years or something. When it was just us kids messing around, though, we tended to default to baseball, probably because all of the cool movies were about it. Every once in a while we would chance upon other games: hockey in the basement or out in the street, tearing up the backyard with an old pair of golf clubs, badminton on sunny days when we felt like putting up the net.

You may notice a certain sport missing from this list, a certain mainstay of dreary fall days, the true American sport. And you are quite astute: up until I was twelve or so, I had never done much with a football beyond passing it.

Not to say that I knew absolutely nothing about it. You lined up, you shouted a bunch of colors and numbers, you tossed the ball through your legs and then hoped you got it passed to you further down the field. After an arbitrary distance, you scored and arbitrary amount of points. We would occasionally throw a ball around, but I don’t think that we ever even owned a real football in our house; it just wasn’t a game that my brother, my dad, or I played.

Seven years of participation soccer trophies is something to be proud of, though.

I really have no idea why football isn’t appealing to me. There’s strategy in it, there are exciting moments and impressive feats. When I’m playing it, there’s definitely fun to be had. Maybe it’s that there’s too much strategy: you can’t just whack the ball and manage to score some points. On that same note, there’s a lot of downtime. A lot of downtime. Like, 80 – 90% of the game has the players just standing on the field while commentators and commercials roar.

But that’s all beside the point.

I’m mostly just trying to give you background to appreciate how completely, utterly lost I was when my friend from down the street decided to pop his new football game into his Playstation and set us up to play against each other.

“It’s so cool,” he reassured me. “There isn’t the right number of players on either side, but you can do the coolest tackles, and pick the plays!”

Okay. Tackle. I knew that word. And I liked playing, so I should, reasonably, enjoy plays.

But soon we were whizzing through menus and picking out teams (I went with the Raiders, my grandma’s favorite team) and then setting their formations and holy crap I had the ball and had no idea what to do with it.

So I ran away from my friend’s player. Directly down the field.

In my stupid misunderstanding of the game, I assumed that running past my own goal line would either score my friend a point, thus putting us closer to the game ending, or wouldn’t count: I would just gain that much space to get back around him. But no, instead I just kept running, past the end zone, resulting in the game halting and a huge word appearing across the screen: “SAFETY.”

Oh, good! I like being safe.

By the end of the day I had learned two concrete things: 1) that being tackled in your own end zone, or going out of bounds from the end zone, resulted in your opponent gaining a few points, that 2) football has the dumbest terms for everything, and 3) your friends will find it hilarious if you play poorly on purpose.

And so I played horribly on purpose. I knew nothing about football, nothing about which plays to pick and what to do in any given situation. My friend had grown up playing and watching it and was an avid 49ers fan, while I knew that the name of the 49ers wasn’t referring to 1949. So if I got the ball, I would either pull it back for a safety, or start doing jumps and dodges and tackles to make my player look as silly as possible. If he got the ball, I would make my players tackle in stupid positions on purpose, or run into my own players. And it masked how little I knew about football, and entertained both of us.

I then successfully pulled this off for the next fifteen years. People just assume I’m joking that I know this little about football.

“Haha! He sure smacked that home run past the goalie, didn’t he?”

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