Monday, February 2, 2009

The Fascination That Is Football

When the final second of Sunday’s Super Bowl ticked off, the 2008 football season officially came to a close. (The 2009 season technically commences on Wednesday, the first day new recruits can sign national letters of intent to play for their colleges and universities of choice.)

Have you ever wondered what it is about football that’s so compelling, so fascinating, that it has become a virtual year-round sport? We could list many reasons, but I think there are two in particular:

First, every play matters and we have ample time in between to analyze each play and anticipate the next. True, the slow pace of baseball gives ample time for chit-chat, but so much of it is irrelevant – balls, strikes, foul balls, trips to the mound.

Second, football offers such dramatic ebbs and flows. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ last-second win over the Arizona Cardinals was a classic example. After three quarters of virtual futility on offense, the Cardinals took flight in the final quarter and struck for two touchdowns, the second giving them the lead and, seemingly, the victory.

But the Steelers staged a heart-thumping comeback of their own, capped by Santonio Holmes’ finger-tipped, tip-toed touchdown reception in the corner of the end zone. Arizona euphoria turned to despair; Pittsburgh’s dismay transformed to ecstasy.

Even then, Arizona had nearly a minute to pull off the seemingly impossible. Having just seen two other “seemingly impossibles” become not only possible but actual, Cardinal diehards clung to faint, fading glimmers of hope.

Alas, the celebrated rags-to-riches saga of Arizona quarterback Kurt Warner had no storybook finale this time, although he came within a flea’s eyelash of being a Super Bowl hero for a second time. Valiant in battle, he was vanquished but not bowed, noble in defeat.

Can’t wait for football season to start!

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