We were on the way up to Notre Dame to see a game. This was maybe 20 years ago. She was reading a book and something came up about football.
“Is a punt a kick?” she said. We answered politely.
“And is the second half as long as the first half?”
“Actually, in most sports it is longer. In football they have all kinds of time-outs and substitutions and stuff. Lots of incomplete passes. Players run out of bounds. Fake injuries. Anything to stop the clock. Basketball’s the same.”
“Why do they do that?” she asked.
“Gives them more time for commercials. Advertisers sell more stuff. Teams raise rates. Players make a few million more.”
The years have passed. Most things age, but not her grasp of the fundamentals of economics. It was late during the recent season of the NFL and a game was on.
“What’s the line of scrimmage?” she asked.
“That’s just the line where they scrimmage. Three hundred pounders line up and butt heads, to make sure they are all punchy by the time they retire.”
“Who’s that yelling all the time?”
“It’s the quarterback. He’s calling signals.”
“What are signals?”
“That’s telling them when the play begins. And they also change the plays all the time.”
“Why?” she asked.
“The quarterback looks over the defense, and sometimes he sees something he doesn’t like, or something he does, so he changes the play. It’s called profiling. If he’s right and throws a touchdown pass, the coach is pleased and he makes a few million more the next year.”
“Is that Peyton Manning you can hear yelling?
“It’s not Winston Churchill. Don’t you recognize his accent?”
“He’s just going hup, yup, dub, tub. How do they know what he means?”
“It’s a secret language. It was invented by the Navajo Indians. All the players have to learn it.”
“Does he keep it up the whole game?” she asked.
“He better not go home. But he only does it when he’s on the field. Notice Tom Brady is not doing it on the sidelines.
The camera was on Tom Brady. He had his helmet off.
“Brady’s good looking,” she said, perceptively.
“You ought to see his girlfriend. Actually, all quarterbacks are good looking. That’s one of the requirements for the job. At the beginning of the season the coach looks over his team and picks the best looking guy and hands him the ball and says, “Sweetie, go play quarterback.’ It’s a tradition. They have to be handsome because they get on magazine covers all the time. Goes way back. Johnny Lujack, Paul Hornung, Daryle Lamonica, Craig Morton, Roger Staubach, Bob Griese, Dan Marino – and in this century, Troy Aikman, Kurt Warner, Joe Flacco, Steve Young, John Elway – they’re all cute as a bug’s ear.”
“Who are you rooting for?” she asked.
“Nobody really. We don’t have a dog in this fight. I usually go with the best uniforms. In this case San Francisco. I like gold helmets.”
“Is this the championship?”
“ One of them. You asked the same thing last week, and the week before that. But this isn’t the big championship.”
“When will it be over?”
“It’s hard to say. They begin playing in July and they just keep playing until Dan Marino is in assisted living. Or they run out of advertisers. Their goal is to be like the NBA – start next season before the current one ends.”
The game finally ended. Somebody won. But she couldn’t figure out who. She felt sorry for the quarterback who was crying.