Let us examine another sport.
Another form of entertainment.
I have recently delved into basketball (my favorite sport), but we should include football.
Not what is known as football worldwide: soccer.
In American football, there is copious use of the hands.
The feet, in fact, rarely touch the ball.
But somehow the name stuck.
As a Texan, I am somewhat obliged to root for the Dallas Cowboys.
Indeed, they have become my team of choice for this sport.
And so I have been very pleased that they had started with a 5-1 record.
It was improbable.
The quarterback (football’s most important position) was injured.
And into the breach [dear friends] stepped a young athlete whom I had followed in his excellent collegiate career at Mississippi State: Dak Prescott.
I have been impressed with Mr. Prescott in several regards.
It must be devastating to lose one’s mother to cancer at such a young age (as he did three years ago), but this is no ordinary young man.
Unlike many American college athletes of the highest caliber, Prescott graduated with a bachelor’s degree in information systems. He even began his master’s degree before being drafted in the fourth round of the NFL draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
This young man is 23 years old.
Born in Sulphur, Louisiana (down by Lake Charles), he went to high school in Haughton, Louisiana (which is up closer to Shreveport).
Now, I must take a moment here.
It bears mentioning why I have been less-than-stellar in following my fellow bloggers recently.
I too am in master’s studies (like Prescott was), but I have just one month to go in what has been two years of hellishly-difficult scholarship.
Back to Prescott…
Nobody thought he’d be very good.
But I always liked him in college.
You see, American college football is exciting partly because it is so dramatic.
This drama rests on one simple mechanism: the Top 25 rankings.
These rankings come from one of a couple sources. It’s not important to go into that here.
But it is important to note that college football regularly has dips and wild mood swings from week to week by dint of fascinating upsets which occur.
Dak Prescott’s Mississippi State team was, at one point, the number one team in the country (in these rankings).
I remember that.
I remember rooting for him.
Because I like underdogs.
Just where the hell is Mississippi State, anyway?
Where in God’s name is that?
Just south of Clay County.
Which is to say, just south of West Point (Mississippi).
Which is to further say, just south of where Howlin’ Wolf was from.
Are you getting the picture now?
We’re talking about underdogs.
Howlin’ Wolf…who was so poor growing up that he ate scraps of food he found near the railroad tracks–food which people had thrown off the train.
Howlin’ Wolf. And Dak Prescott.
Last night’s game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys was a neck-and-neck snooze fest…until late.
And as the game progressed (to cinema), the commentators Al Michaels and Cris Collinsworth couldn’t help themselves in pointing out Prescott’s lackluster performance throughout most of the game.
But this is a rookie.
A fourth-round draft pick.
[For my international readers, that’s not good. You don’t want to be fourth round. Or rather, an NFL team would never DESIRE to start a rookie fourth-round quarterback. On paper, it’s a disaster. But this is not paper.]
Let’s discuss the other players.
Who knock the hell out of each other over a roughly three-hour period.
The Philadelphia Eagles were starting a rookie of their own. But not only was he a FIRST-ROUND draft pick, he was the number two overall pick.
That’s what you want.
If you’re starting a rookie quarterback, he better be a superstar…a high, high draft pick.
Well, maybe not…
Carson Wentz is an interesting story.
In some ways, his going #2 overall is an underdog story.
After all, he went to North Dakota State (University).
Not North Dakota, North Dakota STATE!
Suffice it to say that most Americans have never heard of this school.
It is, to say the least, not a collegiate football powerhouse.
But it’s in Fargo…
I wonder if they love or hate the Coen brothers?
[Or as the French say, Les frères Coen]
Probably a little bit of both…
And don’t even get me started on wood-chippers.
Yes, it’s positively a tragedy…
that I have never written about a Coen brothers’ movie on this site, but I’ve devolved to a write-up of an American football game.
But I remind you, we’re still dealing with motion pictures.
Cameras suspended above the field which move at high speeds thanks to a network of supporting wires.
It is cinematography, but it’s not an arthouse experience.
But who cares?
Indeed, we must watch it all…know it all.
Pornography, ISIS beheadings, fake ISIS beheadings, fake pornography…
[Ok, I don’t know where I was going with that…]
We must watch it all!
Cartoons, television, advertisements…
Because all of these things form the context in which cinema sits.
They form the opposition [in many cases] to the sublime works of auteurs worldwide.
So why do Americans prefer football games to Bergman films?
And which Bergman do we mean?
Two steps forward, one step back:
why is the World Cup such a watched event?
Because the world loves sport.
We love rooting for our team.
We love to see athletic excellence.
We say, “Wow, I wish I could do that!”
It is the same vicarious mechanism which is at work in James Bond films.
“Wow…I wish I had a Rolex and an Aston Martin…and shoes with secret compartments…and, and, and…”
So, then: are sports propaganda in the same way that James Bond films are?
There is indeed a MESSAGE in sports, but its arguable whether the medium is indeed the message or not.
Few are bigger fans of Marshall McLuhan than me, but I’m not sure his theory can be applied like a blanket to everything.
Few blanket statements do justice to those they cover.
But sports do contain messages. [If not a singular, technological message.]
There is a difference between watching a game (or a match, in British English) on the tele (or television in American English) and attending a game.
McLuhan would likely hone in on the delivery mechanism at work for us lazy bums on the couch: television.
I must point out something which differentiates the recent basketball game about which I wrote (and this football game) from other television programs which I have analyzed.
With sports, we are talking about LIVE television (notwithstanding the broadcasting delays of a few seconds meant to ostensibly protect the virgin ears of American youth from expletives). That is the situation in the USA. You must see it live. The simultaneity. It’s just not the same to see it hours later.
You want to feel the rush of excitement.
When your team does something fantastic, you want to say, “Did they REALLY just do that?!?”
The incredulity makes us feel alive.
We scan the field of play for “flags” (which are yellow in the NFL).
Was there a penalty or an infraction? Was the event valid? Will the result stand?
Players, players…who’s got the players?
Carson Wentz played a decent game. His “quarterback rating” says he played an atrocious game, but the goal of football (like most games) is to win. Few people play chess, for instance, just for the edification of losing’s lessons.
Prescott had a rough game. But statistics (polls?) tell only part of the story.
The main statistic in a football game (and a soccer match, for that matter) is the score.
[I’ve never done that before]
Ah! But which team had which amount?
We press on…
Darren Sproles gave the Cowboys nightmares all night long. Fast, slippery, waking nightmares. He was a (small) handful.
Ok, enough about the Eagles.
You wanna know who won the game for the Dallas Cowboys?
Some of them (like the offensive linemen) don’t directly show up in the “box score”.
But let’s name who we can.
The Dallas Cowboys’ defense.
The conventional wisdom (wrong again) was that this defensive crew was mediocre to horrible.
Sean Lee was a monster. He was ostensibly Dallas’ only great defender (coming into the season).
But the Cowboys play as a team (thanks largely to a great defensive coordinator and leader in the Gregg Popovich mold: Rod Marinelli).
Mr. Marinelli gets results.
And it’s his players who have overachieved for almost half a season so far.
Guys like Brandon Carr (a fifth-round pick [from Grand Valley State!]).
Orlando Scandrick (another fifth-round pick).
Damien Wilson (a fourth-round pick [like Prescott]).
Barry Church (an undrafted player…meaning, NO ROUND).
Anthony Hitchens (yet another fourth-round pick).
Jack Crawford (yet another fifth-round pick [from England!]).
David Irving (another undrafted player).
Cedric Thornton (yet another undrafted player).
I think you get the picture.
While the world (the “market”) gave up on some of these young people, one organization put them to work.
It was a team effort.
Final score (in overtime):
29-23 in favor of the Dallas Cowboys…on a touchdown pass from Dak Prescott.
Watch out for the underdogs!