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No guts, no glory: NFL on an otherwise empty international Sunday

Monday 9th October 2017
With little of interest happening on an international break, a football fan must avoid sinking to new lows, including watching the NFL.

England had already sealed its World Cup place. Nations that hadn't, such as the United States, France, and Argentina, wouldn't be playing until midweek. So, I accepted a neighbour's invitation to watch the Miami Dolphins play the Tennessee Titans.
To be honest, the backyard barbecue sealed the deal. One should never turn down free food, especially when one has largely been eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pork and beans respectively for lunch and dinner in a hurricane's wake.

I must admit, one perk South Florida living offers, when hurricanes aren't looming, is the ability to mount a big screen television on the outer wall of a covered garden terrace. My neighbor even has a misting machine to keep his guests cool while they gorge on chicken, burgers, potato salad, and beer.

With bellies full, we gathered around the big screen, sitting in Adirondack chairs or on barstools, watching the game, napping between plays. Again, to be honest, we could have napped through the game itself, although the slow, stuttering nature of gridiron play isn't why I prefer proper football.
There is time wasted aplenty in the beautiful game. Substituted players on the winning side meander off the pitch, stopping to socialize with every teammate. Goalkeepers gather in routine balls, then fall to their stomachs as though their momentum was not under complete control, and take their sweet time returning to their feet. Outfield players suddenly cramp up in 65-degree weather. Another allows a teammate to take a throw-in. Said teammate then does the same. It's called killing the game for a reason.

No, I prefer proper football simply because American football has made an art of passing the buck. On fourth down and one, with three measly feet of territory all that need be gained, teams will line up to punt, then allow the clock to run down, hoping the defence will jump offside. They would rather do nothing than play the game. Receiving teams are coached to take a knee on kickoffs or call for a fair catch on punts when under the mildest pressure. It's pathetic.

The last line in the Star Spangled Banner, played before every NFL match, lauds the United States as "the land of the free and the home of the brave." Colin Kaepernick may have been blackballed for protesting that freedom is dispensed according to skin colour but every NFL player should demonstrate against their coaches' utter lack of courage.
As we watched the Dolphins somehow manage to win, I struck up a conversation with a stranger in the chair to my left. While the rest of us were focused on the game being telecast, he had eyes only for the tickertape at the screen's bottom. He was from Indianapolis and a Colts fan.

As our game entered the final two minutes, he nervously called out the updates from his. The Colts were ahead by seven but the San Francisco 49ers were driving. With less than a minute remaining, they were in the red zone. Then they were first and goal. Second and goal. Then, to his eternal misery, they found the end zone. With no time on the clock, the 49ers were only down one.

The Dolphins, meanwhile, had smothered the Titans last drive to win. Our host switched to Fox, where the Dallas Cowboys were set to take on the Green Bay Packers.

“They really ought to go for it,” I said, meaning San Francisco should attempt a two-point conversion to win its game then and there.
“Are you crazy?” Indianapolis replied, momentarily forgetting he was a Colts fan.

“No,” I answered. “They'll never get a better chance to win.”

“Yeah, but if they don't convert, they lose. Better to kick the extra point and take your chances in the overtime.”

“You mean hope they win the coin flip to get the ball first, then move the ball forty or fifty yards to be in field goal range.”

“Exactly.”

“And if they don't, pray their defence can prevent the Colts from doing likewise?”

“Yeah,” he agreed again, before remembering he was a Colts fan. “But they won't. My boys will march down the field and win.”

“That's ridiculous,” I said. “Not that the Colts might put together a drive; just that the Niners would let it come to that.”

“Well, it's better than being embarrassed by missing the two-point conversion.”

“No. No, it isn't. They have the ball on the opponent's two-yard line with a chance to win the game. They won't see a better opportunity. They should take it.”
The guy to my right, who had been eavesdropping, agreed. “No guts, no glory,” he said. He held a Guinness in one hand, marking his advanced intellect.

“But how will it look if they lose?” Indianapolis fired back.

“So, it's all about image, then? If you don't take the chance, you don't shoulder the blame. It's just bad luck if you lose in OT?”

“Exactly,” he answered, nodding his satisfaction that I now understood.

“So, these players and coaches with multi-million-dollar contracts should never take responsibility for their own destiny? Never risk anything?”

“No guts, no glory,” Guinness chimed in once more.

“No, no, no,” sputtered a frustrated Indianapolis. This time, however, he didn't seem to have any rationale to back up his denial.

“It's better to not lose than win?” I teased.

Guinness leaned over to add his two cents again. Before he could, Indianapolis pointed a finger at him. “Don't you say it!”

My host ambled over. “Is everyone enjoying themselves?”

Guinness and I raised our glasses in appreciation. A thundercloud passed over Indianapolis' face. My host didn't notice.

“How's American football for a change of pace?” he asked me.
“I'm catching up on my sleep,” I answered.

That drew a chuckle. “Martin writes about soccer, you know,” he informed the others.

“That explains why you don't know anything about football,” Indianapolis proclaimed, his sense of triumph evident.”

“I think I've got a handle on it.”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

“Then who are the only two undefeated teams?”

“United and City,” I answered.

“Who?”

“Manchester United and Manchester City,” I explained.

“Who the heck are Man… who did you say?” He raised a hand as though I might reply. “No, don't tell me.”

He glared at the screen, then took a swig of his watered-down Budweiser. Suddenly, his face lit up. The tickertape announced the Colts had indeed marched down the field in OT to win. San Francisco had paid for passing the buck. All was right with his world.

He looked over to me, forgetting he had been arguing the 49ers' case. I smiled, raising my glass again. As did Guinness.

“No guts, no glory,” he said.
Martin Palazzotto

The former editor of World Football Columns, Martin contributes frequently to Stretty News and is the author of the short story collection strange bOUnce. He has appeared in several other blogs which, sadly, have ceased to exist. He is old and likes to bring out defunct. Although football is his primary passion, the geezer enjoys many sports and pop culture forms. Expect them to intrude upon his meanderings for It's Round and It's White.


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