Bad teams surround themselves in silly moments

by Gary Shelton on November 8, 2017 · 2 comments

in general

Is dressing up for a game just silly?/CARMEN MANDATO

Is dressing up for a game just silly?/JEFFREY S. KING

My favorite play in football is not a terrific punt return, although that would be kind of nice in the middle of a lousy streak by the Tampa Bay Bucs.

My favorite play is not a blitz that knocks the quarterback to the ground, although, to be honest, I don't really remember many of those plays. It's been too long.

My favorite play is not a bomb to a receiver, streaking down the sideline, leaping as if he is going for a rebound, and coming down with the artistry of a ballet dancer. It's been a while for that one, too.

Here is my favorite play. I am sure you often get a kick out of it, too.

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The opposing quarterback fades back to pass, and he sees a receiver running free down the sideline, the cornerback chasing him barely in the frame. He  looks like a guy chasing a thief who just stole his bicycle.

The quarter launches the ball and bounces on his toes as he watches. Upright, of course. And 50,000 smell the burn.

The ball sails high and deep as the defender is helpless. He is Sabby. He is Toast. He is Vernon. He couldn't catch up if the receiver pulled both hamstrings. The cornerback, who we read runs a 4.2, is deep fried.

And, miracle of miracles, the ball is overthrown. It thuds to earth, uncatchable. No points. No damage.

And here comes the best part: As the players retreat to their huddle, the other defensive players on the field, one at a time, slap high fives with the cornerback, as if he had anything at all to do with the diffused bomb. He is celebrated, as if he just won the Academy Award, as if he just landed the plane safely. He was a nearby pedestrian, but here he is, getting congratulations all around. Way to chase, bucko!

It happens. Sometimes, in the relief of the moment, you want to credit someone. Anyone. So why not the guy who should have made the play in the first place? Yeah, him. On his way to the goal line, after all, he finished second.

Football is that way. It can be an intense sport filled with deliciously goofy moments. A guy tends to notice that when he's watching bad football. You know?

I like this one. The quarterback is in the shotgun, and just before the snap, he walks to the line and points at a linebacker. The center points to the nose tackle, who is in position two inches away. The guard points. The tackle points. The tight end points. Then the quarterback shouts something, and everyone repoints.

Then comes the snap.

And no one blocks anyone.

Bad teams are very much into pointing. It isn't just that they play like dogs, they all turn into Irish Setters.

How about this one. It is third-and-one, and so a team lines up shoulder-to-shoulder and puts in every tight end on the roster. And if that team is the Bucs, it will gain exactly two inches. And that's only if someone doesn't jump offsides, which they always will.

I like emotion. I find it silly when someone is celebrating a tackle on a 14-yard reception when his team is behind 27-3. I find it absurd when a guy jumps another guy from behind when the play on the field is embarrassing enough.

This one amuses me, too. A receiver goes over the middle, and he drops the ball. Immediately, he turns to the official and pantamimes the throwing of a flag. Later, he will tell the media that they don't understand the intricacies of his job. Hey, buddy, eight-year-old kids understand the nuances of catching a ball, okay. It isn't physics.

If I had my way, begging for an interference flag would be a penalty. Let the refs call the game.

Speaking of which, how is this one? A linesman throws a flag, high and far. It settles to earth as if it were a parachute, nestling deep in the middle of the line. Yeah, he saw something.

But then the refs huddle and talk. And talk some more. Maybe they're talking about the cheerleaders, who knows?

Then they break huddle, and they pick up the flag. What? Was the linesman just guessing when he threw the flag? Did he want to be on TV? Or did the head ref have to explain to him what holding was? Did the ref tell him he didn't see what he thought he saw?

Then there are the announcers. I swear, I was watching a game the other night that was tied after three quarters. The analyst actually said "This one is going to be decided in the fourth quarter."

What? Are these guys paid by the word? Is silence really that big of an enemy?

There was once a radio host in town who, faced with a local favorite who was fumbling a lot, actually blamed the rest of the team for not recovering his fumbles well enough.

When Patrick Hape played for the Bucs, it wasn't enough that he would mess up every now and then. Hape would wait until the possible worst time in the history of history to mess up. If he was offside, it was after a 78-yard pass completion.

One day, I was chatting with Rich McKay, then the team general manager. I brought up another Buc who didn't have the reputation of being very smart. And I said to Rich "Who wins at Jeopardy between Hape and (the other Buc)?

McKay thought about it for a minute and said "Hape wins."


"Yeah," McKay said. "Hape would guess at several questions, and he'd get them all wrong. (The other Buc) wouldn't be able to figure out how to work the buzzer."

And so it goes. The only guy that most analysts inform is the sideline guy, who struggles to find the sideline.

It reminds me of the old Joe Namath story. He was dating a girl who was wearing a see-through blouse, and a reporter came up and asked "Excuse me, ma'am. Is that a see-through blouse?" Some things should be obvious, right?

There are other things that drive you batty. A delay-of-game penalty after a time out. A two-yard pass on third-and-18. A punt into the end zone when it was fourth-and-one at the 37. The coach of a losing team acting as if it's a state secret who is nickel back is going to be? Does it matter? The defensive tackle, clearly offside, who points at the guard?

I hate that they still call them "cheerleaders" when all they do is dance. I think it's silly that fans have to come to a game in full costume.

Then there are the guys in jerseys. I have a couple of rules for grown men wearing jerseys. One: It should considered bad to wear a jersey that is a larger size than the guy who actually made it famous. For instance, I'm much too large to wear a Warrick Dunn jersey.

Two: If you're old enough to be a players' father, you should be allowed to wear the jersey only if, in fact, you are the players' father.

Three: Throwback jerseys are cool All bets are off it you wear, say, a Lee Roy Selmon jersey. Or a Booker Reese. Or a Batman Wood.

These things occur to me, doctor, when I'm watching another team run away from the Bucs. And why not. It's better than waiting for the next missed tackle, the next silly holding penalty or the next uncovered receiver or the next trade up to draft a kicker.

You know. Silly moments.

Like the latest attempt to run the ball.


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