Friday, August 31, 2018

We've had some good times, football

I just read a story from last year from a writer who said we should be embracing college football's recent trend to schedule games on Fridays because it means more college football viewing for the couch potatoes at home.

This is a thinly-veiled excuse for lining TV's pockets and for trampling all over high school football's big night (believe it or not, college football couch potato, there are people around here who would like to go to a high school football game and watch Syracuse University play, but they can't, because college football has to take every day of the week for itself). And I've added it onto the pile of reasons why I can't be bothered with college football.

This is the state of angst I enter every year at this time. Football season is beginning this weekend (or already has begun for you Thursday players) and I'm told I need to be ready. I am ready. But I am bracing, not welcoming. Football has become too much of a bother to be truly enjoyable.

I'm a baseball guy, not a football guy and I've documented my issues with football in the past. But I do like watching NFL games and have watched them for 40 years. It's just that I can't deal with the sport in peace anymore. There are too many people that have infiltrated the NFL, from all sides, carrying their Causes, who think You. Must. Care. About. This. I don't need it.

Remember Howard Cosell? Remember when he used to talk about things unrelated to the NFL game being broadcast and everyone -- everyone -- said, "Who is this guy? Get him off!" Well, it's now a vast interwebbed network of Howard Cosells, babbling about whatever they think is important and the game is incidental.

Then there are the scary elements of the NFL, the publicizing of the debilitated lives of former NFL players. We never saw this stuff 20, 30, 40 years ago. Former NFL players were making beer commercials then and having a great time. That's all we saw of them. We never saw walkers or wheelchairs or the muddled minds.

Today, where I live, high school teams are having more and more difficulty finding kids who want to play football. I assume it's that way in a lot of communities, outside of the country's usual football hotbeds. Eight-man football, something that was once a relic of the '60s and '70s, is returning in a big way, because so many schools can't field a full team.

What will happen to football? It's the one sport that I can see dying out in another generation or two.

I still like the idea of watching the NFL. But football is just too difficult to watch these days, and I haven't even gotten to the pervasive commercials that have been an issue in the sport for more than a decade.

This is not a great way to start the season.

I must keep in mind the good times. There have been a few.

As a Buffalo Bills fan, the years from 1986-94 were probably the golden age for me and football. I lived in Buffalo for much of this period and the whole city followed that team, which made four straight Super Bowls (and lost 'em all). I made a number of friends purely through watching the Bills and some of the more notable games of that period will stay with me forever.

I also covered the Bills during part of that period and that was fun, too. Yeah, it was stressful and periodically unpleasant. But thrilling.

And, finally, collecting football cards.

I didn't do a lot of that as a kid. It was more something to collect because I couldn't find baseball cards in the store anymore. But I am nostalgic for those '70s cards, particularly sets from 1976 and 1979, and especially from 1977.

My want list for 1977 Topps football is still quite beefy. I don't focus on it much and don't receive many of the cards in trades often.

I did receive a handful of '77s recently from Chris, who I know from that same social media site that is all kinds of cranky about football. Let's see those cards. Because it's football season, you know.

Head shots aplenty. Not the most exciting lot, huh? But it's always cool to get an All-Pro card from that set, loved those 1980 Topps baseball-esque All-Pro bars.

I really like looking at that 1977 design 40-plus years later. Although, in a sign of how I can't enjoy football like I once did, I've already wondered whether these four guys are doing OK these days.

Chris also sent some baseball cards I need:

I had maybe five 1984 O-Pee-Chee Dodgers, and none of these were dupes! I love that.

I didn't fare as well with the Gold Label that Chris sent. This was the only one I needed.

Chris wasn't done with the Canadian cards, though, sending me an O-Pee-Chee card of Tom Barrasso.


Barrasso is one of those guys I have interviewed so he will go in a special binder.

This weekend I probably won't watch much football. The following weekend the NFL will start and I'll pay a little more attention. But the Bills won't be any good this year (it appears last year's playoff team was a one-and-done deal, which makes sense because watching that team last year was a little like rooting for the gazelle before it inevitably gets caught and chewed up by the cheetah). And there will be too much talk about all the things players/fans/the league/the commissioner/yours truly SHOULD be doing before/while/after the games are airing.

So I'll probably just watch some baseball, which is what I'd prefer to do anyway.

We've had some good times, football. But I don't think they're ever coming back.


  1. I haven't bought ANY football cards since Topps stopped making them. I was a big 70's football card buyer and some time in the early 80's dumped all my cards for trading for some 60's superstar cards. I would rather have all those football cards back.….

  2. I can send some 1977 football to you if you'd like.

    1. Sure. Send me an email. It's in my profile:

  3. I collected football cards during the"off-season" also. I started collecting them in 78, and stopped around 84. I gave all of those cards away during the mid-80s in order to concentrate on my baseball collection. I know wish I had them beck. One of the things I miss the most are the cartoons on the back of the 78s.

  4. I bought packs of football cards for one year only, 1972. I'm pretty sure that I only got cards from Series 1 & 2. I wonder where those cards are.....

  5. It's funny, football has always been my least favorite of the 4 major stick and ball sports...but it's the only one I've attended in person. Granted, this was when I was in high school and was mostly going to ogle the cheerleaders, but still.

    I ended up spending more time chasing mosquitos away than watching anything, though.

  6. Maybe you just need to switch which New York team you are routing for that's all.... ;)

  7. I think I got some 1977 football in a baseball lot I got off Ebay a few years ago. I don't want them, but cannot bring myself to throwing them out. After it gets too hot to work outside today, I'll see if I can dig them out.

    I gave up on football a while back. Between the exploitative nature of college football and the scandalous coverup of brain injury data by the NFL, I walked away. It's just baseball and basketball for me now.

  8. I don't know if I watched a single NFL game last year, and I haven't really felt the urge to check in on my team (Denver) much as this season gets ready to begin. I still participate in my family and friends fantasy league, but that's about it. Football has just about lost me.

    I never really got into college football. For some reason it's never appealed to me. I've always been an NFL fan, but I've been drifting away over the last few years and finding other things to spend my time on.

  9. From the old folks corner, I collected 1963 Topps football cards - Bart Starr, Johnny Unitas, Jim Brown.... Great looking cards, remember them well and would like to have them back. However, unlike my baseball cards from that year, I have no idea what happened to them. Still watch certain college games, but don't watch NFL games and have no interest. Like you, I am a baseball guy!

  10. Normally I'm pretty excited about the upcoming NFL season... but with the A's in contention... it'll have to wait until their season ends.

    By the way... one of my former students is attending Syracuse and hooked me up with a hoodie, t-shirt, and a pennant for my classroom. I'll be quietly cheering for the Orangemen for the next three seasons.

  11. Extremely well-written post, Mr. Owl. I echo many of your thoughts. My brother and I collected the 1977 Topps football set as well. I remember how we furiously ripped opened packs, pinning for a Walter Payton or Roger Staubach. Everyone in the neighborhood traded cards in this set (even the parents!)

    Alas, football today is on life support for me. Too many scandals, political stances and pettiness. I'll remember the good times, instead. Jack Lambert playing like he's literally on fire, Barry Sanders spinning out of a tackle, Dan Marino throwing dart and after dart...