Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Eight-Man's Illusion

Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
While driving around the back roads of Montana on any given autumn weekend, one could stumble upon a football game and if not paying attention, not realize it’s an eight-man game. Unlike the eleven-man version of football, eight-man is played on an 80 by 40-yard field (like six-man), but the extra players have a way of making the gridiron seem “occupied” in the same way an eleven-man contest occupies a standard sized gridiron. It’s only when one notices the missing wide receivers in an offensive formation with a full backfield or attempting to determine a defensive formation (i.e. 4-3-4, 6-2-3, etc.) that an epiphany results regarding this deficiency of players.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

An Eight-Man Postcard

Just wanted to let you know that I really enjoy your blog on small town football. I just finished up a year of coaching an 8-man squad in Alabama where football is second only to The Southern Baptist in worship attendance. What I experienced was pure American. I wouldn't have traded it for anything. Attached is what has become one of my favorite pictures of my team. I thought I would share it with you. Keep up the great blog. You might check out the teams website. We are probably the smallest school in the state of Alabama to have a team.

Brooklane Academy Eagles Football

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Super Bowl Lament

Strug-up Shoes
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
While all of America is busy securing their beer, soda and corn chip caches for the upcoming Super Bowl (XXX-something), this is one football fan who is moving on to those things that are more representative of January and February... ice skating comes to mind.

Here in the northwestern corner of Wyoming, it’s just another cold January day. The Chiefs and the Colts are duking it out now. Later on another match-up will follow between the Seahawks and the Cowboys. I could care. To be sure, Indianapolis quarterback Payton Manning is the only player from any of the teams remaining that I can name. I’ll only know of today’s outcomes when I call my parents knowing they’ve watched these two events on one of their five TV sets scattered around the house.

As for me, I’ve seen my Super Bowl way back in mid-November when championship football games are supposed to be played. In my case it was in Centerville, Montana (rather than Phoenix, Arizona), where the Montana state high school eight-man title game was played out. And was it a doozie—as good as any professional or college game I’ve seen in my 46-plus years. The only other games that can rival that were other high school games in the past—Geraldine vs. Custer-Melstone in the 2003 Montana six-man title game comes to mind. Nevertheless, I won't argue with those who make such claims about this year's Fiesta Bowl between Boise State and Oklahoma. I didn't watch the game, but the highlights were brilliant.

There was a time not so long ago when I would tune in the “gridiron winter games.” However, after years of mulling it around, I’ve concluded that December should be reserved for the commencement of the basketball, hockey and wrestling seasons. No football game should be allowed to flow over into December for any reason whatsoever, even if it is played in a state-of-the-art, temperature-controlled dome or the tropics of Florida.

I’d like to think I’m as much of a fan of the game as those who follow professional football, but the deep winter months of December, January and February are not for football in my mind. Call it heresy, but come December, I’m ready to take a break from anything to do with the gridiron.

And the NFL isn’t the only guilty party in overextending the football season. Spending the first day of the new year watching twelve hours of college football on TV is simply wrong—that’s no way to start any new year.

Speaking of college bowl games, it’s getting worse—everyone wants to have their own bowl game! Could I be the only one who finds it absolutely disgraceful to see a 6-5 team in a post-season bowl game—touted by the commentators as if they were some kind of championship team?

Like any good thing found in this country, we typically overdo it until it’s worn out or we can’t stomach it anymore—assuming we haven't fallen numb to its oversaturation. Isn't this the case with Christmas, high-tech gadgets, SUVs, Brittany Spears and now football? Where is America’s sense of “modesty” these days? I like football way too much, so I’m ready to put it away when it should be put away—no later than November 30.

So, when this year's Super Bowl rolls around again, I’m out of here. Spare me the two hour pre-game show consisting of ex-jocks, talking heads and all the other fanfare and overproduced television commercials for what will likely be a mediocre football game. If I can stomach it, I’ll read about the big game in the newspapers or the internet. Besides it won’t be long now before the excessively long professional baseball season emerges from the cold depths of winter, but that’s a rant for another day.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Luxury and Letdown

Fred & Huddle
Originally uploaded by mdt1960.
30 October 2004
It’s Saturday night here in Powell, Wyoming and unlike many Saturday nights during the football season, I’m not driving through the darkness of Montana on the lookout for mule deer in my path following another faraway high school football game. Nope, today’s game was in nearby Roberts, Montana—a mere 90 minute drive from home. The one o’clock kick off allowed my family and I the luxury of arriving home well before darkness fell—even during these shortened days of autumn as they begin to give way to winter.

The excess daylight following the game provided us a short detour to Clark’s Fork Canyon on the way home where a drama of clouds and light were playing over this small component of the Beartooth Mountains. Besides the luxury of daylight, another luxury resulted from the day’s short trip to Roberts—the luxury of thought.

Rather than consumed in high beams and arriving home safely, on this Saturday night my thoughts and cares are elsewhere as I step out into the darkness of my backyard. Looking up to the star-lit sky, I paused to consider the dissappointment that surely lurks in Montana’s smallest towns tonight as I wonder who fell to defeat in the first round of playoffs. Were the young men hanging their heads low in towns like Winifred or maybe kicking the dry dirt in Sunburst? Surely the humbling sting of today’s lost contest is just starting to set in for the players from Culbertson and Bainsville—way up in the northeastern part, where it is a short drive to the border of North Dakota (and not much farther to Canada).

Sooner or later, all but one team from each class goes through this year-end let down. Sometimes I find it hard to believe this sport is so popular knowing how every season plays out.