Football and the “Game of Life”

After a long hot and dry Summer, of which baseball is a meager consolation, football brings with it the promise of cooler days and festive nights. For me, summer is an all-too slow season and this summer has been even more so. With last week’s kickoff of the high school football season, and the upcoming launch of college and professional play, my zeal for the game has returned with white-hot intensity.

I adore the game of football. As far as I’m concerned it’s among the best of the cultural contributions our nation has to offer. Consequently, I am prone to using metaphors extracted from the context of the game into my regular existence. All of us do so, I think. Metaphor is just a shortcut to explanation.

No doubt my wife is rather accustomed to my asking her what the “game plan” is after church, or hearing me complain about being “blitzed” at work during the morning deadline hours.

That said, one of the things I like most about football is the importance of specialized roles that different positions. In this I find so much of the appeal football offers. In football, as in life, different types of people fill different types of positions. Not everyone gets to run with the ball, and some prefer to sit in the stands.

I was thinking about this yesterday, of how things work up here at the Henderson Daily News, and the roles different people have to play in order to get things done.

Of course, I can only speak of my own department: the editorial staff. I wouldn’t dare make any assumptions as to the dynamic of the advertising or circulation departments. But I’m sure theirs share certain parallels with ours.

We have our “front office” personnel in Editor & Publisher Les Linebarger with the office and bookkeeping staff. They make sure the big picture remains intact, that the team is able to remain in business and take care of its players. The business end of a newspaper cannot be stressed enough.

For all our ideals and journalistic integrity, if the product isn’t worth buying, it isn’t worth selling.

Our head coach would be Managing Editor Tony Floyd, the veteran newspaperman of 32 years. Setting the game plan from week-to-week, he oversees how his players are performing and makes adjustments as need or circumstances require. He also is accountable to the front office for how the team is performing… or not performing. Easy to overlook when things go well, he’s usually one of the first to catch hell when things go wrong.

Next would be Production Supervisor Joy Slaymaker. I tried to think of a single position that provides an adequate equivalent, but the only thing I could think of to describe her would be the entire Defense. Be it a civic event or a public notice, Joy fields about 90 percent of the calls that come into our department, and keeps the rest of us from having to stammer through an earnest telephone conversation about an obituary or wedding announcement that ran 10 years ago. The old adage that “defense wins championships” is dead on because, quite frankly, Joy keeps our team from falling way behind.

Combined with that would be Society Editor Cat Chanler…  it’s been my experience that the role of Society Editor is not entirely unlike that of the offensive line. Nobody really notices what goes into it unless something goes wrong. But when it does, it is immediately apparent to all.

Sports Editor Hughes Ellis would be our reliable 1,000 yard-a-season all-pro running back. Because face it, other than the obituaries and the classifieds, most people pick up a newspaper to read about local sporting events. A “fumble” in the sports section can put a damper on the whole edition. On the other hand, a standout performance can carry the day.

Staff Writer Brian Smith is our receiving corps. In short, he’s got to help out in almost every way possible. He’s expected to block and run interference for our running back, sometimes even running the ball himself, and be a steady sure-handed receiver over the middle for our quarterback. Which brings me to… well, me.

Gone are the days of wise old Johnny Unitas calling his own plays at the line of scrimmage or macho Danny Marino slingin’ the ball 50 times a game and outscoring the other team all by himself. In the modern game of football, the quarterback is largely a conduit.

That’s pretty much what I do for the Daily. My primary occupation is just to do what I’m told and not screw things up for the rest of them. Provided I listen to the coaching staff (and don’t turn the ball over) I can sleep well at night knowing I did my job.

I try to set the tone in the huddle, and remain cool when the pressure mounts. When things are going well, I tend to get too much credit. But something goes wrong I try very hard to shoulder most of the blame. The other staffers tend to come to me with questions or concerns and, if I am unable to help them, I try to at least point them in the right direction.

This aspect of my job comes very natural to me and feels both comfortable and familiar. I don’t mind being the Quarterback. To tell you the truth, I couldn’t imagine being otherwise.

A group of individuals working toward a common vision is the very epitome of teamwork. Whether on the gridiron or in the “game of life” the ability to direct individual accomplishments toward organizational objectives is the very fuel that allows common people to attain uncommon results.

In the game of football, as in the game of life, individuals of different skills and backgrounds must work together and achieve together.

Such is why I believe it to be singular in the realm of sport.


One thought on “Football and the “Game of Life”

  1. Great post! This is so true! No other sport carries over to real life like football does, nor does any other sport teach the life leasons that football can. I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day who said, “America needs football.” I think he hit the nail on the head.

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