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Fueling up on intensity

By Joseph Kellard
web posted September 2, 2002

During the fall and winter months, Sundays become my Sabbath. In other words, it's football season and I watch the professional games religiously (especially my favorite team, the Miami Dolphins).

I enjoy sports, in part, because at least on the playing field justice is still upheld. The best teams and athletes, for example, are never forced to give up their many points and victories for the weaker teams "in need" of these achievements. In sports, the best athletes still receive the highest praises for displaying, in condensed, dramatized action, such virtues as outstanding determination, effort, competence and productivity in pursuit of their top value: winning a championship. Ultimately, sports fans like me are inspired more by these athletes to apply their virtues and values to our own lives -- particularly our own professions.

Football is my favorite sport because it demands the greatest degree of combined mental and physical intensity.

Being a highly strategic sport with numerous, often intricately designed offensive plays that resemble chess- or military-like maneuvers, football demands more thought than even baseball, the so-called "thinking man's game." On average, teams design between 80 to 100 offensive plays that their players, especially quarterbacks, must memorize and recall through an elaborate, esoteric code of wording, such as "9-7-6, H-Post, Swing" and "Trips Right, 40 Gut." (Standing far apart from this average is the St. Louis Rams' offense, which designs about 250 plays.) And each offensive and defensive player must focus intently on executing their tasks with the utmost precision. Failing to do so for a split-second on just one play can cost his team the game.

Football is also more psychologically taxing than other sports, baseball, basketball and hockey included. Whereas a team's disappointment over a loss in these sports can quickly be overcome by their winning a game the next day, football teams must wait an entire week before getting their next scheduled shot at exorcising the psychological demons that come with losing.

Physically, football players come in many shapes and sizes, from jockey-sized kickers, to tall, lean wide receivers, to muscle-bound linebackers, to sumo wrestler-like linemen. And their physical actions vary widely as well, from linemen who struggle with brute strength to overpower one another to running backs who dash with ballet-like grace as defensemen try to tackle them with ferociously hard hits.

As if these physical demands weren't enough, football players perform in extreme weather conditions, whether it's the 120-degree on-field mercury readings at Sun Devil Stadium in Arizona in September, the mini-monsoons at Pro Player Stadium in Miami during hurricane season, or the snowy, frozen tundra of Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin, in December.

In short, football demands of its athletes both a heavy mental and physical toll.

Adding to the game's intensity is its short, 16-game regular season, as compared to baseball (162), basketball (82) and hockey (82). The playoff rounds in these sports mostly consist of best-four-out-of-seven-game series, which include their final rounds, the World Series, NBA Championship and Stanley Cup. In football, however, each playoff round consists of single do-or-die games that determine which teams advance to the next round and which teams go home for good that season.

The Super Bowl offers all of this intensity rolled up into one final game wherein two groups of military strategists and modern-day gladiators battle each other to decide which team is best. It is football's intensity combined with the admirable qualities offered in all sports that make the Super Bowl the most watched one-day sporting event, viewed by about one billion people in over 180 countries.

So, while others are attending church on Sundays, I will be deriving some of my moral and inspirational fuel from watching motivated, efficient men working intensely, in both mind and body, toward achieving their long-range goal of a Super Bowl victory. Ultimately, for both me and the people who enjoy reading my columns, my athlete-worship will translate into my writing more thought-provoking, better-written articles and, one day, books.

Go Dolphins!

Joseph Kellard is a journalist and editorialist living in New York. He can be reached by e-mail at: Jkaxiom3@aol.com, or visit his web site, The American Individualist, at http://www.theai.net/.

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