I was listening to the New York football Giants on the car radio on Sunday afternoon, when Hakeem Nicks caught a short pass from Eli Manning and jigged and hurdled his way to a 72-yeard touchdown run. It sounded like a pretty spectacular play, and here is how color analyst Carl Banks described Nicks’ run: “He made the routine look exceptional.” “Heck,” I said. “In my day, I could make the routine look impossible.”
At 6’2”, 165 pounds with unimpressive muscles, I am rarely mistaken for a football player. But I was once, albeit a long time ago in a very small high school. I weighed 30 pounds more then – about the same as “Night Train” Lane and Johnny Unitas, who are in the Hall of Fame.
Like most Hall of Famers, I also had a concussion. I told the coach that I couldn’t remember the play from the huddle to the line of scrimmage, which clearly made me a liability to myself and to my teammates. So the coach sent me to the infirmary, where the recommended treatment for almost any ailment was an enema . . . which almost killed poor Stephen Pierce when he went in later that fall with appendicitis.
Like all football players, we thought of ourselves as gladiators who played through pain. But football was a game, and it was supposed to be fun. It’s not a game anymore – it is a very big business. It is also a way to keep the people entertained. It’s an old trick. As millions of modern-day Romans watch gladiators try to kill each other in the coliseums below, Tiberius must somewhere be very proud.