Monthly Archives: October 2007

One Year Anniversary: I love football

It was exactly a year ago on this date (though technically, it was yesterday) that I realized I didn’t simply delight in watching televised football–I actually liked the sport.

Below is the introductory paragraph from my master’s thesis:

When The Heart Plummets

It was October 29, 2006, a Sunday afternoon, and I was watching the last ten minutes of the Atlanta Falcons vs. the Cincinnati Bengals game televised on Fox. The Falcons were ahead 29-20, but at the three-minute and forty-three second mark on the game clock, Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry caught a pass, ran to the end zone, and made a touchdown. Atlanta shrank to a two-point lead over Cincinnati. In the moment that Henry caught the football and was en route to the end zone (Falcons’ defensive player Chris Crocker was unable to tackle him), I discovered the sure-fire way to know that you are a football fan and not just an admirer of the aesthetics of the televised game: you shout at the TV in agitation. When Henry caught the pass (filmed in a long shot and standing in the middle-foreground of the screen), and I saw that the end zone was likely no more than twenty yards away, I leapt out of the chair and I screamed, “nooo!” three times. Although the play was televised in real time, even though Henry only ran up to twenty yards (towards screen left), I experienced such an elongated moment of horror because I knew that there was nothing any of the Falcons could do to stop him from reaching the end zone. I felt my heart drop to the bottom of my stomach as the commentators explained why and how the play happened.

Had a sports sociologist observed me while I watched the last ten minutes of the game, he might have noted the precise moment when I transformed from being a passive viewer into an active viewer: upon realizing that the Falcons’ lead was going to be threatened, I was no longer able to sit back and simply watch the males wearing spandex, helmets, and large shoulder pads crash into each other for the possession of an olive-shaped ball. Sociological studies done on the experience of watching televised football games indicate that expressing one’s euphoria and frustration verbally and physically tends to happen when the viewer is a fan (or non-fan) of the team that is winning/losing.1 Becoming emotionally agitated would logically happen more easily to someone who is already a fan of the team, because as a fan, one knows the history of the team—a victory or a defeat will impact more than just that particular game. Sports sociologists also argue that one of the reasons why football fans become so engrossed in watching the games and then grow incredibly upset and happy when their teams lose or win is because they identify with the teams, but it is not the same as what happens in a movie. Narratively, ideologically, and audiovisually speaking, the motivation to shout “what are you doing?! Catch the stupid ball!” is not necessarily comparable to what compels one to scream “don’t go in there!” Anybody who watches a film where the camerawork and narrative invite identification will vicariously live through that character but not as an involved participant. Only a fan of a particular team would express his joy or anger in such a way—pacing, shouting, putting hands on head—that a sports sociologist could make the case that watching football possesses cathartic qualities.

As an audiovisual text, though, televised football can provoke responses in viewers who do not consider themselves fans. My reaction to Chris Henry’s touchdown made me realize that I was watching the game as more than a pair of eyes and a brain processing the audiovisual information that appeared on the television screen. I understood that the outcome of the game had become more than a statistic to be stored in NFL or Falcons history. It had the potential to uplift or to depress my mood for the rest of the day—and before that ten-minute period of time I would not have identified myself as a fan of the Falcons or even a fan of football as a sport. Prior to that Falcons vs. Bengals game, my interest in watching football had been solely in the televised aesthetic and the violent spectacle sanctioned by the narrative of the game.

Part of the reason why I jumped out of my chair and vocalized a loud “no” three times in distress was due to how the play was captured by the television camera(s). After the touchdown was made and was given an instant replay treatment, the camera cut to a high-angle close-up of Crocker’s annoyed, frustrated, and disappointed face as he paced around the Falcons’ bench, while being comforted by a couple of the coaches. I continued to shout at the television screen during the final two minutes of the game. “Come on, Falcons!” I pleaded, and since the game was live, I could hope that somehow the players would hear me. The other explanation for my reaction to that play was also due to my understanding of what the Bengals touchdown would do to the Falcons’ lead. The fourth quarter might have been drawing to a close, but anything could have happened in the last two minutes of that football game. As a viewer, football had become more than a game, more than a way to spend my Sunday afternoon, more than something to watch on TV. Football had become a story fueled by spectacle, surprise, and suspense.

1. Wenner, Lawrence and Walter Gantz. “The Audience Experience with Sports on Television.”

Media, Sports, & Society. Lawrence A. Wenner, Ed. (Newbury Park: Sage Publications). 241-269.

Oh yes, and for all you baseball fans out there, the Boston Red Sox snagged the World Series win away from the Colorado Rockies. Click here for more details.

‘Tis the Season: Colts knee the Panthers; Giants hold down the Dolphins

I watched the Indianapolis Colts win against the Carolina Panthers in North Carolina (on CBS) and the New York Giants beat the Miami Dolphins in London (Fox).   The Colts vs. Panthers game wasn’t as eventful as the Giants vs. Dolphins game, so I won’t be typing as extensively on it.  I will, however, say that the 4:15pm Colts vs. Patriots game next Sunday (on CBS) is a must-see. And, as untouchable as Patriots quarterback Tom Brady might be on the field, I think I like Colts’ Peyton Manning more.  So the guy is the spokesperson for every electronics gadget purchasable in a Best Buy store.  His team doesn’t always put points on the board in the first or second quarters, but he always gets his fellow Colts on the board and in the lead.   Final score of the game: 31 to 7.

For stats, summary, and play by play, click here.  Read more about the game here.

 

And now, for possibly the most talked and typed about NFL game across two continents today:  the New York Giants outperform the Miami Dolphins in London, England–making history in the first regular season game played outside North America.

Over 90,000 flocked to Wembley Stadium to watch this game.  Boatloads of rain fell over the field (or “pitch” as the English call it), making complete passes and traction problematic.  The Giants got thirteen points by the end of the game (two field goals–in the first and second quarters–and a touchdown  in the second quarter by New York’s own quarterback Eli Manning).   The Dolphins were scoreless for the majority of the game.  Their ten points came from a field goal in the third quarter and a touchdown by wide receiver Tedd Ginn, Jr. in the fourth quarter.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. Regular Dolphins quarterback Trent Green was on the sidelines due to a concussion. Backup QB Cleo Lemon took to the field.

2. I wish someone could have gathered all the rainwater that fell and have it shipped to Lake Lanier.  All that slipping and sliding resulted in two teams full of very dirty uniforms.

3. One of the cameras cut to a close-up of Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor during the singing of the American national anthem.  He was chewing gum.  Comment dit-on “bad form” ?

4. Brought up many times during the telecast: Giants Osi Umenyiora was born and lived in London for a number of years.

5. In the center of the field was the NFL logo as well as the words “International Series.” By the end of the game, only the NFL crest was still visible.

6. The spectators did a round of The Wave during the second quarter.

7.  Former Dallas Cowboys fullback Daryl “Moose” Johnston made a joke about the sight of players stepping onto the sidelines and having their cleats changed remindeding him of the NASCAR pit stop.  I adore his voice.

8. I think I figured out what the red line of scrimmage means!  It appeared on screen during the second quarter during a fourth down conversion attempt (I don’t recall by which team).

9.  Some guy dressed in an official’s uniform ran onto the field at the top of the third quarter.   I don’t know if he ever made it onto the broadcast (in other words, if any of the cameras linked to the live feed were taping him) because when I flipped over to this game from the Colts vs. Panthers one, one of the commentators said that the Fox cameras would not be on him.  Instead, they focused on the fans in the stands.

10. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell joined the Fox sports commentators at the top of the third quarter and talked about his vision regarding the global expansion of the NFL.  He foresees over the next four to five years more regular season games being played overseas.  I think the priority for the present and near future is to spread the athletic and ideological gospel of football to even more people around the world.

11. In the bottom of the third quarter, Dolphins running back Jesse Chapman made an impressive run–if not for distance traveled than for wriggling out of Giants defensive players’ clutches–and the camera cut to a close-up profile of Jason Taylor looking and smiling towards screen right, clearly at Chapman’s play.

12. Tony Siragusa, aka Goose, mentions that the good folks sitting in the Fox production truck were including quintessential English imagery into the broadcast–Big Ben and phone booths–and then he adds something to the tune of “things unfamiliar to us Americans.”   What?!    As if American football players and fans have never watched BBC America, 28 Days Later, Mr. Bean, or any movie or TV show ever filmed in London.

For game stats, summary, and play by play, click here.   Read more about the game here.

Football Movie News: George Clooney goes Leatherheads

I was at a Borders store in midtown tonight when I came across the fall issue of this men’s magazine called Classic Style (think film noir meets country clubs).

I don’t know if you can tell or not, but the upper left corner of the magazine cover bears the phrase, “NFL’s Best Dressed Coaches.” I was intrigued. I browsed through and found this coach to be Mike Nolan* of the San Francisco 49ers.

As I was flipping through this magazine, my eyes locked onto a picture of George Clooney, John Krasinski, and Renee Zellwegger….

as well as this photo:

These images were from an article about a football movie that Clooney is starring in and directing. It’s called Leatherheads and is slated to be in theatres in 2008.

According to ClooneyStudio.com, the film is “a quick-witted romantic comedy set against the backdrop of America’s nascent pro-football league in 1925.”** IMDB summarizes the plot as “a romantic comedy set in the world of 1920s football, where the owner of a professional sports team drafts a straight-laced college sensation,” who then must “watch his new coach fall for his fiancee.”

IMDB’s triva page for this movie currently states that Clooney’s research and preparation process included screening many screwball comedies.

I will certainly be watching it when it opens next year because A. It’s a football movie. B. It’s set during a time when college football was raging across the country but is about professional football. C. I want to find out whether or not the game sequences will incorporate NFL Films-inspired cinematography and editing or if they will adopt the visual style of The Freshman, College, and Horse Feathers (incidentally all college football films and starring comedic geniuses Harold Lloyd, Buster Keaton, and the Marx Brothers respectively). and D. It would be a treat to view 1920s uniforms and stadiums in color.

A “Coach Troup” person is credited as football coordinator for Leatherheads.

The football game from Horse Feathers:

For more production stills from Leatherheads, click here.

*He’s quite a handsome fellow, n’est-ce pas?

**Please visit Clooneystudio.com for a more detailed plot synopsis.
pix creds: googe image search, Clooneystudio.com, official site of the 49ers

College Football: The Dawgs chomp down on the Gators

Earlier in the week, I had expressed hope for the University of Florida to beat the University of Georgia, but I’m pretty happy that they didn’t.*

I’ve probably seen an equal number of UGA’s games and Florida’s games on TV (today’s game broadcast by CBS). I have no personal preference for either team. I’m more familiar with UGA’s historical legacy (big SEC football school) and Florida did win the BCS Championship last year, so I knew that I was in for stunning game-play. I was not disappointed at all in this department. In fact, by the time the fourth quarter rolled around, I was hoping the Dawgs would win.

The progression of the scoring was essentially a strike-counter-strike. UGA tailback Knowshon Moreno scored the first touchdown of the game in the first quarter. Florida immediately matched it with a touchdown by wide receiver Louis Murphy. UGA flanker Mohamed Mossaquoi responded with a touchdown. In the top of the second quarter, Florida cornerback Wondy Pierre-Louis tied the game 14 to 14.

That tie was soon broken with a Florida field goal in the second quarter. Moreno wasn’t going to have that happen–he gave UGA the lead with another touchdown in the bottom of the second quarter. 21 to 17. UGA fullback Brannan Southerland increased the score gap with a touchdown in the third quarter. Florida’s quarterback Tim Tebow decreased the point distance with a touchdown in the third quarter. 28 to 24 in UGA’s favor.

The fourth quarter brought about a Dawgs TD sandwich: UGA split end Mikey Henderson made a 53-yard touchdown, which was followed by another Tebow TD (accompanied by a failed 2-point conversion attempt), and rounded out by yet another Moreno touchdown. The Dawgs claimed 42 points over the Gators 30.

Observations & Miscellania:

1. According to the commentators, UGA has only won two out of the last seventeen games against Florida (in 1997 and 2004).

2. The Dawgs players ran onto the field en masse after Moreno made that first touchdown–at half-time, UGA head coach Mark Richt told Tracy Wolfson of CBS Sports something along the lines of “if they don’t get a penalty for celebration after the first touchdown, I was going to be mad at them.”

3. Tim Tebow was sacked six times.

4. A terrible screen graphic made a few appearances in this telecast. The TV screen would dim and then a spotlight would focus over a point of interest (a player, part of the field, or the vicinity of the ball). Horrendous. Slow-motion and regular motion instant replay is, quite frankly, the only necessary component of the televised aesthetic that adds to rather than detracts from appreciating or better understanding the mechanics and balletics of game-play. The 1st and Ten line is significant psychologically because it serves as a kind of finishing line for a given play–it matters not that it’s not an official marker–and helps to create suspense. I also happen to like the Skycam and the cable cam–as far as how it re-orients the spatial dimensions of the field onto a television set, but some football fans that have decades of cheering under their belt might find it resembles football video games too much and don’t care for it.

5. Aerial footage of The Swamp revealed stands bisected by a sea of red on one side and a sea of purple on the other (red & blue = purple). As soon as the game was about to end, another view from the sky showed red on one side and blue on the other (the seats are blue)

6. The Dawgs are certainly an impressive team athletically and mentally. Playing Devil’s advocate (or die-hard Gators fan), it is possibly worth wondering if UGA would have performed as well as it did if Florida’s quarterback didn’t have a bruised right shoulder. In other words, pit a strong team against one that is normally stronger but has become weaker and what would the result be? Or, pit the strong team against the stronger team minus any injuries and what would the result be? Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve. UGA won by a twelve point margin–I’m not a Gators fan, I won’t be delving into subjunctive history here.

For game stats, summary, and play by play, click here.

*As with most things in my life, the more I hope for a particular outcome, the less likely I’ll get that outcome. Such is irony and the will of the gods, n’est-ce pas?

NFL News: Roger Goodell is no Isolationist

Futbol is played competitively and leisurely the world over, but football is primarily a (north) American sport. For every Tim, Dan, Sarah, and Minh who would prefer to see football remain American (geographically and ideologically), there are Drakes, Keiths, Amys, and Kims who would very much like to see football sweep across the globe just like futbol. The motivation behind Tim, Dan, Sarah, and Minh’s reluctance to share? Mainstream American films, music, computer software, food products, and clothing brands have already infiltrated global commercial culture–can’t there be something that Tim-and-tow can still call their own? Something that can be seen by other countries on the television but can only be experienced in-person on the North American continent? *NFL Europe was a fine concept and didn’t need any “re-evaluation” as far as Tim et al are concerned).

Drake, Keith, Amy, and Kim, on the other hand, are being very generous and as cultural and political missionaries, they don’t want to force foreigners to trek all the way across the Atlantic or Pacific oceans to watch some gridiron competition in the flesh. Precisely because American lifestyle choices (and in other cases intellectual arguments) have successfully expanded and anchored in other regions of the world, competitive sport is the next logical addition.

Without further ado, Sickly sweet from NFL.com:

Goodell: Making NFL the ‘world’s passion’

By Roger Goodell National Football League

Note: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell delivered the opening remarks this morning at a sports business conference in London. Coinciding with this weekend’s Dolphins-Giants game at Wembley Stadium, the conference — “Sport 2020: The changing face of the global sports industry” — featured several NFL owners and some of the biggest names in the sports industry. The following is a transcript of Goodell’s remarks:

Good morning and thank you, Daniel, for those generous words and especially for organizing today’s event.

Thanks to all of you for joining us from the four corners of the world and nearly every sport imaginable. This is very exciting and ground-breaking.

It is a pleasure to be with you for today’s conference and the week-long festivities that culminate Sunday at Wembley Stadium. The historic first regular-season NFL game played outside of North America is a milestone for the NFL and the international growth of our game.

I would like to extend a special welcome to Wayne Huizenga of the Miami Dolphins and Jonathan Tisch of the New York Giants. Thank you for being our pioneers and bringing your teams here during the heart of the season. This was especially challenging for Wayne, whose team gave up a home game. Not that Mr. Tisch is feeling much sympathy, but we do appreciate what you have done Wayne in leading the way.

We’ve come a long way since we started bringing our game overseas.

While we are the number-one sport in the U.S., our future success will depend in large part on our ability to globalize. As the world shrinks, thanks to emerging technology, we will increasingly become partners with many of you in this room.

To read the rest of Goodell’s remarks, click here.

Thinking about the sport historically, the cultivation of football was an attempt at making it different from futbol and rugby, to make it something easily embraced by Americans. Over 100 years has passed, though. Geography and geology might still literally and physically separate humans, but binary code is able to overcome that distance. I understand and can imagine the economic and financial factors that would necessitate the NFL to reconsider any voluntary or involuntary isolationist behaviors. There are so many potential future NFL players and fans out there. There are monetary benefits, of course, but there are also psychological and personal rewards. I’m sure the owner of an NFL franchise would be thrilled that young boys in Beijing, Tokyo, Paris, Madrid, or Sydney love his team. I wouldn’t be surprised either if the administrators of the NFL start gloating that football has replaced baseball or basketball as the favorite American sport among the young people of other nations.

And yet, there is a part of me that empathizes with Tim, Dan, Sarah, and Minh. What could they call their own now?

I’m going to a Halloween party tomorrow night and will be watching the UGA vs. Florida game on Saturday (expect an entry on it). I’m also planning on watching Saw IV (guilty pleasure!!!) at some point this weekend, so I’m not sure when I’ll have the analysis of The Comebacks and Not Another Teen Movie up. There appears to be a lot more to think about–in the mean time, here is the review of The Comebacks that I wrote for Filmthreat.com.