Monday, January 20, 2014

"You mad, Bro?"...and other words of the Gladiators

Have you ever experienced that nagging, niggling feeling that something just wasn't sitting right with you? You either saw or heard something that simply didn't ring true or make sense to you? Well, I have. As a matter of fact, this morning I awoke with that annoying distracted sense rattling my brain and demanding attention. Was I struggling with the solution to world hunger or a way to secure world peace? Perhaps save the whales or eliminate air pollution? If only it were that simple.

I awoke this morning with my mind occupied by...


Yes, you read that correctly. And yes, I am a female. And yes, I abhor senseless violence. And yes, my thoughts were completely swamped with the images and sentiments left in the wake of yesterday's NFC Championship game between the Seahawks and the Forty-Niners.

Incidentally, the Seahawks won. Just had to slip that in there.

If you were watching the game at the end, you surely must have seen the tip by Richard Sherman into the waiting hands of Earl Thomas, securing the win. If you remained attentive through the early post-game reactions, you likely also witnessed Richard Sherman's somewhat controversial exchange with reporter Erin Andrews wherein he let his views of Michael Crabtree be known. His testosterone and adrenaline-fueled emotion definitely spilled over uncensored, much to the irritation of many observers, Seahawk fans and Forty-Niner fans alike. Erin Andrews shared a short time later that she was actually scared by his verbal barrage, though in all honesty she was the one who approached Richard Sherman and put a microphone in front of him merely seconds after he removed his helmet following the final play of the game. Perhaps it is just me, but I would expect a player whose team just secured their place in the Superbowl for only the second time in history to be somewhat volatile at the very least, especially considering the ongoing rivalry between these two particular teams and these two particular players.

But Ms. Andrews has every right to become nervous in such a charged environment. After all, football players are big, powerful individuals, and it must surely be rather intimidating to have even just one of them yelling only a foot or so from your face. Oh, but wait. It is her job to report and interview football players. And football players tend to be rather hyped up immediately following a game, especially an important game that they just won. So they might be apt to yell, jump around, vent a bit of emotion. And when a reporter holds a microphone in front of that player's face, it will draw the player quite close to that reporter. Rather than expecting football players to nurture the absolutely unfathomable ability to suddenly turn off all emotion and chemical response in order to speak calmly and politely, reporters should prepare themselves to enter the fray without being easily intimidated. If a certain reporter cannot rise to such an occasion comfortably, there are other events to be covered. Perhaps womens badminton. Just a suggestion.

Moving on...

It occurs to me that even the venue for this particular game could be intimidating. Century Link Field is a huge place, with seating available for up to 67,000 people plus an additional 5,000 for extra special events (such as football playoff games), so the sheer size of the audience is enough to make most people tremble. Add to that the volume achieved by screaming fans cheering on their home team, and you have a daunting arena for a sporting event showdown.

Did I say...arena? Hmmm...

The Romans knew all about arenas. Follow me back into history for just a second to the Coliseum. I know, I know, Century Link Field is not the Coliseum, but we can definitely see a few pieces of common ground.

Just imagine: The Roman Coliseum...packed with people, standing room only...the crowd cheering at the top of their lungs...tension in the air so thick you could slice it with a knife...and out of the tunnel they come...the Gladiators. They enter the arena with only one thing on their minds: Battle. Of course, for the Gladiators it was a matter of life and death because there could be only one survivor, but the similarities are clear if we are willing to admit to seeing them.

Now, most of us would cringe at the idea of a sporting event that routinely resulted in bloodshed and death. Then again, I am quite sure there was a lot of cringing when NaVorro Bowman had to be carted off the field after a gut-wrenching knee injury during the game yesterday. A grown man writhing in pain is not a welcome sight...but every player knows when they step onto the field that serious injury is a possibility...and still they play the game. Knowing the risks, they hone their skill through endless hours of practice and then they enter the field as warriors going into battle, determined to make their fans proud and claim the honored position of Champions. Occasionally this “controlled warfare” includes trash-talking the opponent, jokes and jesting about an opponent's shortcomings, and unfortunately injuries resulting from the all-out go-for-broke efforts of the players.

Pretty intense.

Have you ever watched the movie, TheGladiator”, starring Russell Crowe as Maximus, a military General captured and forced into the life of a Gladiator in the arena? At one point in the movie after yet one more victory on his part, and thus many men lying dead in the arena around him, the crowd is shocked into a sort of stunned hush, horrified at the carnage before them. Maximus shouts to the crowd, "Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!"

Evidently, Maximus was somewhat annoyed at the crowd's reaction to the bloodshed, as if they expected something different when they entered the Coliseum to watch the event. Perhaps they would have preferred to have the scene somewhat sanitized for them, maybe having the blood mopped up quickly or the bodies of the slain magically vanished without having to be viewed? Or perhaps the Gladiators could have all agreed beforehand to only kill each other in purely civilized ways with minimal violence and certainly no crying out in pain or fright. Certainly that would have rendered the scene much more palatable to the sensitive Romans observing the scene.

Yes, I said “Peshaw”.
It is an ancient word meaning “Oh come on, don't be ridiculous, what you just suggested is utterly insane”.

Whether or not they chose to admit it, part of the draw that pulled the citizens of Rome to the Coliseum was the drama of the battle and the adrenaline rush of knowing that there could be only one victor.

At least when Russell Wilson said, “Our defense was relentless the whole game... That's what it takes to win”, he was not suggesting that anyone had to die to secure that win. What it did take was these modern-day Gladiators pouring every ounce of energy into their efforts, under immense stress and amid the cheers of thousands of fans they did not want to disappoint. They played hard, pushing forward when they could and defending their home field at every opportunity. In the end, that “relentless defense” cemented the victory.
All those months of practice and tireless repetition...the fatigue, sore muscles, injuries, and uncertainty...the stress and control, the unbounded desire to win finally came to fruition and the Seahawks took home the coveted Championship title.

Then someone freaked out a reporter by blurting out what was on his mind at that intense moment. Oh wait...that was not just ANY someone, it happened to be one of the someones who was instrumental in gaining the football for the Seahawks and thereby clinching the victory. He simply spoke his mind instead of sugar-coating his words for the sensitive ears of the reporter standing at the sideline of a professional football game.

This was not a golf match, folks. There is no whispering and quieting the crowd, no hush that falls over the event or polite clapping only to a certain decibel level when a little white ball connects with its intended target.

This is FOOTBALL. And that pigskin projectile doesn't gently loft through the air with nothing blocking its path between the club that struck it and the hole for which it is destined. Rather, it is the object of affection for twenty-two powerful men slamming into each other, leaping into the air, pulling each other to the ground, running as if the devil himself was hot on their heels, and sometimes dragging opposing players along as they struggle for just one more inch of gain before being brought down. That ball is the Holy Grail and the end zone is the altar upon which every ounce of the player's strength focuses. That ball must meet that end zone. That's all.

Now, if you don't even watch football, none of this means anything to you.

But if you DO watch football, you have a question to answer before throwing criticism at ANY player who speaks his mind following such an epic battle:

"Are you not entertained? Are you not entertained?! Is this not why you are here?!"

I submit that it IS EXACTLY why we are there. Food for thought, and as always, I welcome your comments.
Oh...and Go Hawks! 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please share your thoughts with me, I would love to hear from you!