Sunday, July 17, 2016
Work v. Playtime
As published in The County Times (countytimes.somd.com)
By Ronald N. Guy Jr.
The last week or so has been a struggle. I’ve watched Australian Rules Football, random College World Series games and “Without Bias”, a 2009 ESPN documentary on the death of former Maryland Basketball star Len Bias, three times. I’ve even trolled the internet like a pathetic TMZ junkie for
Johnny Manziel chatter. Is a 2 a.m. table tennis tournament next?
The problem: I’m a sports addict without an adequate fix. I need whiskey shots, but the only elixir available is Coors Light. I’m pounding Silver Bullets but they just don’t deliver the desired effect. Maybe I need to go “Old School”, channel my inner Frank the Tank and deploy a beer bong.
I should have a compensatory protocol; this happens every year. See, the moment the Fightin’ LeBron’s defeated the Golden State Warriors and exercised Cleveland’s demons, sports fans were tossed into a cold, harsh world with only one active major sport (MLB). No frozen pucks or slap shots. No touchdowns or daily fantasy football binges. No more three point bombs. This is how Aussie football ends up on one’s television. I even caught myself reading about Great Britain’s departure from the European Union. #Brexit! Help…
Finding inspiration in these depressed athletic times is difficult, but a Norseman - by trade, anyway - managed to do so. When asked during a recent ESPN interview about his remaining NFL shelf life, Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, 31, offered an interesting reply. “Training camp, going through the grind, OTAs and all that – that will definitely be a deciding factor. Physically, body-wise, I’ll be good. It’s just mentally…it’s so repetitive that it’s more suited toward the young guys…it gets kind of boring.”
For the average person who trudges into work five days a week for 40 years just to keep the utilities on and some connection to the middle class, Peterson’s comments sound like pouty, million-dollar-athlete syndrome. Oh yeah, it’s torturous to throw some weights around daily, casually run mock football plays in shorts and spend a little time with coaches in the film room. Poor Adrian Peterson. How does he survive the toil? He’s a working man’s hero.
Pausing the sail down the river of sarcasm, a fair consideration of Peterson’s soundbite must acknowledge two points. First, while Peterson might not be the best mentor for fathers, he is among the NFL’s hardest workers, having once rushed for 2,000 yards less than a year after reconstructive knee surgery. He is a symbol of the year-round commitment to fitness the game requires and the death of the pot-bellied era of Sonny Jurgensen. Second, and more significantly, football, as compared to other sports, demands arduous preparation. Offseason programs begin in April. Organized Team Activities (OTAs) are in May. Training camps start in July. Preseason games are played in August. The regular season runs from September through December and includes obsessive strategizing between games. And for what? Sixteen games at three hours apiece - 48 hours of glory. And the best of the best only play half (offense or defense). That’s a lot of work for very little playtime and a far cry from the 162 MLB games and 82 NBA and NHL games per year. No wonder there’s so much exuberance and passion on Sundays – it’s playtime!
In that context, Peterson’s point is understandable. Football demands a lot of squeezing for very little juice. Looking to real life for comps, I suppose it’s similar to the maturation of a complex weapon system, a process that takes years and climaxes with a few test events. Or a presentation that takes weeks to develop, research and practice for a single, two-hour delivery. Or maybe it’s even like writing, a process the great Red Smith described in these terms: “Writing is easy. Just sit in front of a typewriter, open up a vein and bleed.”
Heading into his tenth NFL season, I get Peterson’s boredom with the grind. Am I sympathetic? What with a metaphorical vein open and an early morning alarm for another 20 years? No, not hardly. Pro football’s still a comparatively good gig, even if gamedays are rare treats.