THE ART OF COLLEGE FOOTBALL - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Not college football-specific, but heavily correlated: an interesting, more or less intellectual look by Matthew McGough in Sunday's Boston Globe into "the art of sport," as in the aesthetic beauty of Dr. J's wrap-around layup in the '80 Finals, the emotional drama of Kirk Gibson's walk-off home run in Game One of the '88 Series and athletes' near-universal inability to describe or - like most artists - be inspired by their own outlandish feats. McGough's points are lifted largely from the work of Stanford literature professor Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht, from his name an unlikely college football fan but nevertheless the author of the forthcoming "In Praise of Athletic Beauty":
The shining CFB example, as would be expected from a Boston publication, is Doug Flutie's famous 1984 Hail Mary to down Miami in the Orange Bowl. To SMQ's mind, though, that play - like all Hail Marys - wasn't so beautiful as it was shocking a nd dramatic. For beauty, there's Barry Sanders, or certain quarterbacks (Bill Walsh, for instance, once called watching Joe Namath in his dropback an "almost sensual" experience) or, most of all, acrobatic wide receivers. Nothing in football recently has been more visually pleasant or stunning than the rise this decade of the big, agile, go-up-and-get-it wideout, so much so that SMQ's unfortunately deleted (for technical, not editorial, purposes) 2005 All-America Team awarded the Fitzgerald-Edwards Award to Sidney Rice, as the best player at which to throw the ball as high as possible as often as possible, for exactly this aesthetic reason. Certainly, there are plenty of candidates the past 4-5 years for that honor, as evidenced by the following beauties:
So there aren't really a lot of pictures available of Sidney Rice going up for a jaw-dropping catch; he's only been around a year at a not-so-high profile school. Trust SMQ, if you haven't seen him: he can do it, and has, and will more in the near future.
Back to the aesthetics - One of the reasons SMQ looks forward to the annual glut of preseason magazines, and looks through every one available no matter how interested he is in its content is to look at the pictures. In fact, the visuals are a major recall tool, with otherwise forgettable short-term standouts like Calvin Jones, Orantes Grant, Derek Homer, Travis Zachary, Hakim Akbar, DeShea Townsend and Jamal Willis, among many, many others, coming to mentally represent a team forever merely because they were caught in top form, in the midst of an athletic movement at a moment that perfectly anticipated a fluid cut, backpedal, stiff-arm or hit. In that way, not only in its inherent drama, sport certainly moves into the world of aesthetic appreciation.
Or maybe art has to be scripted, or at least planned in some way, not an instinctual reaction, as most athletic moves are. But what Vince Young did in the last two Rose Bowls is at least as beautiful in a performance sense as any ballet, skating routine or ballroom dance.
- - - - - Of course, there's beautiful, and there's beautiful...
Great post. I'd like to add my two cents, from the perspective of a former lineman, but I believe that there is nothing in football that looks quite as good as a perfectly coordinated offensive line. Although rare (I can't come up with a good example off the top of my head), perfect coordination on the line is just something that sort of delights me. The ball is snapped perfectly, the double-teams are hit just right, a beautifully run pull blows out a D-end and makes a hole you could drive a mack truck through. Or, you watch as, almost in tandem, all five men drop back into a pass set (which can hurt like a b**** to hold right) and give a quarterback all day to throw the ball. Having spent my entire football career (5th-12th) as an O-Lineman, and having had those principles drilled into me by so many coaches, just gives me an appreciation for the guys who can pull it all together so seamlessly and make it look easy. I do love to watch recievers (especially ones with wierd names that start with "Z"), but I get the most enjoyment from watching a great line working like a well-oiled machine, doing their job, not calling attention to themselves (the worst sin a lineman can commit), just making sure that everyone else can do their job equally well.
For my money, the well-executed triple option is pleasing to the eye.
As for the receivers, I enjoyed watching Charles Rogers play. The catch he made in the back of the endzone where he got one foot down as he was falling back with two guys on him (I forget who that was against, maybe ND?)...I get misty-eyed just thinking about it.
And Calvin Johnson's ridiculous one-hand snag against NC State two years ago where he stopped mid-stride and jumped backwards against his momentum and caught it horizontally...perhaps the best catch I've ever seen.
Right on, Realist - I was looking specifically for that pic of Rogers hauling down the touchdown against Notre Dame, which is about as great a catch as it gets (it's almost a shame the Spartans followed that by immediately giving up an 80-yard pass from Matt LoVecchio to Arnaz Battle to lose in the final minute). That catch by Rogers, the one you linked to by Johnson, Mike Williams' one-handed haul againt Oregon State, Prothro's amazing catch against USM, about a dozen impossible catches by Larry Fitzgerald and Braylon Edwards - receivers were not doing this kind of stuff a decade ago. Or not nearly as often, at least, which makes me wonder if there's a limit as to acrobatic and incredible these players may eventually get.
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And don't let the name fool ya - second guessing the phenomenal athletic feats and split-second decisions of college kids under extreme physical duress is for every day of the week.
AWWW!! The totally nicest people, like, ever!...
How much football does he watch? Dude's got insights on -everybody-, and by everybody, I mean everybody. Throw in some of the best writing in the blogosphere, and we're talking about a daily must-read.
- Burnt Orange Nation
SMQ starts to sound more and more like the Gregg Easterbrook of our ideal memories every day - whip-smart, systematic, omnivorous in his intellectual tastes and yet unafraid of the cheap joke.
- Every Day Should Be Saturday
Sunday Morning Quarterback is one of our favorite football blogs on the internet.
- State Fans Nation
Sunday Morning Quarterback is a killer football blog if you are a college football junkie. It is run by one of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and analytical writers in the college football blogosphere...The guy is thorough and detailed and provides a level of analysis you are not going to find anywhere else .
- Bruins Nation
Just another hack writer who hasn't done one lick of research...
...the pride of Southern Mississippi ever since Brett Favre turned into an ESPN soap opera, has the sort of prose knack that can keep you riveted to a preview about any one of D-IA's scrubbier members ... should be given gifts.