Thursday, January 24, 2013

Matt Farmer Explains Pro Football Offensive Skill Positions to Chris Brennaman

Earlier in the week, Chris was a guest on HuffPost Live. As it turns out, his system of how to talk sports when you know nothing about sports caught the attention of some Huffington Post staffers. Hilarity ensued  

Matt Farmer, however, has decided that Chris has become too comfortable in his ignorance, and has endeavored to teach the confirmed football hater about all things football.

Pro football is a complicated game. However, any sport can appear hopelessly complex to the uninitiated. I remember a fateful day in Atlanta, back when we had NHL team that I loved with all my heart. I was sitting cozily in the nosebleeds with the real fans sitting next to a fella in a Georgia Bulldogs (or is it Bulldawgs?) sweatshirt. He was completely vexed by the goings on taking place on the ice below. I did my best to explain the rules to him, “that’s icing,” “that’s offsides,” “that’s a goal,” “yes, those guys are fighting and it won’t stop until one of them hits the ground.” He remarked about what a complicated game hockey was. I replied that it’s no more complicated than any other sport, it’s just that you didn’t grow up with it. Imagine trying to explain college football to someone who’s never seen a game before. He reluctantly agreed. Although, I don’t recall ever seeing him around Phillips Arena again, but that place is pretty big so it’s not entirely inconceivable that I’d miss him, but I digress.

I’m a unique bird. I love discussing the pros and cons of a cover 2 defense just as much as I like determining who would win between The Battlestar Galactica or an Imperial Star Destroyer (The Galactica, BTW… nukes and TIE Fighter pilots are a joke compared to Kara Thrace). So, when I see other nerds struggling with sports, it brings me back to my more awkward high school and early college days before I was really indoctrinated with a love of football. I’d always had a passing interest in sports. I’ve never been the type to dismiss them, but I just wasn’t a rabid, fantasy playing, yell-at-the-screen, get your heart crushed by the Falcons kind of fan. It wasn’t until I started playing sports video games (sports knowledge via video games=nerd AND sports cred) that I really grew to understand the intricacies of the game of football.

Either way, this introduction is taking to long. Seeing my friend struggle with the basic knowledge of America’s true pastime was just too much for me to bear. So, I’ll attempt to explain four skill positions in football using a member of the Justice League of America.

I’ll do offense today. The obvious solution on offense is to have Batman be your quarterback and Superman be your running back and truthfully Batman wouldn’t have to play at all. Simply direct snap the ball to Supes and watch people try in vain to tackle him. It would look silly. So, I’m going to try and put most super powers aside for the most part. I hope it makes sense later.

Quarterback: Batman

Quarterback (or QB) is the most important position on offense. The quarterback is in charge of relaying the plays called by the coaches to his teammates. He is the one who looks at the opposing defense and judges whether or not the play would work. He can either hand the ball off to the running back (RB) or pass the ball to a wide receiver (WR) or Tight End (TE). Batman is the brains of the Justice League. Without the vast resources of the Batcomputer, the Justice League would be lost in trying to uncover the weaknesses of their enemies. That’s what a QB does all week breaking down film and preparing for the game. The film room is his Batcomputer. He may not be the strongest or the fastest guy out there, but the ball is always in his hands if for only a brief amount of time. He needs to be able to make intelligent, quick decisions, know the strengths and weaknesses of both his teammates and his opponents. It is up to him to execute the strategy put forth by the coach. Batman is the smartest member of the JLA and provides the leadership they need. Batman is cool under pressure, fit beyond reason and always the smartest guy in the room (although Victor Fries and Edward Nygma might take exception to that).

Running Back: Superman

The running back (or halfback) is the muscles of the offense. It is their job to carry the ball past a bunch of defenders that want to kill him without getting dragged to the turf. They take a lot of abuse and they’re typically deemed “washed up” by age 30 because of all the hits they take. These are the guys who are likely to have the worst knee, back and brain problems in their old age. Now, as I mentioned earlier, if Superman were a running back there would be little need for any other players. Just give Supes the ball and get out of his way. There are players in the league that are kind of like that. The Minnesota Vikings are a terrible football team, but their running back, Adrian Peterson is the NFL’s real Superman (sorry, Cam Newton) and despite being awful, they made it to the playoffs this year. Why? Like Superman, Adrian Peterson can singlehandedly take on an entire defense. All one needs to do is hand that cat the ball and watch defenses try to stop him. It’s virtually impossible. The running back needs to be strong, quick and have a lot of stamina because it’s going to be a rough day. Superman performs that role for the Justice League all the time. He’s the muscles that send fear into the hearts of his opponents. Plus, he’d be a helluva blocker when Batman wants to throw instead of hand off, but then again Superman would probably accidentally kill someone if he laid too hard a block on the guy.

Wide Receiver: Flash

Wide receivers (WR) need to be fast, evasive, but still strong and tough. Nobody is faster than Barry Allen. Their job is to catch the ball thrown by the quarterback and run as far and as fast as they can until someone tackles them. Calvin Johnson (with the nerd-friendly nickname of Megatron) is a prototypical, dominant Wide Receiver. He’s tall, he’s strong and he’s fast. Flash would have no trouble getting behind a team’s defense for a long bomb thrown by Batman. There’s not a defensive player in the league that could keep up with him. Calvin Johnson is kind of like that. He’s always open and can outmuscle any defensive back for the ball. Bats to Flash would be a combo for the ages that would eclipse Joe Montana and Jerry Rice.

Tight End: Martian Manhunter

Tight End (TE) is kind of a hybrid position. They serve two purposes. They’re either blocking for the running back, or getting open for medium yardage situations. They need to be strong, yet quick and tough, but be able to catch. J’onn J’onnz possesses a multitude of superpowers. He’s not as strong as Superman or as fast as the Flash or as smart as Batman, but he’s a very feared defender of justice on planet Earth. A TE’s role on an offense can change every play. Sometimes, they’re the guy who needs to catch a pass for a few yards, or sometimes he needs to be stopping a linebacker (presumably wearing Kryptonite pads) from throttling your running back. He needs to possess a large set of skills, but not necessarily be a master of any of them. Martian Manhunter isn’t the mightiest of the Justice League, but the myriad of powers he possesses are sometimes just what the team needs to get them out of a bind. Plus, he’s green and kind of just hovers around and that’s cool to me.

Now, that’s just four positions on a football team and there are 11 on both offense and defense. So, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ve got an idea of where I’d play Wonder Woman (middle linebacker), Green Lantern (cornerback) and even Zatanna (cheerleader), but I currently have no idea where I’d put Aquaman. 

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