Great piece Mr. Harrington,
I started watching NFL football around the time you were selected by the Lions in the draft and watching the careers of quarterbacks such as yourself and David Carr and many other “bust” quarterbacks, I’m certainly glad that you point to the ability of having a bigger perspective on life outside of football. You highlighted what you theorizes as the difference between a good and great quarterback, I say acquiring that perspective is the difference between a professional player and a functioning adult in the world.
I realized how different NFL players are from the rest of society, watching the Thursday Night broadcast game between the Colts at Houston earlier this year. I always pondered as to why every first down is celebrated, the touchdowns even more, and every aspect of the game that involves high energy (sacks, punt or kick return, interception, etc.) seems to be the exuberance of the atmosphere, even though one would think that being paid for the job would bring a workmanlike attitude about the game. It is true that, as you wrote Harrington, players have huge motivations to succeed in the league, but ultimately they’re playing a game that kids play, the coaches are playing men that plays a kid’s game, and the audience themselves are enjoying a game that they can go outside after and play, albeit in a lesser quality. What I’m saying is that players and coaches today are in the mentality that football (and for that matter, any sport as well) requires, a youthful or almost narrow way of thinking about the game. Sure, life exist outside of football, but football exist within a big chunk of your life in the pros and that is because the stakes are higher. People’s jobs, livelihood, legacies, and most important of all, money are at stake. Football players are not actively observing the world around them, exercising their speculative nature of the human mind, having their time and energy spent tapping into their youthful mindset of how fun the game really is (one can look at how 40 year old Matt Hasselbeck reacted to his team’s win against the Texans after that very game) while crises are happening around the world (I understand the “sports and the likes most of the time serve to distracts from negative aspects of the human condition, but it wouldn’t hurt if we were a bit more aware). I sense that once you realize that your life consist of your family and your happiness concerning your family and football started to lose more of the hold on your life, you realize that there is something more then what goes on in between the 120 yards gridiron.
While it is nice to outline all of the lessons and wisdom that football had given you, I would question whether the toll it takes on the body is really necessary or a valuable payoff as to whether there are alternatives, but I know I’m speaking from a position that has not experienced what you did…
Overall, beautiful and respectable article, and I enjoy your analysis and commentary on Fox College Football.
Good luck on your endeavors.