The majority of us are almost definitely of that generation where every third film we watched growing up was some kind of horrendous American high school romantic comedy. And in said American high school romantic comedy, the stereotype is that the captain of the football team, usually the quarterback, is a devastatingly handsome WASP with no end of female admirers and college scholarship offers.
Although our sporting celebrity culture is not to the extreme that exists in the States – i.e., I don’t remember 40,000 people turning out to watch our netball team play Billericay School’s netball team – our football players are poster boys, underwear models, spokespeople and then athletes in their spare time. Treated like Gods from York City FC to the New York Jets, professional sportspeople have a gravitas and a ‘coolness’ that us office workers and teachers will probably never achieve in our lifetime.
So imagine my surprise, then, to discover today after staying up all night watching one of the best games of gridiron I’ve ever seen ever, with some of the most absurd and amazing interceptions I’ve similarly ever seen ever, that one opinion surrounding American Football players is that they are ‘fat idiots who fall over every few feet.’
I remember my dad using very similar words to describe several of England’s front line players in the 2002 FIFA World Cup. I don’t recall seeing anyone fat and idiotic falling over every few feet in Arizona last night – not for all the muscle-bound chaps with awesome dreadlocks or really cool face paint.
I’ve never played American Football in my life – except a quick throw-and-catch in my living room with my partner which ended when he accidentally nearly broke my nose – and yet I felt extremely hurt to hear those harsh words. At the Essex Spartans we have men of all ages, shapes and sizes, and I would die before I saw anyone I’d think of as a ‘fat idiot’. We have men who work out as a matter of principle or a solid way of life, deeply committed coaches and a Strength and Conditioning coach who works hard to keep everyone fighting.
I’ve heard this kind of thing before; “Isn’t it, just, you know, rugby with like, loads of padding?”
No. No it’s not rugby with, like, loads of padding. Rugby players are warriors, yes, and watching the hits they take is painful even from the safety of the sofa. There’s no need to engage in our-ballgame-is-better-that-your-ballgame viciousness, because it doesn’t help anyone.
Evidently, though, there are millions of people who don’t think that American Football players are fat idiots who fall over every few feet and we’re delighted that they come to watch our games, sponsor our club or just take a mild interest in what we’re up to in any small way. Sport brings unparalleled joy into so many people’s lives and actually, if a fat idiot who can’t stand up in a 5mph wind but loves American Football wanted to come to training with us, they’d be more than welcome.
So who cares. Haters gonna hate!