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Outside » Outside Features

The Year Football Broke: The past season was at once tragic, intriguing and exciting. Thank God it's over.

Looking back on an interesting football season.

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I woke on Sunday morning realizing that this day would be the last full day of football until sometime next September. Sure, there was the Super Bowl, but it's just not the same. Another season had slipped by.

Soon, Sundays would be occupied by the chores that had been swept aside over the course of the past four months. It's usually a sad sensation when football season ends. Hell, some have said that the conclusion of the NFL season may have contributed to Hunter S. Thompson's decision to blow out his brains.

Weirdly, I didn't care that the season had come to an end. When the Giants kicked that field goal, I turned off the TV and wondered if I'd even bother watching the Super Bowl this year. I will, of course, but I did ponder the thought.


Earlier that morning, I learned that Joe Paterno had died, reportedly of cancer, but assumedly of having run out of football to coach, placing another bizarre plot point along one of the most bizarre and disgusting stories to ever come out of the world of sports. Somewhere, the screenwriter charged with turning Penn State's program into a made-for-TV movie was making some serious changes to the third act of his script.

It's a goddamned Greek tragedy that served as a nauseating exclamation point to a truly bizarre football season in which sometimes it seemed we weren't talking about football - even when we were.

We began with the NFL lockout during which players and owners squabbled over who should be richer, while at the same time people in this country were taking to the streets questioning why anyone should be that rich. Then, when football finally got underway, we were told to focus, in the third week of the season no less, on which NFL squad would perform just shitty enough to draft Stanford QB Andrew Luck.

College football began with its normal number of minor upsets and major blowouts while starry-eyed dreamers wondered if a Houston or a Boise State might finally play David to the BCS' Goliath. In the end, the complete opposite played out in bowl season. Teams in the college game ran up amazing statistics on the ground while three pro QBs exploited the "don't-hurt-the-quarterback" rule in order to pass for more than 5,000 yards. And then, someone decided that because a perfectly average quarterback in Denver liked to talk about God and stuff, we should devote hours of sports talk television to pondering if this guy might... just might... be the Second Coming.

And then, of course, there was Penn State and Jerry Sandusky and Joe Paterno and kids rioting in the streets without knowing exactly why they were doing so. While the disgrace that occurred in State College, Penn., has less to do with the game of football than the insular environment that surrounds it, the continually unfolding stories haunted football fans. Again, little of this is about the game, but the sport of football nevertheless was complicit in all of this and I, for one, am damn glad to put this season behind me.

Was it exciting? Oh hell yes? Did I have a hell of a time watching many of these games? No doubt.

But it wasn't pretty. That much is for sure.

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