What it was was football


Do you know how many college bowl games there’ll be on television this season? Wives will answer first: “Too many!” Husbands and other guys next: “42!” Finally, the rest of us: “Huh?” We’ve come a long way since Andy Griffith recorded his comedy monologue – What It Was Was Football – on a 45-rpm vinyl record in 1953. A country bumpkin, attends and describes his first game. It’s classic! And you can google and still buy it on the internet. Wives, and mothers in particular, will be very pleasantly surprised to know that the only f-word in the whole monologue is Football. Now what the heck kind of comedy routine is that? Hint: Family comedy. The Andy Griffith kind that isn’t around much any more.

What amazes me most about the game of football is that the ball actually only moves a little over 10-minutes total in the entire three hour plus game. Make that 11 minutes when one of the players decides to take a knee during the playing of our National Anthem. That nugget of data (and more) was researched and reported by the Wall Street Journal some years ago. They found the average broadcast of an NFL game involved more time on replays (17 minutes) than live play. When the ball does move, the average play lasts just four seconds. By my reckoning that’s about 150 plays per game! Almost as many as there are commercials. There were around 18-20 commercial breaks per game when I was busy selling TV time, and happier than a pig-skin-in-mud seeing all those golden little money-makin’ ads running. Now, today, I’m forced to sit and impatiently watch ‘em (on mute). What goes round comes round as they say.

My favorite football is college. Never have gotten into the NFL, though I recall as a teen, the early powerhouse Cleveland Browns of the 40’s (Otto Graham, Lou ‘the Toe’ Groza, Marion Motley et al) who seemed to win by 50 points or more against opponents.

Football played then was tough, dirty, muddy stuff on uneven real turf, including the Cleveland Indians sod-less in-field that occupied part of the field they shared with the Browns. College football, until recently was that way too, played in school colored uniforms that got muddy. Today’s ‘costumes’ all started about the time our Buckeyes knocked off the dazzling, green-cloaked Oregon Ducks in the first national championship, indoors on artificial turf. I loved the Ohio State fan’s homemade sign that night: “Ducks play dress up. Bucks play football!” Today, sporting goods giants have bought there way into every university and college willing and eager to snap up their shiney designer duds plus a lot of bucks. Some of you may like that. I don’t. I prefer to see my Bucks in their traditional buckeye-decaled silver helmets. All that aside, here’s how Andy Griffith’s character saw things back in the 50’s:

“What I seen was this whole raft a people a-settin on these two banks and a-lookin at one another acrosst this purty little green cow pasture! Well, they was! And somebody had took and drawed white lines all over it and drove posts in it and I dont know what all! And I looked down there and I seen five or six convicts a-runnin up and down and a-blowin whistles! I seen thirty or forty men come a-runnin out of one end of a great big outhouse down there! They did! An everybody where I was a-settin got up and hollered! And about that time thirty or forty come a-runnin out of the other end of that outhouse both bunches-full of them men wanted this funny-lookin little punkin to play with! They did, and I know friends that they couldnt-a eat it cause they kicked it the whole evening and it never busted! One bunch got it an it made the other bunch just as mad as they could be and friends I seen that evening the awfullest fight that Id ever seen in my life! I did! They would run at one another and kick one another and throw one another down and stomp on one another and grind their feet in one another and I dont know what all! And just as fast as one would get hurt theyd tote him off and run anothern on! Well, they done that as long as I set there but pretty soon this boy that had said Ticket please he come up to me and he says Friend, youre gonna have to leave because you dont have a ticket. And I says well, alright an I got up an left. An I dont know, friends, until this day what it was that they was a-doin down there, but I have studied about it, and I think its some kind of a contest where they see which bunch-full of them men can take that punkin an run from one end of that cow pasture to the othern without either gettin knocked down er steppin in somethin !”

Now, 63-years later, they’re still adoin’ it. In forty-two artificial cow pastures! And, Andy my friend, you’d probably still be befuddled.


By Mel Grossman

Mel Grossman is a local resident and guest columnist.

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