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OPINION: Playing football gives different perspective than watching

by By Doug Chastain, Random Recollections | September 7, 2022 at 4:00 a.m.

When I was in high school, I played football. I wasn't very good, but I had my moments. And I learned some things I would never have known had I not played the game.

Lots of folks think they know the game, but not many actually do. And even fewer have an appreciation for the game that comes from actually having played it. There are just some things you will never know about football unless you actually step on the field and play it. Here are a few:

1. The speed of the game. When you watch it on TV or sit in the stands, you really can't get an appreciation for how really fast the game is played. Step on the field, and your perception of the speed of the action changes dramatically. Try watching a recording of a football game at twice the normal speed. That will give you an idea of what it feels like on the field. (I often found myself with an angle on an opposing player carrying the football, only to grab nothing but handfuls of air when he flashed by me.)

2. The hitting in the game. As much as safety measures have been taken to reduce short-term and long-term injuries, football remains a sport that features high-velocity impacts with great potential for harm. One of the worst is getting hit in the helmet, usually by another helmet. Think about someone putting a plastic bowl on your head, and then hitting it with a baseball bat. That would be pretty close to what it felt like in helmet-to-helmet contact in my day. (I still have a headache from a hit I received from a guy named Ray Stinnett in the fall of 1972.)

3. The teamwork of the game. Football involves more than just blocking and tackling. It is a complex and sophisticated contest in which every player has specific responsibilities and special techniques for carrying them out. A wide receiver doesn't just catch footballs. Sometimes he simply tries to coax a defensive player to turn his back on a play so he doesn't see what's going on. And a defensive end doesn't just make tackles. Sometimes his job is to turn a running back inside so he can be tackled by a linebacker.

Needless to say, there's a lot about football that can only be learned by stepping on a football field and playing the game.

Come to think of it, there's a lot about the Christian life that can only be learned by "playing the game," that is, immersing oneself in the activities that demonstrate you are a follower of Christ. Many people who claim to be Christians are like armchair quarterbacks, content to be spectators and critique others who are playing the game, but unwilling to make an effort to play the game themselves. We need more Christians "on the field" instead of in their easy chairs.

Next time: some ways to "play the game" of the Christian life.

-- Doug Chastain is a retired teacher and is currently a large-vehicle transportation specialist for the Siloam Springs School District. (Okay, he drives a bus.) He is also a grass maintenance technician at Camp Siloam. (Yeah, he mows the lawn.) You can contact him at [email protected] The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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