By Joe Torosian
“The reason a lot of people do not recognize opportunity is because it usually goes around wearing overalls looking like hard work.”—Thomas A. Edison
I’ve written two football books. And one of the things I strive for—as best I can—is to highlight the physical toll it takes on the player’s body. I’m currently working on a third book about football (Working title; “Arroyo & A Night in Burbank”), and when I feel myself straying I go back to a movie I saw that drives home the point of the substantial physical cost.
It’s not “Facing The Giants,” it’s not “Friday Night Lights,” and it’s not “Remember The Titans.” While there’s a lot of great stuff in “North Dallas Forty” regarding what the players put themselves through, the movie is over 40 years old and could probably use an update.
My go-to when I want to keep focus while writing a book about football is the original, 1975, film “Rollerball.” It starred James Caan playing in the year 2018 a sport that’s essentially roller derby on steroids. A softball-sized steel ball is shot out of a cannon and players scoop it up with what looks like an oversized first baseman’s glove. There are motorcycles, very few rules, football helmets, studded gloves, shoulder pads, all put to use as teams attempt put the rollerball into an elevated—narrow—goal scaled to fit the rollerball.
(There was a horrible remake about 20 years ago—avoid it like you would salmonella.)
Filmed when it was, there’s no CGI just a lot of live-action. The original Rollerball is the first film in history to list all of its stuntmen. Deservedly so because it is a violent game/film. The action in football movies is horribly choreographed, but that is not how Rollerball comes across.
“The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort.”—Bartholomew (played by John Houseman) says…And Caan’s character rebels against it.
Again, great movie, and you can put aside all of the socio-political stuff that goes on. I do, I just focus on the organized violence.
The column today is not meant to be a movie review but an illustration for everyone who plays and loves football. And it is this:
You need to use football, don’t let football use you.
There are so many life lessons that can be taught in football. So much about sacrifice and appropriate submission to authority. Yes, believe it or not, no matter what anybody preaches to the contrary, there is such a thing as appropriate/humble submission—and it is a good thing.
Football is good, football can be beautiful, but football is violent. It will break your body in ways it can never be mended. So football has to be respected. Almost like a book of matches can cook a meal as well as burn down a house, football can do the same.
But you have to use football and not let it use you.
If your goal is to only play football, then you are only a bioform of equipment that eventually depreciates, breaks, and becomes obsolete. All of your efforts on the field then become futile in comparison to the next forty to fifty years of your life. Football has used you.
If your only goal is to abuse your body to do everything you can to play at a D-1 level of college football–a level you can’t maintain without ignoring injury/pain and the need for supplements–then football is using you.
But if you can see football as a tool to get to the next station in life. Then you can use football. If you’ve ever worked around the house, you know that you only use a hammer until you get to the point where you need a screwdriver or a saw. You put the hammer down, and you go on to the next tool.
Football can be used to get you an education. That education can be at Minot State, St. Anselm’s, or the Colorado School of Mines. Football can be used to develop disciplines that make you a better student so you can academically attend a UCLA or Ivy League university.
Football can be used to create bonds and experiences with friends that will never leave you.
Football is the best sport, absolutely the best, when it comes to teaching us the lesson that hard work will always beat talent. Now that is a real-world, real-life skill.
Use football, but don’t let football use you.
The Dude abides…
Joe T. is the author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b