What it was, was trouble | Chuck's World
Occasionally I’ll run across someone who’s just now gotten around to watching the 1957 film “A Face in the Crowd.” It’s actually remarkably prescient for a movie about to turn 60, definitely worth your time, but mostly people who see it want to talk about Andy Griffith.
It was Griffith’s breakout role, playing a wily Southern bad seed who makes it big on television, a jarring contrast to his iconic role as Sheriff Andy Taylor on “The Andy Griffith Show.” Sheriff Taylor and Mayberry provided comfort television throughout the tumultuous 1960s, but Griffith showed a familiarity with the darker side of humanity, and he gives a terrific performance. This is what people talk about.
And this is when I point them toward YouTube, and tell them to search for Andy Griffith and football.
“What It Was, Was Football,” a monologue Griffith recorded in 1953, became a big hit and remains one of the best-selling comedy records of all time. Griffith speaks as a country preacher, traveling to a small college town for a revival meeting and finding himself watching his first football game.
It’s a performance closer to Andy Taylor than “A Face In The Crowd,” but it still shows us the range and virtuosity of Griffith. And it shows us, all these years later, just how goofy some of us can be when it comes to football.
I’m not participating in the whole “worst year ever” thing, but there’s no getting around the uneasiness, worry, and just plain bad news that crawled across our calendars in 2016. We could use a little Mayberry these days. We could use a distraction.
So I know I’m distracting myself with football, and I know why. I’m willing to accept the things I can’t change and change the things I can, but I seek serenity these days in simple things.
Although football really isn’t simple. It comes with baggage, history and statistics and emotional rides that are rarely fun. I know all about this.
I became a fan because my dad was. I was 8 or 9 and the middle child; I have no idea if this was important but some people do. I might have been looking for something to share with my father.’
Whatever the origin of my affection was, I became a fan and so found out the ugly truth. Your favorite team will lose games, miss playoffs, flounder in lost opportunities and unfulfilled dreams of little boys. I grew up in southern California and so the L.A. Rams became my team, and they were the worst kind. They were good, pretty good a lot of the time, particularly in the late 1960s and throughout most of the ’70s. From Roman Gabriel all the way to Vince Ferragamo, I watched and hoped, but they played in the same conference as the Vikings and the Cowboys. There were a lot of unfulfilled dreams.
Then to Seattle in 1983, their eighth season, the one in which they hired Chuck Knox, the coach of the Rams for most of the 1970s. The one in which he benched Jim Zorn in favor of his backup, Dave Krieg, the most chaotic quarterback I’ve ever seen, and they went to their first playoffs, beating the Broncos and Dolphins to end up in the AFC Championship game, where they lost to the Raiders.
They went 12-4 and back to the playoffs the next year, but it was a painful relationship. After they made it to the Super Bowl in 2005, losing to the Steelers in that bitter game with the still-remembered awful officiating, I drifted away from fandom. It was just too much stress, and football had begun to look brutal. Baseball was a lot easier.
And then Pete Carroll arrived, and Russell Wilson, and now we’ve had five straight years of playoffs, five years of 10 wins or better. And so I get to watch.
I have no complaints, either. I just can’t make that work; three Super Bowls in nine years feels greedy when you’ve been following heartbreakers all your life.
Andy Griffith’s monologue is still funny, even if the premise lost its plausibility a long time ago. Plenty of people have no interest in or use for the game, but in 2017 there’s no avoiding its existence. And if you’re in traffic within 10 miles of CenturyLink around game time, football is a black hole, its mass distorting time and space and a good chunk of I-5.
It’s good to remind ourselves, then, or be reminded, that on top of the dangerous nature of the sport, something that’s also hard to avoid these days, it’s a pretty silly way for grown people to behave. Watching powerful men pound on each other in an attempt to move a leather ball down a playing field is odd enough; watching other men proudly display their prodigious green bellies for a shot at jumbotron greatness takes it to another level on the evolutionary scale.
My inner child is alive and well, and very suspicious. I know the dangers involved in letting my heart go green, blue and silver. And I know where I’ll be on Saturday, when the Seahawks face Atlanta in the Divisional game.
In Scottsdale, Arizona, attending a family reunion. It’s been in the planning for a year. The date was set a long time ago. Football wasn’t mentioned.
So you guys have fun without me. Go easy on the paint.