My NFL Story – Why Football Is So Much More Than A Game
Monday, September 04, 2017
Jason Hartzog, Oregon Sports News
Baseball is referred to as “America’s pastime.” I’m not here to argue that fact. Baseball has a long, rich history. It has survived the test of time. It’s great. The atmosphere when catching a game at the ballpark is incredible.
Then there is basketball. I enjoy everything about it. Watching, studying it, writing about it and most of all playing the game. It was much easier to pick up a basketball and go across the street and shoot some hoops than it was to pick up a baseball or a football and get a game going. For years I could say that basketball was my number one.
That has changed as I have become older. Everyone has their favorite things in life. For me, sports are my passion. When it comes to my favorite sport of all, football is at the top of the list. There is something about football. The trash talking that takes place between two strangers in a bar watching their respective teams play; I can’t get enough of it. Maybe in football cities you don’t get this as often, but here in Oregon, when you walk into a bar on an NFL Sunday, you can find an array of fans ranging from the local Seattle Seahawks to the Cleveland Browns. Yes, I said the Browns. They have fans too.
The NFL season always seems too short. You wait so long for it to come back, and that could be what makes me long for it as much as I do. It’s like Game of Thrones in a way. You wait a whole year for it to come back and then they just blow your mind with a great season (seven), and then just like that, it’s gone. This leaves you wanting more. Here I am in that exact situation as I get set to wait damn-near a whole year for season eight. Good thing football season is here to pass the time.
Or maybe my love for football comes from early childhood memories. Those fond memories of waking up Sunday mornings and watching football with my dad (William Hartzog Sr.) and my older brother (William Hartzog Jr.). It grew into a routine. My dad was more of an NFL guy than a college football guy. Like my father, so am I. You could hear him yelling out during games, “Let’s go Miamoo”. Why he called them Miamoo beats me. Maybe it was a southern thing like the way he said “warsh” and not “wash.” Anyway, before I get too distracted, he was a diehard Miami Dolphins fan. That was up until “The Gunslinger” himself, Brett Favre, entered the NFL.
William Sr. grew up in a small town down south called Vancleave, Mississippi. This little town was about 35 miles from Favre’s hometown of Gulfport, MS. Favre played his college days locally for the Southern Miss Golden Eagles. So when the hometown boy eventually found his way to Green Bay, my dad settled in as a Packers fan.
He still followed the Dolphins and rooted for them as well, but Favre was his guy all the way.
William Jr. grew up liking the San Francisco 49ers. I was just a young kid (between 7-10) when I started watching these football games with them, so I vaguely remember many details from back then. However, what I do remember is the short-term rivalry that grew between the two from the mid-to-late 90s. The Packers had beaten the 49ers a few years straight in the playoffs. One game stands out to me as my most memorable game. “The Catch 2” as it’s referred to these days. It was the 1998 NFC Wild Card game and the 49ers trailed once again. With the clock winding down, Steve Young almost falls as he drops back, but he kept his balance and delivered a perfect throw down the middle to Terrell Owens. As the ball lands in Owens’ hands, two defenders sandwich him in the endzone. Owens holds on for dear life to score the game-winning touchdown. The 49ers finally beat the Packers!
The 49ers and Packers were two of the top teams in the NFC at the time. So watching my brother, whom I sort of looked up to, rooting for the 49ers against our dad’s Packers made me want to join as a fan as well. I’ve been a faithful ever since. Last year was a rough season for me. As a 49ers fan, you can see why.
But it wasn’t only that. You see, around this time a year ago my father passed away. No more Sundays waking up and talking a little trash to him about the teams he liked and vice versa. He was gone.
It all really hit me when that first NFL game of the season came on just a few days later. The rematch of the Super Bowl. The last football advice that he gave me was to put some money on the Denver Broncos in that Super Bowl. He told me their defense was going to eat Cam Newton alive. Sure enough, that’s exactly what happened.
I didn’t take his advice, probably because “I’m stubborn like my mother” as he would always tell me. I thought the Carolina Panthers were going to pull it off. Newton was having the season of his life.
Boy was I wrong. The Broncos destroyed them.
So, when that rematch came to on that first night, with the timing of everything, I broke down. I got to thinking of the all those moments of watching football and everything in between. Knowing that I could no longer give him a simple phone call to ask what his picks were that week made me miss him that much more. You miss the simple things in life when life’s unfortunate events take those opportunities away. I miss my old man.
Whether it’s football that you love or some other passion…take the time to sit back, relax and enjoy that shit. Life is too short sometimes. Surround yourself with the people you love and those who truly love you. We all need to remind ourselves at times to slow down and enjoy the simple things in life. You never know what tomorrow brings.
Sure, there are more important things in life than football. Or sports in general for that matter. Most of those important things we have no control over. I personally leave those important things in life to those who can make change. I can’t fix the world and all its problems, but I can always watch sports.
When I sit down and watch football this season it will be with the people who I truly love and those who truly love me. For all you football fans out there, good luck to all your trash teams. You’re going to need it.
Go Niners! Cheers.
Mike Ditka - Benching Walter Payton in Super Bowl
Mike Ditka kept Walter Payton on the bench after an early fumble in Super Bowl XX against the New England Patriots.
The decision did not matter much as the Bears shredded the Patriots 46-10 but it's just silly. Instead, Ditka used William Perry and quarterback Jim McMahon to score two goalline touchdowns.
Walter Payton finished his career with 110 rushing touchdowns, 15 receiving touchdowns and 16,726 yards rushing. In that Super Bowl, Payton carried the ball 22 times for 66 yards and was still the teams leading rusher in the game, but no touchdown.
Ditka, who now works for ESPN, has since said that he regrets the decision to not let Payton score.
Photo courtesy of chicagobears.com
Chuck Pagano - Fake Punt
The Patriots were up by six, 27-21, with a minute left in the third quarter and forced the Colts to punt on a fourth and three, or so we thought.
The Colts lined up with eight players near the line of scrimmage to the right side and the punter behind them. Then wide receiver Griff Whalen lined up as the snapper and safety Colt Anderson lined up under center.
They snapped the ball and the Patriots made the easy stop for a turnover on downs.
"The whole idea there was on fourth-and-3 or less, shift our alignment to where you either catch them misaligned, they try to sub some people in, catch them with 12 men on the field and if you get a certain look, you can make a play. Alignment-wise we weren't lined up correctly, and then a communication problem on the snap. I take responsibility for that," said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano after the game.
The Patriots scored a touchdown on their next drive to go up 34-21 and ice the game.
You could argue that play cost the Colts the game.
Bill Belichick - 4th and 2
In the historic rivalry between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, this game came down to a decision by head coach Bill Belichick to go for it on 4th and 2 from his own 28 yard line as opposed to punting the ball away.
Brady threw the ball to Kevin Faulk who was stopped short of the first down marker giving Manning the ball back and a relatively easy win. Manning found Reggie Wayne for a one yard touchdown pass, completing a 17 point comeback by Indianapolis.
If Belichick had punted the ball away, Manning still may have come down and scored and won the game, but at least it would have given the Patriots defense more of a chance.
Miracle at the Meadowlands
On November 19, 1978 the New York Giants took over possession of the football with a 17-12 lead and under two minutes to play against the rival Philadelphia Eagles.
Instead of just taking a knee, quarterback Joe Pisarcik handed the ball to Larry Czonka who ran for 11 yards. All was fine. However, on the next play, the Giants did the exact same thing except this time Pisarcik's handoff slipped out of his hands and Philadelphia's Herm Edwards scooped it up and scored the winning touchdown.
Thus, the Miracle at the Meadowlands was born.
Rex Ryan - Calls Time Out, Pats Perfect Season Continues
The Baltimore Ravens hosted the New England Patriots in an early December 2007 game and had a chance to win the game, should have won the game, were going to win the game and end the unbeaten season, until defensive coordinator Rex Ryan called time out.
The Patriots had 4th and 1 from the Baltimore 30 yard line and Tom Brady called his own number with a QB sneak but was stuffed. However, Rex Ryan had called time out just prior to the snap meaning the play did not count.
The Patriots were given a penalty on the next attempt and then converted for the first down on what ended up being a 4th and 5 two plays after the timeout.
The Patriots won the game 27-24 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Brady to Jabar Gaffney with 44 seconds left. New England stayed undefeated.
Marty Mornhinweg - Defers in Sudden Death OT
It was 2002 and the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears were tied at 17 and were headed into sudden death overtime.
Detroit Lions won the overtime coin toss and head coach Marty Mornhinweg decided to defer, giving the Bears the first overtime possession.
Chicago went down the field and won the game on a Paul Edinger 40-yard field goal.
Photo courtesy of New York Jets wikipedia
Jason Garrett Ices Own Kicker
An important December win slipped away from the Dallas Cowboys when head coach Jason Garrett called a just before kicker Dan Bailey nailed a 49-yard field goal.
Bailey had to redo the kick and missed it short and wide left the second time around.
The Arizona Cardinals defeated the Dallas Cowboys in overtime.
"The play clock was running down. We just wanted to make sure that he had a real clean opportunity at it. It was at about six [seconds] and we were still getting settled in, so we banged a timeout to give him the opportunity to get the snap, hold and kick as clean as possible," Garrett said after the game.
Bill Belichick - Benching Wes Welker in Playoff Game
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick benched wide receiver Wes Welker for the first offensive possession of a 2011 divisional round playoff game against the New York Jets.
Belichick benched Welker because of comments that Welker had made earlier in the week regarding Jets coach Rex Ryan's foot fetish.
While Welker's benching did not lead directly to the Patriots losing the game, it rattled the Patriots offense early on and they were not able to recover.
Dennis Green- 1999 NFC Championship Game
The Minnesota Vikings had one of the greatest offenses of all time in 1999, featuring quarterback Randall Cunningham, Cris Carter, Robert Smith and Randy Moss.
In the final moments of the NFC Championship game, head coach Dennis Green decided to have his offense take a knee and play for overtime. Vikings kicker Gary Anderson only needed about 40 yards and the Vikings had two timeouts left.
The Vikings lost the coin toss in overtime and proceeded to lose the game.
Pete Carroll - Super Bowl XLIX
The Seattle Seahawks trailed the New England Patriots 28-24 in Super Bowl XLIX and had second and goal from about the Patriots three yard line.
The Seahawks had been running the ball well the entire game with Marshawn Lynch and he nearly got into the endzone on the play before. Instead of running Lynch, Carroll sets Russell Wilson up in the shotgun and has him throw a slant that Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler read perfectly and intercepted.
If Carroll had run the ball again, the Seahawks likely would have won the Super Bowl, instead, the Patriots won thier fourth.