Archive for Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Eephus Pitch

April 24, 2008

I love football. But spring scrimmages should never be cause for too much concern.

I played football in high school and enjoyed some success, more thanks to the quality of athletes I went to school with than my own athletic prowess.

Football players in my class got the rare opportunity to play in three state championships from our sophomore year to senior year, winning one in my class's junior year.

Now, I didn't do anything on that championship team besides run down the field on kickoffs, occasionally getting burned.

But being on the field with college-caliber players taught me first, that there was no need for me to pursue a football scholarship in the sport.

Seeing guys that were studs two years ahead of me go off to college and struggle clarified that for me.

Moreover, it showed me what I love about football.

I'm a baseball guy and to me it's the more interesting and complex game, but American football is the sport with the best athletes in the world.

Only on NFL and college football fields can you get a 300-plus lineman out on an island trying to block a cornerback who runs a sub-4.4 40-yard sprint. And no where else on earth can two linebacker types - I'm talking in the 250-pound neighborhood and running 4.5s - run full speed, collide and get up and walk away. Nowhere else besides on a football field do you see that.

There are collisions in rugby, but the absence of pads means full-speed, leading with your head-tackles don't happen. While studying abroad I saw Australian rugby, and it isn't the same. Those tackles, for the most part, aren't collisions but rather drag-down tackles. Players don't go head-to-head unless by accident.

Having said all this, and explaining the extent to which I like seeing big-time football, college spring ball is terribly overrated and over-hyped.

I went to KU's spring game this year, more out of curiosity of what the attendance would be than to try to analyze how Todd Reesing looks four months before the season.

On the heels of KU basketball's season, Memorial Stadium was about one-quarter full of spectators. Now, that's not a bad thing. Good for Mark Mangino and KU football.

But then for two days after that, people had to listen to sports talk radio analysts dissect KU's no-huddle offense and discuss why Reesing threw a couple of picks.

That's a joke.

He probably threw a couple of picks because A) it's early and his receivers haven't gotten many reps, and B) it's early and he hasn't gotten many reps.

I heard people in the crowd saying, "What's wrong with Todd?"

That's not right, and it's a little embarrassing. Nothing is wrong with a college player that you can see in spring ball - especially a gamer that led his team to an Orange Bowl victory three months ago.

Defenses are always ahead of offenses early on, and it was no different in this case.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't go to spring football games. It's a way for fans to whet their appetites with game-speed, practice football.

But these games are never cause for concern, or reason to analyze what is wrong with a proven quarterback. The only cause for concern this early is something like being a Nebraska fan who paid attention to the direction of that once-proud dynasty a year ago.


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