America has let us down. More specifically, America’s educational leaders have failed to live up to their posts. It’s time to admit it and accept it, once and for all.
As you watch young tykes hop on their yellow busses (if they still do that these days), know that they are marching towards and insufficient and inadequate institution which will not prepare them for their needs as adults. It’s sad, but it’s true. As Alcoholic’s Anonymous and other addiction help services will tell you (not that I would know anything about them...), the first step is admitting that you have a problem. And boy, do we.
This piece will not rehash the common gripe we’ve heard over the last 20 years about how our educational system is lagging relative to the rest of the world. I’ll be damned if I care one bit whether little Susie can do multiplication tables as well as her counterpart in Denmark or Taiwan. We have computers for shit like that. No, the real issue is much larger. It’s one I’ve noticed quite often and, in the spirit of honesty, one I once suffered from myself. The failure: despite all of the time Americans spend watching football, almost nobody has a working understanding of how a defense functions.
It’s a shame really. Defensive schemes are a beautiful thing. Trying to match up against a team who knows what play they are about to run, while the defense knows absolutely nothing, takes quite a bit of difficult thought. Are they going to run or pass? What type of route tree will the receivers be using? What blocking scheme do they have set to protect the quarterback? These are all questions that a Defensive Coordinator asks when choosing a play, and they will know the answer to exactly none of them. But over time, defenses have learned how to effectively combat whatever an offense throws their way. Sometimes it works better than others, and there are teams who still fail miserably (I’m looking at you, Big12), but some organizations are able to hang their hat on defensive talent and performance, despite the odds being stacked against them.
How much does the average viewer understand, though? Next time you watch a football game, look around the room and ask whether or not any of those people sitting on your couch knows a thing about how a defense works. The typical fan can throw out terms like “Zone,” “Man to Man,” “4-3/3-4”, and “Blitz.” But if you talked about anything more complicated, they’d think you were speaking in tongues. Now, sports are complex, and we can’t expect everyone to be an expert. But I also know that those same people could probably talk to you about their preference towards a run or pass on 2nd and 8 and the benefits of both. Or the use of a rub route to try to free up a receiver over the middle. Or calling a bubble screen to outmaneuver a blitz to pick up big yardage. I see it all the time, and its an all too common affliction for the American football fan.
And who do we blame for that? Education. Sure, you might think I’m crazy, but hear me out. The point of an education is, among other things, to prepare you for life in the working world. To give you a common understanding with your peers about important topics, and to build a base of knowledge for challenges that you will face in later life. This process isn’t just about imparting practical information. Learning about the Pharaohs hasn’t done me much good in my professional life, but it gives me a functioning knowledge of history and a common point of reference with others. It would really suck if someone started talking about the Civil war and you didn’t have any idea what the hell that was. An education also needs to teach people about the practical things in life too though. I’d bet my life savings that almost everyone reading this went through some form of sexual education at school (The two holdouts being religious schools and, I hope, home schooling). You weren’t tested on it, but it sure as shit was an important tool for life. These kinds of things are necessary for preparing children, and their malleable young minds, for the world after the age of 18.
Now you may be thinking, where the hell does football and defensive strategy fit into all of this, Sam? Well, my friend, think about how many people in this country watch football. The NFL’s most recent statistics state that the average NFL game had 16.5 million viewers in 2019. The 2019 Super Bowl had approximately 99.9 million viewers ALONE. My math isn’t great, but I’m pretty sure that’s about 1/3 of the country. So I think, in my humble (maybe not so humble) opinion, that football qualifies as a significant part of the fabric of American society. And as such, it is the responsibility of our educational system to teach each and every child the ins and outs of this fine game just as its their responsibility to teach you about the Founding Fathers or the carbon cycle.
Does this sound crazy to you? Well, to start, that’s a weird stance to take as somebody perusing a sports gambling website. Maybe don’t be throwing stones in glass houses, bud. But also, think about all of the crap they teach in school. Did you have to take a foreign language, even if you had no interest in learning to speak French? Doesn’t seem particularly important, but you can make an argument for the value of understanding other cultures. How about music class though? I have absolutely no talent, but I spent countless hours in school singing in a chorus class or drawing in an art studio. Yet here I am, and not one person on this planet is going to pay me for a Prospector Sam original painting.
Now, I’m not here to say that these topics are useless. I might not use the 6 years of Latin I took often in my life, but I can appreciate the value of taking those classes (even if they made me want to blow my brains out at the time). Hell, I was a math minor in college, so I wasted tens of thousands of dollars learning how to solve abstract math proofs. I’ll let you guess how often than skill comes in handy. My point is that we all need to learn about a variety of things that become important later in life or are unimportant but teach us how to think. So, why not sports? Seriously. The first argument is going to be “well, we have after school sports and gym class.” That’s nice, but that doesn’t get into the nitty gritty details. Also, your once-a-week game of dodge ball or swim team practice doesn’t have a whole lot of deep thought involved (no offense swimmers, but your sport is stupid). But football? It’s a complicated sport. Preparing 11 players to coordinate movement and effectively counter the 11 guys across the field from them takes strategic thinking, spatial awareness, and a ton of other skills. Aside from the fact that the sport is brutal and causes long term brain damage, it’s a perfect medium for learning.
So here I am, cards on the table, saying enough is enough. Americans watch football. Football is a useful leaning tool. And too many people have no idea the benefits and drawbacks of calling a back-side corner blitz with zone defense, or how to disguise coverage when a QB sends their running back out of the backfield to see who trails them. You want to shove learning the recorder down my throat? You want me to read Jane Eyre? Fine, I wont fucking like it, but I’ll do it. I need you to throw me a bone too though, and that bone is teaching the youth of America about defensive strategy in football. There is a complete imbalance in this country towards offensive knowledge, and it just needs to stop. We need every person to be ready for the road ahead, and that road includes Sundays in the fall with your ass parked on a couch and a big screen TV in your face. Its time to bring our Educational System into the 21st Century, and I’m here to make that happen. I can no longer stand by and remain silent while the major issues like this are ignored.