Larry Banman – Nothing quite like a football sideline
October 1, 2009
There is nothing quite like being on the sideline during a football game. Of the traditional sports, only football provides the opportunity for any type of observance of human behavior.
The sidelines for indoors sports are very restricted in space and baseball dugouts conceal what happens within. In soccer, there are so few substitutions you barely are aware of the presence of a coach or additional players.
In football, players run off and on the gridiron after practically every play. There is time between every play to evaluate the situation and allow the suspense for the next play to build. Coaches take a more proactive roll with plays being relayed from the sideline for virtually every play.
Football is also a sport of emotion and momentum shifts. In football, players on the sideline are allowed to visibly express emotion (as long as they are in their designated spot). In basketball, it seems, bench players are constantly being asked to sit down.
Before I go any further, I must note that you can’t just wander down to the sideline at the next football game and drink from the Gatorade cooler. At the pro and college level, sideline access is strictly regulated. Without a pass, there is no access. There generally isn’t security at a high school or small college football game, but there are certain unspoken rules that must be followed, or you may be asked to leave.
First and foremost, you must recognize that you are on the sidelines as a guest and you need to behave as a guest. Just because you are closer to the referees doesn’t mean you have been given the right to voice your displeasure over a call. Not understanding this rule can be your quickest ticket back to the grandstands.
The closer you are to the designated area for players and coaches the better your reason better be for being in that location. Safety is the first concern. Football players are, by nature, fast and physical and prone to move quickly. They wear pads and helmets and are prepared for contact. You aren’t.
Football games are timed events and there is a designated time limit for just about everything, including the drinking of fluids. I wouldn’t want to be the soul who impeded the progress of the water boy who is headed out to the huddle during a timeout. Plus, there is definite sense that you have to earn your way into that spot. Unless you have endured two-a-day practices, a certain amount of pain and the camaraderie that comes from working together toward a common goal, you really don’t have reason to be inside the players box. You may be endured, but you don’t belong.
If I am at a game as a fan, I like the vantage point afforded from behind the endzone and from about the 30-yard line to the goal line. Any closer to the action and I fear I may be in the way. When I am working as a reporter, I roam from endzone to endzone. It’s closer to the action and, when I was a photographer, I had to be that close to get any kind of a decent shot. Since 1990, I have been able to watch some amazing football action and witnessed numerous triumphs and a few heartbreaking defeats. Some of the memories that etch themselves the longest in my memory, however, happened on the sidelines.
Last week, the Mustangs of West Grand High School played an excellent game and defeated a team from Lake County High School in Leadville. On this Friday night in Kremmling everything fell into place nicely and the football game was a joy to watch. As the young squad from West Grand left the field to enjoy congratulatory wishes from family and friends, the smiles on the faces of the players were genuine.
One smile, in particular, caught my eye because it was on a face that I don’t often see graced with a smile. At least for short time, there was some joy and satisfaction in the life of a young man. It was a moment I would have missed if I hadn’t lingered on the sideline. It will be the image that lasts longest in my memory.
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