Jan 29, 2015

Ghosts of Football Future
Next, we take a closer look at the game the way it is played today. Sports writer Chuck Klosterman tells us about a sort of con at the center of the game that, he thinks, has made it the most popular sport in the US. And he points us to  a deep conflict at the heart of football, even for the people who love it dearly. 
 
For a closer look at that conflict, our producer Soren Wheeler pays a visit to Monet Bartell. Some families pass down quilts, or recipes, or a family business, but Monet's family tradition was football. Her dad played, her uncle played, her brothers played … Football gave her dad, her family, a life. So when her son Parker was born, she was ready to be a proud mom in the stands. But she has to balance that against her experience seeing the aftermath of football up close and personal.
All of which makes producer Molly Webster curious — as families wrestle to understand how the game fits into their lives, what's it like on-the-ground, in football programs across the country? What she finds goes beyond the pigskin, making us consider what sports, across generations, really reveal about us.

 

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Jad Abumrad: Are we rolling Jeremy?

Jeremy Bloom: We are rolling, can you say, how's your water?

Jad: My water is refreshing, it's delicious. We like to go a little bit heavy on the minerals here on public radio. Hey, I'm Jad Abumrad.

Robert Krulwhich: I'm Robert Krulwich.

Jad: This is Radiolab, and today.

Robert: Still talking about football.

Jad: Yes, sir.

Robert: This is the second half.

Jad: In the first half, we talked about where football came from, and now we want to look at where it's going, it seems to be the big conversation these days. As we were thinking about that, we ended up talking with one of our favorite sportswriters, Chuck Klosterman.

Chuck Klosterman: I'm a writer and a journalist in Brooklyn.

Robert: You may know him from his Ethicist column in the New York Times, he also writes about sports for Grantland. He recently wrote an essay about football and it's inherent contradictions, and it recalled for us this Carlisle versus Ivy, free flow versus traditional sort of thing, but in a newer modern way.

Jad: Can I ask you, I want you to explain this statement, this is the thing I found most interesting about your essay. You said basically that, "By portraying itself as a super conservative traditional manly sport, but essentially operating as the opposite, this Liberal wide open anything kind of sport, football became the most successful enterprise in American sports history." You have the sense that it's pretending to be one thing but actually another, what do you mean?

Chuck: It's a unique thing in the sense that, if you look at a sport like soccer or baseball, there is a real sense from the institution of the sport to keep the sport the same. That they want the sport to almost transcend time, to be the same game now as it always is. Soccer particularly. They hate any kind of attempt to change the rules in this. Football works in the exact opposite way.

Football is constantly evolving and constantly adapting new ideas and new technologies and is very willing to alter the game in order to make it a more free-flowing or a more progressive game. Football will add things like, the coaches can talk to the quarterback through a radio in their helmet. The idea of instant replay was added very early on compared to other sports. The game itself from an offensive perspective is constantly being reinvented.

Jad: Chuck says that if you look at all the new formations that keep getting added and all the trick plays that are tried out every year, it is quite clear that football as a game-

Chuck: -it actually is the most liberal sport in terms of adopting ideas, but the morality of the game and the center of it, the thing that really draws people to love it, it's almost most reactionary qualities, that it still comes down to, the strongest toughest win. This is why I feel like football is both built for American, the American way of thinking. Also, it's so popular, it allows you to think about the game in a very liberal progressive way.

Jad: In a Carlisle way.

Chuck: Spiritually, your heart of it, can still be this old comfortable conservative mindset.

Robert: These old Ivy fundamentals of power and might, and tradition.

Chuck: I'm just of the belief that that's really what most people want. Most people want to think of themselves as progressive but feel conservative.

Jad: Chuck's whole argument is that it is football's unique ability to be both at the same time, reactionary and simultaneously wildly inventive so that you can think about it one way and feel about it another.

Robert: That is what makes football the most popular part of our sporting culture, which it is right now by a factor of three.

Jad: What it means is that NFLs three times as popular as the next most popular sport in America. The question we got to, just because it's a question you can't really avoid right now is, is it going to stay that way?

Chuck: We're in such a weird era for the sport, this is, certainly in my lifetime, the strangest era. Some weird things are happening, one is that there seems to be no limit to the amount that we can discuss, the problems with the game. The idea that so many former NFL players are essentially deprecated, and you study their brains after they die. they have the brains of people who should have been 180 years old and had Alzheimer's or whatever. There was just a kid from Ohio State who shot himself in a dumpster, and basically texted his mom and said it was like, "I think it's concussions are making me do this." At the same time, there seems to be no limit to the popularity of the sport.

Robert: Sunday's game was the most-watched event in American television history.

Chuck: I think it's very plausible that the Super Bowl this year will be the most-watched sporting event of all time.

Jad: In America that is.

Robert: Well don't you feel a small cold wind in the air? I think all of a sudden maybe--

Jad: I feel like the chimes of death are tolling or something.

Chuck: Absolutely. There's really never been a serious discussion about should we as a culture be playing football since-

Jad: Since Roosevelt 1905.

Chuck: yes and yet no one seems to be stopping themselves from watching these games. It's almost like there are these two silos-

Jad: Two separate streams in our collective unconscious.

Chuck: -that exist simultaneously and are both shooting skyward.

Jad: Okay so we got to be honest like when Chuck was talking about his whole idea of silos, shooting skyward, cool idea but we weren't really sure what that meant exactly.

Soren Wheeler: Hey Monet.

Monet Bartell: Hi. Nice to meet you.

Soren: It's a pleasure to meet you. Thank you so much for letting me come down.

Jad: That is until our producer Soren Wheeler met this woman.

Monet: I'm Monet Bartell.

Soren: You could add something if you want.

Monet: I'm Monet Bartell. I'm a Libra. I enjoy long walks on the beach. I'm just joking.

Soren: Monet is a partner at a media production company. She lives with her husband, their four kids outside of Atlanta, Georgia but I actually went to talk to her about her son Parker because Monet says the very moment he was born--

Soren: what are you thinking when Parker is born?

Monet: As soon as the doctor saw his third thumb, I was like, "Yes. We're going to the NFL baby, yes." Then Parker's 10,000 1 ounce. He's the biggest thing he walked out the womb. [laughs]

Soren: I'm still going with third thumb.

Monet: The third thumb.

Soren: I hadn't heard that one before. All right.

Monet: Parker comes out and he's the biggest thing I've ever seen. You know I've prepared for months and I had found the perfect outfit to take him home from the hospital and this joker is too big for it. Right then I'm like, "Oh my God, yes."

Soren: Yes, like?

Monet: He's a boy.

Soren: He's going to play in the NFL?

Monet: He's going to play in the NFL. A lot of families pass down quilts, they pass down family businesses, our family tradition was football. It was football. My dad played football.

Soren: Her dad is Mel Farr. He was a running back for the Detroit Lions and actually rookie of the year in 1967.

Monet: His brother played football.

Soren: Miller Farr, your uncle?

Monet: My uncle.

Soren: Her brothers Mel Farr Jr and Michael Farr both played football.

Monet: My cousin Jerry LeVias who they—

Soren: When we say played everybody played in the NFL.

Monet: They all played in the NFL. Jerry Ball. I said I was going to actually write them all down but it's something like 33 family members have played in the NFL.

Soren: Oh my God.

Monet: Coming from a sports family, we had to play a sport. I can remember getting up in the mornings before school, six-seven o'clock in the morning, and having agility drills. We lived on a house with--

Soren: Just at home in your backyard?

Monet: At home. Yes, in the backyard. We lived on a hill and I didn't have it as bad as my brothers because I played tennis. I started playing tennis at three, but in the wintertime, my dad would strap my brothers to the sled and my dad would sit in the sled and they would have to run up the hill with my dad in the sled.

Soren: Oh my God.

Monet: Tyre drills, everything.

Soren: Do you have a sense like why?

Monet: I think for my dad sports opened up so many doors for him. My dad's from Beaumont, Texas. He was in Texas during segregation, so sports allowed him to get out. It allowed him to provide an excellent lifestyle for his family and being drafted to the Detroit Lions and being a football player in the Motown era, weekends at my house consisted of`-

[music]

-Marvin Gaye and Lem Barney and Charlie Sanders who are all in the hall of fame now. My father actually and Lem barney sang background on Marvin Gaye's What's Going On.

[music]

Soren: No.

Monet: Yes they did.

Soren: Get out of here.

Monet: My dad has a gold record.

Soren: Oh man, that's great.

Monet: When he stopped playing football, he opened up his first car dealership.

Soren: And then another, and another and for a time the Mel Farr auto group was actually the largest African-American-owned business in the country.

Monet: I mean that's what football did for him. Football gave my dad a life.

Soren: Parker.

Monet: If they had a toddler league, he'd have been in it.

Soren: You start looking for league?

Monet: Absolutely. We moved to Georgia when Parker was two and I found one that started at four and I'm like, "Oh, just two more years." It was like a countdown, "Oh my gosh, one more year." When Parker turned four, I couldn't sleep the night before. I'm like, "Yes, tomorrow is the day." Parker has no idea what's going on. I go up there bright and early first person in line. Here's my check. Four years old, full on contact football at four.

Soren: With helmets?

Monet: Helmets.

Soren: Pads?

Monet: Pads, spring training. Parker had spring training. He's going through the tires. He's four. We don't even have team colors yet but I'm there in what I feel like the team colors should be. I'm there in Honolulu blue and silver, because that's Detroit lions colors. This is just at spring training. Then we get to the actual team practice. Immediately, they named him the tank. He was just plowing through people. They're like, "Tank. Tank."

Soren: The coaches and the parents?

Monet: The coaches at first practice. I'm not thinking about the other parents and their little normal size children. The fact that after the first day of practice, three kids quit because Parker had just plowed them over. I'm like, "Yes, my son is a beast."

Soren: Then the season starts.

Monet: Football in where we live is huge. At four years old, they were tailgating. No, I'm serious. The coaches had matching outfit. They had head gear. Like, are you kidding me? You guys are talking on microphones. I'm like, "Wow, this is freaking serious." The coaches are cursing like, "You guys are playing like a bunch of--" I'm like, "Wow, they're four. They don't even know what that is." It's that serious.

Soren: Are you starting to think this is ridiculous at any point Or it's just, they were?

Monet: No, I'm like, "This is ridiculous."

Soren: Monet says she knew that, but when Parker's team would take the field, it didn't matter.

Monet: [chanting] "Go. Fight. Win." The proudest moment as a parent, my son gets a personal file. I know it's terrible. My son just tackles this guy and the coach, he would always go, "Make them eat dirt." After he tackled him, my son took his head and was like, "Eat dirt." I'm like, "Hahaha." I had to keep myself down.

Soren: Because the kid's mom who ate dirt--

Monet: I go like, "I'm sorry." That evening is when I realized, I'm like, "Gosh, if my son was just attacked by a 65 pound four year old, I'd probably be a bit upset." This is a progression. They've got the matching outfits. They eat dirt. Then you go home and you reflect on the day. I'm like, "Oh my gosh, what about this kid's mom?" Then we get to the super bowl. I'm fanatic again.

Soren: The four or five-year-old super bowl?

Monet: Yes. My son has a trophy. It's probably three feet tall.

Soren: The crazy part is that as all this is happening, as Parker's taking the field with us four and five-year-old teammates.

Monet: A family member had really, really started showing signs.

Soren: Signs of like?

Monet: CTE.

Soren: Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, which is what comes from like concussion.

Monet: Concussion after concussion.

Soren: Symptoms includ,e memory loss, sometimes bouts of anger. In this case,

Monet: It was depression. It was suicidal thoughts. It was everything.

Soren: Was it other family members saying, "Hey, have you noticed this?" Or was it he himself saying, "I don't feel right?"

Monet: It was everybody else seeing it. It was getting phone calls like, "Hey, I need you to come get him because he's having dangerous thoughts." At that very time, knowing that I went and signed my son up for football.

Soren: What's going on there?

Monet: Because that's what we do. It's almost like a split personality. Registering him for football was just as natural as getting up every morning and brushing my teeth. Then you have the other half as a mother, daughter, niece of NFL athletes who sees what happens on the flip side.

Soren: While Parker was playing the part of her that did see what happens on the flip side, that part would campaign to raise awareness of CTE with other parents.

Monet: I was on a mission. I had met with people. I was doing health fairs and helping create this pamphlet that would go out.

Soren: Meanwhile.

Monet: Since Parker was playing, my dad now was affected.

Soren: Really? Your dad too?

Monet: My dad is now showing signs.

Soren: How old is he now?

Monet: My dad just turned 70 and I'm seeing it now with his speech, with his thought pattern. Running backs, what do you do, man? You lead with the head, but I can't stop myself from wanting my son to play football. It's just the, I can't even explain it. If he wanted to play, I would be out there. He would be at practice. Even who tosses the ball around with him in the yard, hoping that he'll fall in love with football? Me.

Soren: As for Parker?

Monet: When I asked Parker, how did he like the season? His favorite things were the trophy and the pizza party at the end. He had no desire. "You want to play again next season?" "No." This past year or last year, "Hey Parker, do you want to play this year?" "No. I want play soccer."

Soren: Would you bring up-- When would a next possible season be?

Monet: Well, registration is in June.

Soren: This would be what kind of, he's eight?

Monet: I don't want him to, if he decides to play the game, cool. If not, begrudgingly but that's okay too. I don't want to force him to play especially this early. I stand firm on both sides of the debate. I know, that's what makes it ridiculous. I stand firm that children should not play football. I also stand firm that children should play football. That it's a great sport.

Soren: Her current solution to this quandary.

Monet: He can be a kicker. Now we're out there. This year we're dedicated to teach them how to cook. Maybe soccer is not such a bad idea.

Soren: Good practice for the-- All the kickers came from soccer.

Monet: I'm like, "What the what? There's no Black kickers. There's no Black punters."

Soren: Even the kicker gets hit every so often though.

Monet: Every so often, but there is a stiff penalty for that, it's 15 yards.

Soren: About this point in the conversation, Parker came home from school.

Monet: Say hi to Mr. Wheeler.

Parker Bartell: Hi Mr. Wheeler.

Soren: Hey there Parker. How are you doing?

Parker: Good.

Soren: Again, I'm not exactly sure how an eight year old should look but he's a pretty big kid.

Monet: Come sit with me. I need to sit on your lap.

Soren: Do you know why I came to talk to you today?

Parker: Why?

Monet: Why?

Soren: You don't know why?

Parker: Oh, about football? I played for about six weeks, I think. Was that right?

Monet: Something like that.

Soren: Because you just weren't really that into it?

Parker: No, I just still. The only reason I don't want to play it anymore is because I made someone swallow dirt and like that stuff is messing up my history and I don't want to get anyone else hurt.

Soren: Messing up your history?

Parker: It's just messing up history in my life.

Soren: I don't know what that means. What does that mean that it's messing up?

Parker: It's making me have bad memories. I want to have good memories and I made someone swallow dirt. I feel guilty. It was an accident. I just tackled him and then it happened.

Soren: Did you feel bad about it right away or you just feel bad about it now when you think back on it?

Parker: I feel bad about it every time back I think back.

Soren: Really?

Parker: Yes. I thought I heard somebody crying or something. I thought I heard tears or I saw them.

Soren: So you didn't like doing that?

Parker: Yes.

Soren: Do you like watching football?

Parker: No. I'm not that into football like the rest of my family.

Soren: Why not?

Parker: I usually think about just having fun and not winning.

Soren: Where'd you get that? Is that from your mom?

Parker: No. I just know that. Winning is just for people trying to be better than everyone and bullying.

Monet: Winning is for winners.

Parker: No, like mom, that's what I mean. It's trying to have fun, not just to be rude to people. When you win, all you're going to do is like take a trophy and say you're better than them. It's not fair to the others.

Soren: Do you like other sports or you don't really care about that either?

Parker: I really want to do synchronized swimming.

Soren: Is that true?

Monet: [laughs] Where did you come from? Is that true?

Parker: Yes.

Soren: Why?

Parker: Mostly because when I saw something about it, it looked cool. People were doing a lot of cool swimming tricks, so I thought it was something for me.

Soren: Are you playing me?

Parker: It's true. I want to do synchronized swimming.

Soren: You're like, "This guy is going to come talk to me about football and I'm going to tell him that I want to do synchronized swimming.

Monet: Right.

Soren: No, you like it?

Parker: Yes, it sounds good.

Monet: He likes to swim. I guess we don't have to worry about that, do we?

Soren: Well, that would be a team sport.

Parker: Yes. Wow. This is exhausting.

Soren: Yes, it's all right. We can stop.

Jad: Thanks to Monet and Parker Bartell for letting Soren invade their home and exhaust them on short notice. By the way, when Monet went back and counted all the relatives that had been in the NFL, it wasn't 33 it was 13. That's still it's a lot. In any case, here is a logical question that we felt like we should ask at least somewhere in the show. Given Tank's experience, where football was practically his birthright but he is opting out, are there a lot of Tanks out there? Is football the sport tanking, nationally, generally? We asked Molly Webster to find out.

Molly Webster: It's funny, one of my friends, we call him Tank, but that's because he can drink a lot.

[laughter]

Molly: My dad can't remember his name. He just goes, "How's Tank, how's that Tank fellow?" "Still drinking a lot." In any case, I started making some calls to high school coaches. "Hey, can you hear me?" Winning teams, losing teams, and to get a handle on the bigger picture. I called this guy.

Ryan Wallaceson: Ryan Marcellus Wallaceson and I am a freelance sports reporter. Would you want a name, the places where I do-?

Molly: No, we keep it short.

Ryan: Okay, so then yes. Just a name and freelance sports writer.

Molly: In 2013, he was an intern at the Wall Street Journal's sports desk.

Ryan: In my first week, an article was published on ESPN that suggested, based on solely Pop Warner Youth Football numbers--

Molly: By the way, Pop Warner is no longer the person Pop Warner but he is a youth football league.

Ryan: Based on solely Pop Warner Youth Football numbers, youth football was declining pretty significantly.

Molly: Do you remember what the drop was?

Ryan: Around 5% a year between 2010 and 2012.

Molly: When people saw these numbers, they were like, "Oh my God."

Jad: Why exactly? 5% doesn't sound too bad?

Molly: Well, if you assume that the 5% drop doesn't change. That's what it drops by every year, then in 15 years, you're in the neighborhood of 50% less kids playing ball.

Ryan: Well, if this is true, it's spells the end of football.

Molly: The idea is you if you don't have the kids getting trained in Pop Warner, then they're not going to middle school football. They're not going to high school football, and they're not going to college football, so they're not going to the NFL. Needless to say, everyone was like, "Oh, my God, is this actually true? Or is there more to these numbers than meets the eye?" Ryan starts digging into them.

Ryan: To see if I could find a context to put them in.

Molly: He doesn't look just at Pop Warner numbers, he looks at all the youth football leagues.

Ryan: What I began to realize was that the drop wasn't as drastic, but that there was indeed a drop.

Jad: It's not as big as everyone was saying?

Ryan: Right.

Jad: Okay.

Molly: Your relief will be short-lived because there's a bigger story. When Ryan looked at participation across all youth sports, not just football,

Ryan: I came back with noted drops in all of the biggest youth sports.

Jad: It's not just the footballs, everything's decreasing?

Ryan: Nothing was rising except for lacrosse and for hockey. We had our headline, "Kids aren't playing sports." Football gets all of the attention. Football gets all of the controversy. You don't really hear about basketball or soccer or baseball. You don't have any reason to think that those sports aren't still as healthy as they've always been. Then when you go and look, you see a drop that is comparable to the drop in the sport that's got everybody's hair on fire. You just wonder why this has been going on so silently.

Jad: Is this an extension of the whole concussion thing?

Molly: Yes, concussions were definitely part of the conversation, but so we're budget issues and kids specializing in sports and getting burnt out. Basically, everyone had their reasons, and every school has their reasons. The guys I talked to, they just kept coming back to land on this point that had nothing to do with safety.

JT Curtis: The bottom line is, today, if a kid doesn't like the score, he just hits restart. He just starts the game over.

JJ Woodward: They can get on a video game. They can play, they start losing they hit reset.

JT: Hit the button and play another game.

George Salus: They just hit a button and start over.

Molly: That's JT Curtis, JJ Woodward and George Salus, they're in Louisiana, California in Kansas. I heard this refrain not just from them, but I heard this in Ohio. I heard this in Michigan, and by this point, I was," Jesus."

Male Speaker 1: That's the problem.

Molly: It's funny because it says if all the coaches all across the nation are reading the same book, or going to the same bar or something because literally, everyone I've talked to has brought this up. Is it just that everyone said it to each other so much that--

Male Speaker 1: No. I can tell you that's not it at all. It's because we all deal with the problem.

Molly: All these coaches I talked to were like, "You can't go hit reset. You can't hit reset. These kids are used to- I sound so old- they're basically saying that what they find is they feel like there's some commitment issue now.

Male Speaker 2: I only play if I win, I only want to win.

Molly: Yes. The interesting thing was is the coaches I talked with at the powerhouse schools were like, "Well, we're not actually having trouble getting kids because we win." The other schools in their conference, they know that coaches and athletic directors, and then I talked to some schools that had forfeiting teams that ended up forfeiting games, they said, you just don't get the kids that will work their asses off and ride the bench.

Male Speaker 2: Everybody wants to win. It's just somehow it seems they expect to win or it isn't worth the effort.

Molly: Or it's just that there are so many options, why would you choose the losing option?

Chuck: Tell you what, when I used to go home after school, I'd turned the TV on and there's three channels. It's all I had, and they usually were showing soap operas. There was really no reason, I had no reason to stay home. Now you go home, there's 150 stations, you can find something you want to watch, or you get out a game.

Jad: All right, so whether you think it's video games, or parenting or fear of concussions, or whatever reason you want to choose, it seems to be the larger thing that happens in these conversations about sports like football is that doesn't actually seem to be about football. It's like some negotiation between the generations. Back in the 1870s, the Harvard kids, they were using football as a way to say back to the previous generation, like, "Look how tough we are, look how manly we are." Maybe this generation is turning away from sports like football, also to say something back at the previous generation. Something about the world they want to live in.

Chuck: Sports do suggest things about society and about reality that we are slowly trying to remove from existence. The idea that somehow, physicality matters more than the mind. That people really aren't equal. That if you yell at someone and challenge their manhood, that's awful.

Jad: Overt masculinity of any kind, it's not something that we're in the mood to celebrate these days. It could be, if you believe writer Chuck Klosterman, it could be that some kids are choosing away from sports like football because to play football means that on some level you have to support or at least entertain ideas that you don't like. Or at least you don't want to admit that you like, except he admits it.

Chuck: I do think there's something unconscious about me that is drawn to the problems in the game. They're based around what it really is, which is-

Jad: Two dudes slamming into each other.

Chuck: Yes. Okay, this is like I'm doing pop psychology on myself.

Jad: Which you are fully entitled to do because it's fascinating.

Chuck: I sometimes wonder if somehow part of me misses that from my life. That my life is built around sitting at a computer and avoiding conflict and basically thinking about things. Going on the radio and talking about what they might mean. Like, what are they metaphors for? What is this culture? What is it telling us? That perhaps football allows me to, even though I'm not playing it, I'm just watching it. Somehow by watching it, it allows me to tap into something that is no longer part of my life because my mind has trained me not to want it. My mind knows not to look for conflict.

Now, do I suspect that I was socialized to believe that that would be a positive, exciting thing? Absolutely. I talked about sports with my father more than we talked about every other thing we ever talked about. I had a great relationship with my dad. He passed away, and I loved him. We had a great relationship, but we definitely spent more time discussing sports than I would say every other thing that we discussed, even though he would always say, the most important thing he'd like-- I'd come home from whatever, and he would be like, "How was school today?" I would tell him how school was briefly. He would be like, "Well, you know academics are the most important thing." Then we would talk about football practice for an hour.

[laughter]

Chuck: I realized that my relationship to football goes back to, I have two older brothers, man. We spent so much time throwing football around. Both my brothers were very good football players. One played at the college level. As a first-grader, I was so proud of that. I would tell-- There's all of these things that, I'm sure are creating obstacles for me seeing this clearly, and maybe the kind of person who is like, "This guy is crazy that he's not seeing the obvious thing that he is actually saying that we need to somehow find a moral justification for a game that's probably killing dudes for money?" I don't know. It's not my fault. That's how I feel. I can't get around it, man. I'm sorry.

[laughter]

Chuck: Wow. There you go.

[laughter]

Automation: You have two new messages. Message one.

Chuck: Hi. This is Chuck Klosterman.

Monet: This is Monet and Parker Bartell.

Kat: Hi, this is Kat Curtis calling, got a bit of a cold.

Speaker 1: Radiolab is produced by Jad Abumrad.

Speaker 2: Abumrad. Our staff includes Elena Horn, Soren Wheeler

Speaker 3: Kim Howard Brenna. Benacerraf Molly Webster, Melissa Donald, Jamie York.

Speaker 4: Lynn Livy, Lynn levy.

Speaker 5: Andy Mills, Kelsey Pageant.

Speaker 6: And Matt Kielty. With help from Ian lap. Joel Werner, Emmanuel Marchetti.

Speaker 7: Nasser, Philly Prime, and Danny Lewis. Radiolab involves many staff members with names that are hard to pronounce.

Speaker 8: Also thanks to Richard Chick.

Speaker 9: Tom Benji, Robert Wheeler, Jeff Miller, Christian Debra Kriti.

Speaker 10: Fred Ward Decker, Joel Flood, Eric Anderson.

Speaker 11: The Cumberland County Historical Society. Bye.

Automation: End of message.

Jad: Okay, we’re back. One last thing. One last thing. If you grew up on inside the NFL as I did. This is for you.

Scott Graham: It's the voice using the Chicago players crowded along the sideline as a shield, Exendine circled the bench and started running again. Behind the line of scrimmage, Hauser launched the ball 40 yards, downfield. Exendine darted back onto the field, all alone, near the Chicago goal. For a moment, it was a frozen scene in a stage drama. The ball hung in the air, a tantalizing possibility. Could Exendine reach it? Would he catch it or drop it? Defenders, wheeled and stared downfield. Spectators, watching from the stands found that the breath had died in their collective throats. The spiraling ball seemed to defy physics. What made it stay up? When would it come down?

In that long moment, 27,000 spectators, mashed together on benches, and crammed on platforms may have felt their loyalty to the home team evaporate in the grip of a powerful new emotion. They may have noticed something they never had before, that a ball traveling through space traces a profoundly elegant path. They may have realized something else, that it was beautiful.

The ball struck its human target, Exendine caught the pass all alone and trotted over the Chicago goal line. The stadium exploded in sound and motion. On the Chicago sideline, coaches and players screamed with outrage. On the field, the referee signaled the score, but in the stands, the spectators marveled. The crowd held its breath in amazement for a time, then stifled its local pride and turned loose its enthusiasm and cheered for the Indians. The Chicago Daily Tribune reported, "It was the game-breaker. The rest was just anticlimax." The final score was 18 to 4 for Carlyle. The long past had arrived in Chicago, although by a circuitous and out of bounds route. "The Indians, declared the Tribune, "Had given such an exhibition of its possibilities as will not soon be forgotten in that vast throng."

Jad: That was Mr. Scott Graham voice of inside the NFL. Thank you, Scott. You are the awesomest voice ever. That was original music by Dylan Keefe. Bye.

 

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