The first time I covered a high school football game, I couldn’t understand the reality.
"How are these athletes able to take the physical beatings they do and why?," I wondered.
On the sidelines I witnessed guys going full-steam, disregarding any physical well being, and just plowing into each other. I mean, it’s one thing to see it on television or from the stands, but to actually be a foot away from a guy getting creamed, well, the sounds and sights are enough to make a sane person cringe, if not feel their pain. The funny thing is, they bounce back up and do it again. Why? I couldn’t understand. I thought, how does a guy work up the courage, or the crazy, to put his body out there in such a manner.
After attending a week’s worth of two-a-day practices, I realized these guys are more than prepared to do so. Weightlifting, conditioning and constant repetition of drills in practice — including the dreaded "gassers" — prepares them for those instances of violent controlled chaos. Under a sweltering sun (I was sweating just standing and watching) these guys were out there beating themselves up under 15 to 20 pounds of gear on. Why? How? It turns out, as much as they hate it, they love it, because of what it prepares them for.
And then it started to become clear. More so than catching a great pass or busting loose for a long gain, football players yearn to pound each other. With every grunt and growl in practice, the anticipation to lay someone out in front of an audience boils inside them. Friday nights are when they explode and let out an aggression people don’t truly understand unless they themselves have ever completed the second of two-a-day practices only because the guy next to them held them up and offered his support.
Until I spoke to these players and heard them eloquently, or not so eloquently, explain why they do it, I never understood. I used to think football players were just out of their minds, but now I’ve developed so much respect for them. These guys are a different brand.
I know I couldn’t do what they do. Your average Joe probably would never try.