We’ve all been gatekeepers in one way or another. If you are a big fan of anything, you’ve gatekept. Maybe not to the degree of a Git Gud Souls player or a “name 5 songs or you aren’t a real fan” music douche, but we’ve all had our moments. I won’t deny my own tendency to do it, so you don’t have to go find any examples in past posts. Part of growing up is growing out of the phase where we look down on people for having different preferences. That’ll never happen fully, but it is a thing that’s good to be aware of about yourself because it can really take a conversation and ruin it.

The reason I bring this up is that in the past several years I’ve run into a new type of football snob that I wasn’t seeing a lot of before. Not necessarily the “boomer football” type snob who thinks everyone today plays in dresses and the league is full of cucks, but the “smart” football snob who seems to be offended at the idea that scoring is good. I noticed a lot of this after the 13-3 Pats/Rams bore-fest of a Super Bowl. That game absolutely sucked ass, but mentioning that you felt that game sucked ass inevitably brought in the folks who insist you just don’t appreciate good defense.

I think it’s generally a reverse push-back response to the league’s general move towards favoring offense. As offense is favored more and more in the rules and play the average number of points has gone up. More and more touchdowns are being scored. It’s impossible to deny that defense has become more and more hindered over the past decade or two. It’s also hard to deny that defense…just doesn’t produce the same level of engagement most of the time. Sure, big plays like sacks, or interceptions, or forced fumbles…those get the blood pumping. But watching a team get stuffed for 2 short runs and a dropped pass to start a drive followed by a punt and the other team doing the same isn’t the same degree of exciting as watching a team successfully execute plays and get first downs. So while you might intellectually appreciate the skill and execution of watching that happen, it’s unlikely to really get you going until it starts happening at key moments or you are rooting for the team doing good defense.

It feels like there are now some folks who have latched onto appreciating defense as the way they can signal that they are better football fans than you. They are smarter football fans than you. The truth is who gives a shit what you like about football? I like defense. I like watching a smothering defensive line eat a QB alive. I like Aaron Donald. But is it really such a crime to think scores are fun? Scores are fun! 10-6 games can be fun, but they generally aren’t. Touchdowns are fun, and I like seeing them.

The problem here is some of these well-intentioned folks who really just want to show affection for defense are ignoring that good defense doesn’t always make a good football game. These folks love to show up in the aftermath of high-scoring light shows like Bills/Chiefs to lament the loss of defense and accuse all these folks who found that game fun as shit as “casuals” of sorts. There is nothing wrong with liking defense. If a 3-6 field goal fest gets you hard, cool. If watching QBs get frustrated and star WRs have no targets or no catches gets your blood going, more power to you. There’s nothing wrong with that. If a 43-47 barnburner makes you feel remorse for the sport, that’s okay. What I take issue with is looking down on fans who aren’t into that as lesser. Accusing them of being casual or ignorant. In the same vein as liking defense, there’s nothing wrong with liking scoring. Preferring more scores. The league has grown more popular over the past decade, clearly a lot of people like seeing touchdowns. There’s nothing wrong with that. The game will always evolve and so will what makes people appreciate it. There’s no need to put someone down for liking games differently than you do.

I know some people who thought Rams/Pats was a refreshing change of pace. What those people watched I will never understand, but I’m glad they could watch it and find a lot of pleasure in it because I sure as hell couldn’t.

This whole post was inspired by some arguing I saw and participated in online when I expressed that I felt the most recent super bowl was a bit underwhelming and not very memorable. Since it was a mostly defensive game, it was like triggering the bat signal for defense stans to show up and tell me I’m bad at liking football. In the ensuing week, I’ve actually been thinking pretty hard about what indeed makes a football game memorable, to me. So many factors go into any particular game to make it stand out and thrill, but what do I personally latch onto? What makes a game stick with me? This is more or less what I’ve thought of:

-Chaos. I love the unexpected. I love when best-laid plans go awry with the tip of a single pass or the doink of a field goal. There are so many ways a football game can go tospy turvy at any second, and it doesn’t matter what the score is. I did not love Bills/Chiefs because it had a lot of scoring, I loved it because it had a lot of scoring in 2 minutes at the end. The game went absolute bonkers in the final minutes. The first 3 and a half quarters were a good experience. That sudden explosion of chaos is what turned that game from good into an all-timer. I loved the Rams/Bucs game because it was a blowout win that suddenly and very alarmingly turned into a tense nail-biting experience as the Rams fell apart. I loved the 49ers/Packers game because nobody could score, namely the MVP, and the biggest play of the game was a fucking blocked punt. The unexpected gets me going. The best moment in Bengals/Rams was the immediate deep ball touchdown by the Bengals to start the second half because it changed the entire game instantly.
-Narrative. This is a divisive one, but I firmly believe storylines are important to enjoying any sport. Humans like stories. Sure, some of the narratives are manufactured or enhanced by nonsense media shit, but it still matters. It still makes you care. When I’m old and talking to myself on a park bench about what I loved about my day watching football, it won’t be the stat-lines and QBR of Eli Manning that I remember. It’ll be the battle of the underdog maligned QB who took down the mighty Goliath, no matter how that simplifies the actual story. Narrative power can enhance a game tremendously.
-Balance. This isn’t the opposite of chaos, but to me, the best pure football games feature a lot of push and pull all around. The game never gets too out of hand so the tension stays close. Defense steps up at key moments, but so does offense. This can occur in both high and low-scoring affairs. But you need bigger moments than just continuous 3 and outs or constant steady, methodical drives. Bengals Rams was pretty balanced overall, but kind of lacked in other departments.
-The big moments. Nobody will disagree with this. The best games all have those signature moments. The Helmet Catch. The Butler INT. The Philly Special. The Hail Mary. Some games, the best games, have more than 1. This is one of the things I found lacking in the Bengals/Rams. The bomb TD to start the second half was nice, but so early. The Donald 4th down sack was a good symbol for the game, but they had annihilated Burrow to that point and things looked bleak already. What should have been the biggest moment of the game (the late Rams drive deep in Bengals territory to take the lead) was bogged down and ruined by the officials.

What do I not respond to?
-Stats. I could not give a shit if Mac Jones is completing most of his passes. I do not care how many rushing yards Zeke has. I don’t give a fuck how many field goals a kicker has made. I only care if he shanks this next one.
-Efficiency and execution. This is the order opposite my beloved chaos. This is why I found the Patriots boring. A team that always executes well is dull as shit to watch. The Packers under Rodgers are similar. He never throws picks, so he’s no fun anymore. I am not enthralled by teams executing well all the time. I am thrilled when shit goes wrong. Yeah, you need shit to go right to appreciate shit going wrong, but some teams have shit go right too much. A humming efficient offense gets boring. A stifling defense that doesn’t let anyone move the ball well gets tiresome.
-Fantasy or Betting. This stuff matters a great deal to a large number of people, but I never bet on sports and even when I played fantasy, I couldn’t bring myself to care about my team that much.
-Penalties. Sometimes a bad call can inject some chaos into the experience, but generally, nobody likes it when the yellow flies in. Considering it’s gotten worse and worse over the past decade, and they are making games memorable for the wrong reasons.

Anyway this was way too many words but the subject has been on my mind since the Super Bowl so here we are. I imagine if you are here, you probably hold similar tastes to my own, but let me know what gets your motor running.