Posted On Saturday, 14th January 2012 at 18:30
In 1984 my schoolfriends and I got excited about the Channel 4 American Football highlights package on Sunday nights. Broadcast in the early evening, with Bonnie Tyler theme music, and nothing else on, it was quite an eye opener. (To set the tone for just about all my athletes there was no youtube, mobile phones, internet, and only 4 TV channels).
We watched Marcus Allen do his thing against the Washington Redskins in Superbowl XVIII and then decided to pick a team to follow for the next season. I chose the Green Bay Packers, which led to quite a bit of ridicule over the next few years (I recently got called a "fairweather fan" because the Packers are now winning!) and then led me to Milwaukee in 1987 to watch them play the Denver Broncos in a 17-17 tie.
Wadham school was not particularly sports minded (in the 1980s the teachers had refused to do after school fixtures, so it was being wiped off the agenda), so we decided to throw our not inconsiderable energy into learning how to play Gridiron.
We wrote playbooks and practiced before school, break times and lunch times. We learnt from obscure text books and "First Down" newspaper about "flea flickers" the "off tackle" and "sweeps". Our average athletic ability was made up for with bags of enthusiasm and a complete disregard for schoolwork.
Teenage boys, poor technique and hours of practice time of course led to injuries. Concussions, broken ribs, bloody noses led to the school getting an edict from Somerset County Council that we weren't allowed to play. We of course ignored this and went "underground". Our Upper 6th vs lower 6th fixture attracted a crowd of about half the school which the teachers seemed to ignore.
When it came to playing rugby the next year, our school was unbeaten. Apparently the fact that we had been endlessly running, passing, tackling and hitting each other had some transfer.
This heady start to enabled me to play for a team in the Bahamas every weekend (I was the only white guy which led to some non pc nicknames for me!) as Free Safety. Saturday was rugby match, Sunday was Gridiron in the morning followed by 3 live matches on TV and as many salty snacks as I could eat. Life couldn't get any better.
What do I need to know about the playoffs?
As I write this, the Packers are coming off their best season ever. Their offence is on fire, Aaron Rodgers is having a spectacular season and they are seeded number 1. The defence has been leaking yardage, but getting turnovers. The loss of Cullen Jenkins (free agency) and Nick Collins (injury) hasn't helped.
This weekend will see the Divisional Games which are the equivalent of the quarter finals.
In the NFC, the New Orleans Saints play the San Francisco 49ers. The Saints have got another high powered offence led by Drew Brees. The 49ers were the team of the 80's but have suffered from poor personnel decisions and mediocre coaching since then. This year is much better for them.
The Packers host the New York Giants, who have finally refound their running game, and have a frightening defensive line. If they can get their running game started, and can put pressure on Rodgers, they have a chance. The Packers recievers are too good for the Giants defenders if Rodgers has time. The Packers offensive line is healthy for the first time since September. This should be a great game.
Who is Tim Tebow?
Stand by for Tebowtime. The Denver Bronco's young quarterback is a Hollywood script writer's dream. He kneels down and prays in times of need (known as Tebowing).
He led his team with past the vaunted Pittsburgh Steeler's defence last weekend against the odds. This weekend they play the New England Patriots away from home. If he gets behind and makes a mistake or too, his confidence could be shattered and he will struggle.
If he gets a good play or two in the first quarter, then watch out.
The last game is the Houston Texans against the Baltimore Ravens. This will be a defensive yawn, so for the newbie fan one to avoid.
The best games will be the NFC matchups this weekend, with close calls and lots of interesting match ups. Tebow may make the headlines, but could be a damp squib.