I listen to Lone Star Gridiron’s podcast “Sideline to Sideline” on iTunes from time to time and find it informative and entertaining.
When I tuned in this week, however, something popped out that I wasn’t expecting. The two hosts were bantering back-and-forth about which divisions they would and would not talk about when Grant Goodwin suddenly makes the crack that six-man football is just “backyard football in pads.”
Six-Man Football is just Backyard Football in Pads
Say what? Backyard football in pads? If you don’t believe me just listen to the Lone Star Gridiron podcast on iTunes episode S2S 2017 Week 5 Class 3A at the 48:30 mark.
Now, one of my pet peeves is a gross oversimplification. I can’t stand it when a simpleton who can only make sense of the complex world around him does so by publicly constructing rudimentary categories for things. Goodwin’s comments remind me of the links agnostic know-it-all who claims, “All you do in golf is just chase a little white ball around.” Or the savage who diagnoses a space launch with, “All astronauts do is just float around in space all day.”
If six-man football is just “backyard football in pads,” then 11-man football is just backyard football in pads plus five extra guys. It’s a ridiculous thing to say.
Why Six-Man Football?
Six-man football has some qualities that some people actually find superior to 11-man. The same fundamentals are involved but it’s faster, it’s more electric, and it’s higher scoring. And for some people it’s more fun to watch — and for others, it’s the ONLY brand of football they will watch.
But let’s not forget the kids who are actually out there on the field playing six-man across the great state of Texas. Some of these towns have populations that can barely field the necessary six players needed to maintain eligibility. Some have played with only five men because of an injury but then actually beaten their opponent with a full squad of six! Now that’s what I call heart. That would be like an NHL team getting stuck in a power-play situation for the entire game and still pulling off the win. Unheard of!
There are heroic stories coming out of these towns. These kids are playing both ways oftentimes and then hurrying to suit up for the band at halftime. These aren’t 6A players destined for scholarships at big fancy universities who are then further refined in order to score big fat NFL contracts for themselves. We’ve already seen what kind of ungrateful prima donnas that system can produce.
These are kids who play for the love of the game, the love of their teammates, their coaches, and their towns. One kid last season was so bruised and banged up that the mere touch of a fingertip on his shoulder caused him to wince with pain. But coming out of the game wasn’t even an option in his mind. That would have left his team matched up five vs. six or even forced a forfeiture.
I hardly think a big star in 6A would show such heart this day in age. They’d be concerned what the college scouts might think if they couldn’t go full speed, or worried that the injury might metastasize and reduce their face time during the playoffs. I’m not here to slag off 6A football or any of its players, it’s just the natural retaliatory response that comes when pundits who should know better make stupid remarks.
It’s like this snide, superior attitude, this elder brother syndrome where the 11-man spokeshole pats the little six-man on the head, “run along and play your little game and when you grow up you can play with us.” It’s that superior attitude that reminds me of Goliath mocking little David just before he felt the slinger’s stone sink into his forehead.
Let’s be Clear
Grant Goodwin knows a heck of a lot more about football than I do, but making statements like that makes me wonder how his mind got so closed. And I could continue bashing him but since I can’t be sure if he really meant it or not, I suppose I should offer some words in his defense.
I’ve worked in radio in Los Angeles so I know that dead air is a killer for any show. Personalities and pundits have to keep the banter going regardless of whether they have anything intelligent to say or not. There’s a lot of pressure on them to speak and to speak often, so hopefully, he just blurted something out without thinking. Or maybe he was just trying to invoke verbal click bait to provoke reactionaries like me into responding and thus drawing more attention to his podcast.
But just to be clear. I was one of the few infidels outside of Odessa who supported the Permian Panthers before Friday Night Lights became a hit and made it trendy to do so. I’ve been all the way out in Los Angeles for decades, and if I chose to do so, I could be writing about 6A. I could even write about my alma mater, USC. It’s a much bigger market with a much larger share of eyeballs and I could no doubt churn out a harried recap each weekend like everyone else and actually get paid for it. But I’m sticking with six-man, and that is by choice, and not out of necessity.
Six-man football is a story of heroism inside small-town Americana. It’s a story that’s often overlooked. It’s a story that needs to be told.