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ONE LINEMAN’S EPIC JOURNEY THROUGH A SINGLE PLAY OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL

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IT IS A GAME OF UPS AND DOWNS

LET’S FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES

Too often, we limit the definition of heroism to those who just get the events in a certain order: Challenge, struggle, and then overcoming that struggle for a final triumph. That narrow understanding of heroism is just editing. There can be heroes who triumph early, and who meet an ignominious and/or unpleasant end. It doesn’t make them any more or less valuable in the story, though it usually does mean they end up getting played by Sean Bean.

Sean Bean, in this singular, beautiful moment from Tennessee/West Virginia, would play the part of Tennessee defensive lineman Emmit Gooden. The story starts with eighteen seconds left on the clock in the second quarter, with West Virginia up 10-7 on the Vols. The Mountaineers are in the red zone, and looking for points before the half.

Emmit Gooden is the interior defensive lineman to the up/high side of the screen here.

GOOD LORD

The story begins with triumph: A complete pancaking of his man, West Virginia guard Isaiah Hardy. That’s a full-on bouncer rush right there, taking him from the door to the street and into the waiting passenger side of a 2011 Kia Rio parked curbside. It was a fine car before Hardy landed on it, and now it’s a fine car with an offensive lineman-sized dent in it.

Somehow, Will Grier is not sacked on the play. Our hero lands on the ground with his target, but springs back into the action immediately. Grier is somehow still loose back there, and the play is anything but over. The West Virginia QB scrambles towards the sideline with the clock burning, and half the Tennessee defense closing in on him — including our man, running back into action on a less-than-promising trajectory at the forty yard line.

THE HERO PURSUES

That’s what is supposed to happen: Hustling to the whistle, re-entering the play, and a relentless pursuit of the ballcarrier. This part will look great on film, and that’s after remembering that the play began with the tackle absolutely burying his assignment a foot away from the quarterback’s legs in the backfield.

What could go wrong—

THE HERO MEETS AN UNTIMELY FATE

— ahhh, that, okay, got ya.

And that’s why Sean Bean got the role. Yes, this is probably an illegal block, as Gary Danielson called it on the broadcast. Yes, it is the kind of thing that happens when plays break down and the ballcarrier starts scrambling back against the flow of traffic.

Yes, it has happened before, highlight truther. Aren’t you smart? You remembered that something has happened more than one time, and that there have been plays more dramatic and painful and violent on a football field! You’ve won the Olympics of Online Mundanity for stating facts, accept this medal of my entire ass on a plate. Eat the whole thing with a rusty spoon, hypothetical person I just made up to get mad at.

This is a different hero’s tale, that’s all. One where the hero finds the gold immediately, races out of the temple without incident, and then hops into the waiting plane and soars into the distance with triumphant music playing...into the nearest mountain, which he impacts at two hundred miles per hour, leaving only an impact crater and the undying respect of all witnesses. Respect, brave adventurer, because the ending is the least relevant part of the hero’s brave tale. Immense respect.

(HT: Mike Casazza)