All together now: 'One game at a time'

All right, football teams everywhere are in two-a-days. Whistles are blowing. Coaches’ neck veins are bulging. Sweat is pouring. And players are asking themselves, “Why exactly am I doing this?”

Fans, of course, can’t wait. Everybody is undefeated. Tailgating is less than a month away. And even if you don’t go to the games, you can turn on your TV at 11 in the morning and watch football non-stop till past midnight on any number of channels.

It’s not a season; it’s a marathon. You, the fan, need to prepare for it. You need to practice. You need to study. Practice makes what? Perfect. That’s right. You need to focus. You need to get yourself in mid-season form before the season.

You need to get your cliches in order.

I am here to help.

First off, remember, football is not played on a field. No, it’s a gridiron. Makes no sense, I know, but it just is. This time of the year everybody expects gridiron glory.

Let’s get to some body parts. First off, the nose. It comes up all the time in football. Linebackers and safeties often have a nose for the football. What’s more, it’s a hard nose. Patrick Willis is a hard-nosed linebacker. He has a nose for the football, and he will also knock the snot out of you. In football, there’s even a nose tackle, so called because he lines up nose to nose with the offensive center. Noses, obviously, are important. Thus, the facemask

Important, also, are feet. You will constantly hear coaches talk about how an offensive lineman has “good feet.” He is not saying that because the lineman wears size-16 xxx. He is saying that because the lineman, who weighs well over 300 pounds, can actually move his feet. Feet are important. After all, it’s football. Toes used to be important. Placekicker Lou Groza purportedly had a golden toe. Now kickers don’t exactly use their toes. And we don’t hear so much about toes any more unless a player develops turf toe, which sounds silly but is really serious, much worse than athlete’s foot.

Ears can be important for a defensive lineman on third and long. That’s when they have to pin their ears back. Arms are important for quarterbacks, but cannons are better. Brett Favre had a cannon. What’s more, he used that cannon to really put some mustard on the ball. Yes, I am mixing cliches here.

All players have ankles, which is good news unless a coach says a player has an ankle, and that’s bad news because if Sean Payton says Pierre Thomas “has an ankle” that means Pierre’s ankle is sprained. Pierre often does have an ankle, but Joe Vitt will have to tell us about it this season.

Enough of body parts. Here are some other things your really need to know to be ready when they start, uh, playing for keeps. Rule No. 1: You play one game at a time. That’s really important. You will hear coaches and players say it all season long, game after game. “We’re just going to play them one game at a time,” they will say, as if there were any other way.

Those same players are going to give 110 percent, because 100 percent, which is all they have, obviously isn’t enough. They are also going to have to play hurt. That’s important. They may get a little dinged up, and they may get their bell rung, but they just have to play through it. Unless, of course, they have turf toe.

You will also hear coaches say that the players have got to play the full 60 minutes. Never mind that the games begin at 7 and end at 11, you’ve got to go 60 minutes. It can get confusing. You will hear referees call for a media timeout. Folks, those are not media timeouts. Sports writers hate them. They are TV timeouts for commercials, so that Budweiser can sell beer and Chevrolet can sell cars and dear ol’ State U. can build a new indoor practice facility even though they will be required to play when it rains.

I hope this has helped. I hope your team has lots of senior leadership and can avoid the injury bug. I hope your halfbacks don’t cough (up the football). And I hope your line doesn’t start falsely.

That’s all I got. I wish I could explain what constitutes holding but I gave up on that a long time ago. Best I can tell, holding happens whenever the umpire opens his eyes.

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