17 January 2010

Cowboys and Indians

Lend me your ears dear reader (or more accurately your eyes and your patience).  There's a very good chance that in about ten seconds you'll decide that this particular little blog entry is not to your taste and that you can't be bothered to read it.  But stay with me please and have a read anyway, because even though it may seem that the subject of this blog entry holds no interest for you, let me assure that what I have to say is quite an interesting observation anyway and is certainly worth the few minutes it will take to read it. 

I issue this warning because on the surface of it, this particular glob of braingunk would appear to be another of my little rambles about American Football… (I can almost hear the clicking of mouse buttons as readers flee already)… but stay with me just a little longer and you'll see it's not really about the sport but more about the American people.

You see I've observed an interesting cultural association that can be made about America Football.  There seems to me, to be a clear similarity between the game and certain facets of the history of America itself and the spirit of its people.  I call it the Cowboy and Indian factor.

It's not at all surprising that there are teams that would also seem to be aware of it as well (or at least used to be when they were formed).  The Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins are both teams with long histories and their names are an obvious homage to important icons from the nation's past.  But the most interesting comparisons for my money are a little subtler.  The most fascinating link between the game and the people that created it takes place on the field itself. 

If you're unaware of how the sport functions you should know that there are two main elements of an American Football team; The Offence and The Defence.  One (the offence) are responsible for moving the ball down the field and scoring, the other (the defence) are the players who’s objective is to halt the advance of the opposing team and stop them from scoring.  A team's offence and defensive players are never usually on the field at the same time.  When a team is in possession of the ball their offence is on the field and when they lose possession of the ball their defensive players take over.  And these two team elements are (to me) a clear representation of ingredients from America's past and the spirit of the people.  The way in which these two separate elements of the team behave and what their responsibilities are can be directly compared to the cultural struggle between the first American settlers and the Native American population.

The Offensive team members represent the cowboys or more accurately the American settlers.  People struggling against all odds to push forward, to achieve, to conquer the wild new land and defeat all of the obstacles in their path.  In another way they could also be thought of as representing parts of the family unit, with the fatherly figurehead embodied in the Quarterback or possibly the Head Coach.  The running backs and tight ends representing the strong young sons in the backfield eager to rush forward and protect their father or carry out his instructions.  The offensive line representing the family homestead or their circled wagon train, their picket fence hammered into the ground to protect them form the barbarians of the plains.  And the very spirit of American freedom and liberty itself takes on physical form in the wide receivers.  They surge into the unknown, they push out across the prairies like barely tamed stallions or locomotives coursing through the wide-open old west.  The offence is elegant, civilised and intelligent.  They are the very picture of determination and they use their cunning and intelligence as well as their physical prowess to defeat their foes, and all in the name of progress.

The defensive squad on the other hand are the complete opposite.  They can be compared to what were thought of at the time as barbaric, violent savages.  Their intentions are clear, their goal is to stop the Offence, the invaders of their territory, at all costs and they will inflict violent injury on their enemies to demonstrate their steadfast resolve to protect their land. They are the dark side. They will strike you from behind, they will gang up on you, they will surge towards the vulnerable ball carrier in packs and pound them into the ground.  Their triumphant cries ringing around the battle field as they stand over the conquered… their chest beating and bellowing reinforcing their unmistakable role as native lords of the plain, and they are sending a message, a warning to those who dare encroach on their lands… "There be monsters here".

This is particularly evident when watching defensive ends and even more especially linebackers.  They are the ones to be feared, they are the true warriors, they are the ones who will hurt you if they get you. To some extent the players themselves at some subconscious level also seem to understand their part in this comparison.  Linebackers often act as if they know that they are the bogyman, the beasts, the scary demons of the game.  They are the ones who want you to be afraid, they are the ones who will 'Bring The Pain'.

When the defensive line surges forward, grimaces of murderous intent are evident on their faces, they resemble a violent pack of animals fighting to get to their "meat".   This direct contrast of the "play by the rules" family unit of wholesome pioneers on the one side of the ball and stop at nothing, ruthless violence mongers on the other is what makes American Football so attractive, even if most viewers never realise it.  These roles are based deep in the nation's history and even embedded in their collective psyche.  They come together to form the age-old classic tale of good verses evil, sophistication and civilisation against the savages and the beasts of adversity and chaos… The Cowboys and the Indians.

That's all for this blog. Next week we'll be examining the similarities between the war crimes of Nazi Germany and the popularity of High School Musical. 

Stay tuned.