Xs And Os

There are football fans . . . and then there are football fans.

The casual fans watch the games, read the news coverage, and even pay attention to things like recruiting and spring practice.  The really serious fans do all of that, of course, but do much, much more.  They memorize three-deep depth charts for each position.  They go to high school games to watch kids who have given verbal commitments to their teams.  And, they get heavily into the Xs and Os — the diagrams of plays and that special language that only football coaches, players, and stone-cold football fans can speak.

Over the years, I’ve tried to get into the Xs and Os.  I tried again after Ohio State’s improbable run to the National Championship two months ago.  But I just don’t get it.

Consider this article from the website Eleven Warriors, one of many good websites for Ohio State fans.  It’s about a great topic — how the flexibility of Ohio State’s approach to the running game helped produce the National Championship run.  But once the Xs and Os start flowing, I just can’t follow along.  Consider this sentence from the article:  “Meyer generally uses a bash tag with inside zone.”  Or this one:  “In the first half, the Buckeyes used a form of split zone — a wham block.”

I recognize that those are words from the English language.  I recognize that they have some clear meaning.  Nevertheless, my puny lawyerly brain just can’t grasp it.

For years, football players were depicted as brawny, barely literate apes, strong but hopelessly stupid.  I’m not sure that was ever true, but it certainly is true no longer.  I tip my cap to anyone who not only can understand the Xs and Os, but who can remember them and execute them, too.  And I do the same to any football fans who can follow along.

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