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  • Writer's pictureH. Rick Goff

34 Switchblade

The movie Friday Night Lights continues to be my favorite football movie. The book was good, and the series was enjoyable, but the movie was the best. Every time I watch the movie, I get a lump in my throat when QB Mike Winchell calls 34 Switchblade and says "I love all ya'll" before the team breaks from the huddle for the final play of the game! The Permian Panthers were clearly the underdog, the Dallas Carter team was bigger, faster, and stronger! The Panthers had been pounded the entire game but somehow were still in a position to win after a gritty second half. 34 Switchblade seemed like the perfect call to put the game away and secure a magical victory. But the play broke down from the start, Mike had to improvise and after an exciting scramble and final launch towards the goal line for the winning touchdown, he came up a few inches short. I've seen the movie hundreds of times and I am still stunned (and disappointed) when 34 Switchblade didn't work, and the Permian Panthers lost that game! Man, my heart races just talking about it.

Sports are much more than a diversion from reality in our country, sports are reality in America! Sports and sports stories are an important part of our culture. Sports also go way beyond what happens on the field as they have a strong influence on our social and political dialogue. It's noteworthy that even if it was only by a few months, there was a 24-hour sports station (ESPN 1979) before there was a 24-hour news station (CNN 1980). I think sports are one of the cornerstones of our society and play an important role in shaping parts of our national narrative. We "need" sports, but I think it is time for major sports to face a harsh reality; they need to take a "time out" during the pandemic. There are just too many unknowns to game plan around and the potential risks just seem to far outweigh the rewards. I applaud the major professional sports for trying to give it a go (NBA, MLB, NHL etc.) and sincerely hope nothing happens in their attempt to save some portion of their 2020 seasons. But Covid-19 is an opponent that has proven to be elusive, unpredictable, and does not play by the rules. Sports are important to us and the sports world would be well served to take the season off in order to study and figure out safe ways to play the games.

Unfortunately, we missed early opportunities to get ahead of the pandemic, and like many other aspects of our society, the sports world is forced to deal with that reality also. Covid-19 is bigger, faster, and stronger and it will take a herculean effort to gain the upper hand against such a potent opponent. I love sports, and my palms will continue to sweat when I watch Friday Night Lights -- I still can't believe 34 Switchblade didn't work and Mike didn't score the winning touchdown on the final play of the game! The sports world has a chance to get this right but they must follow a major axiom of any sport--never underestimate your opponent!

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