Kalani Simpson Sidelines

Kalani Simpson

The truth about
the sidelines

SOMETIMES I think we in the general populace don't always fully appreciate the pressure and chaos of a football sideline.

Because we keep asking questions: How can a coach not come up with the perfect play call in 25 seconds or less? Why are there ever delays of the game? How could a starter be talking story about his latest greatest hit when he is supposed to be out there on the field on the punt return team?

How in the world could Thurman Thomas have forgotten his helmet?

And why do I have a sudden craving for a hamburger after every extra point?

But, you see, it is never quite that simple. We are thinking of a football game as a normal activity. Football is not normal. Nothing about it is normal.

Coaches will tell us that they have it together. Coaches like to portray themselves as models of discipline, and organization. But the pressure and chaos of the sideline gets everyone, even the greats of the game. We've seen those NFL films.

There is Marv Levy yelling, "You oraficious jerk!" (He was so freaked out, he made up his own word.)

There's Don Shula shouting, "You're ruining my life! You're ruining my life!"

There's John McKay ruefully promising, "I'll cut 'em, baby! I'll send every one of these guys to Green Bay."

Lou Saban, saying, "They're killing me, Whitey! They're killing me!"

These guys are supposed to be splitting the atom?

My personal favorite was my old college coach, who, yelling out at the officiating crew he'd hired for a home nonconference game, screamed: "I'm stopping payment on the check!"

You can talk all you want about high-octane offensive masterminds or genius defensive savants, but these are the working conditions.

It's a mad, mad world.

So they do things to counter the chaos, 2-point charts, play-list wristbands, and the like. (Can you take a man seriously who has a clipboard stuffed down his pants?)

My favorite is the mat with the footprints on it. It is exactly what it sounds like. It is a mat with footprints on it.

In order to make sure no one loses his head in the heat of the moment, each special teams unit will gather, every guy standing with his feet on his particular footprints, to make sure everyone is there. If all the feet are filled and everyone is lined up, and the count is right, they can move on.

Have you ever, in your life, heard of something like this?

I have.

It's called kindergarten.

That's how crazy and pressure-packed and chaotic the sideline is. You have to go back to Mrs. Yonemitsu's class just to keep your head above water.

Football isn't normal. The sideline is a crazy place. You think you've got the answers, but it just isn't that simple in the heat of the night. Remember that.

The next time you would have called a run, the next time the clock clicks out, the next time there are only 10 guys out there because somebody's lost in space, be forgiving.

At least you have never stood in line on a mat with footprints on it. At least not since you were 5.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.

Kalani Simpson can be reached at ksimpson@starbulletin.com



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