Football is a complicated thing, in form and in content and in how it is sold to us and how we consume it. As a television program and to a lesser extent as a live entertainment, the NFL is pretty great: the action itself is intricate enough and dazzling enough to create tension even in flubsy, mostly dull games like Wednesday's season opener, and the broader experience is smoothly produced and packaged enough that it's able to overcome the periodic eruptions of Tony Siragusa's sandwich-mouthed anti-insights and the nut-punch puns and persistent leatherette bellowing of Chris Berman. It's not necessarily television for everyone, but given what television for everyone is actually like—the neutered artifice and dunderheaded pomp and queasy desperate vanity of X Factor or whatever—even the average distended, commercial-strewn football game is pretty good. But, of course, the NFL isn't just television, and we do the full complicated game and ourselves a disservice when we pretend that it is.
But for all the complicating factors presented by football's interlocking sadisms and exploitations, explicit and implicit, and all the ugly subtext that sours the game's undeniable buzz, it's clear that there's something here that works, that connects, and that is both the game's and ours, and that is unique. This is the human aspect of it, the vicarious thrill of the struggle that earns fleeting moments of grace, and even in a sport with so many dehumanizing artificialities and intellectual choke-points, that human aspect is the part that sells best and means the most. Which, I know: as if any aspect beyond the human aspect of anything could matter as much.
The bargain I made with myself with the NFL, which is maybe not fully honest and certainly not perfect but which has enabled well enough the last few years, is to try to remember that the people playing it and coaching it and watching it are people. They can be cartoonish or stupid or lousy, on all sides, and often are; we should all be able to goof on them for that and not feel bad about it, and enjoy their moments of beauty and bravery and other-classified awesomeness and feel good about it. But what seems fairest and wisest, if we're going to watch a sport that punishes its participants so much in so many different ways, is to at least hold some concern and consideration for those people in our hearts the way we would for any other human being.
Especially because, as you'll be reminded by this short documentary about former LSU star and Giants draft pick Chad Jones and his attempt to return to football after nearly losing a leg in a car accident, some of these players are extraordinary human beings. Not, maybe, better or kinder or smarter or anything else than you or me or anyone else. But extraordinary all the same, in their determination and talent and devotion, and in the way that all people are extraordinary. It'd be a shame to miss that, or forget that, here or anywhere else. Enjoy the short, and thanks to the dude Jeff Johnson for sending it my way.