When Is a Quarterback Like a Buick?

There are few activities in this world that would be completely alien and really quite boring without the pain and suffering normally associated with them. Take, for example, American football and your average Californian highway - two things that are so different, yet so alike in so many ways that they could almost be interchanged with each other. The idea may be unusual, but it is also very true, and could lead to the biggest sports-fan migration of the twentieth century.

Some may say that football isn't anything like a highway, and especially not one in California. On the contrary, disbelievers. The two main aspects of a football game that make it fun to its fans are: the strategy of the game, and the violence of the play. In football, people are smashing into each other all the time, either trying to make the other person drop the ball, or to get him out of the way. On the highway, and especially in California, cars are smashing into each other left and right. There hasn't been a day in LA when any less than ten car accidents have happened. As for strategy, what can be harder than trying to commute from your house to work and back again while dodging other cars, bikes, pedestrians, and police cruisers, as well as answering your car phone, speeding, and listening to the radio, all at the same time? Other similarities include referees (on the highway, they're known as "cops") who dress in black and white and make sure you play by the rules, and the bad food (who ever heard of a "good drive-up"?).

Even the players on a football team can be equated with various vehicles that compete on California highways. The quarterback in a football game is most like a Buick Roadmaster - nearly indestructible and infinitely powerful, truly the master of the field, be it a gridiron or a gridlock. He (quarterback, Buick) can get through almost anything, and it takes a few of the opposing team members (cars) to finally pull him down. A running back is more like a Honda motorcycle - fast, perhaps faster than its adversaries, and good at using their speed to get around things (a running back can run along the boundaries while being chased, while a motorcycle can drive in between lanes of traffic or around a pile-up). A halfback is like a Volkswagen van - good at smashing his way through the opposition, but he won't last long in the game. A receiver closely matches a Geo - small and maneuverable, but he can't stand up to much punishment. The only problem left is that there are no teams on the highways, at least not yet.

Of course, there are the miniscule differences that keep football and the California highway just separate enough that no one even thinks of the highway as a sport. For one, there are no teams on the highway - it's just a big free-for-all - and you hardly ever see the same player twice. Also, there are those darn cars that get in the way of hearing any profane exclamations (so often uttered by football players) from, and actually seeing the facial expressions of, the individual drivers. The crashes are definitely louder on the highway, so that ought to appeal to any die-hard football fans. Of course, there are no guns allowed on the football field, but that is just an added obstacle to driving on a highway in California, making it just that much more interesting to watch. While on the gridiron, play will stop for each quarter or a time-out, it never stops on the highway (especially in California), only thins out a teensy-weensy bit during the middle of the day and night. This allows for twenty-four hour viewing, something that no football game in the world can offer.

Eventually, ordinary people will realize how similar football and Californian interstates are, notice that watching car accidents is free, and transfer their attention from the stadium to the roadside. From one section of highway, you can get all the suffering and strategy that ordinarily is only seen at a Denver vs. Green Bay game. Some enterprising yuppie will build stands at the choice corners, and begin to charge for entrance. Television will cover New Years night, the Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. A system of scoring will undoubtedly be developed, and the day's highlights will be shown on the eleven o'clock news, alongside the waning football scores.

Tyler Jones, October 28, 1990