The 0-4 Minnesota Vikings, Indianapolis Colts, Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams have several options. They can either play out the string while trying to grasp a modicum of dignity and hint of respectability, they can ask for admission into the Pac 10, or pro football’s quartet of bottom feeders might want to steal from the playbook of Morrill High School.
The Morrill Lions, from western Nebraska, have cancelled their season – and no one can blame Curtis Painter.
The Lions mercifully pulled the plug on Tuesday when its 18-member team was reduced to 12, and that 12th guy doesn’t even like football.
As reported by the “Associated Press,” Morrill’s starting quarterback broke a hand and another player fractured an ankle in last week’s game and parents were concerned that a friendly football season could quickly devolve into something immoral, if not illegal. And so the cheerleaders (did they have more than one?), players and fans packed it in and will wait until next year.
No doubt the Morrill Lions gave it their best in going 0-5 and getting outscored 243-32. One is reminded of T.C. Boyle’s gritty short story, “56-0,” about an overmatched college football team finishing the season in a cold, muddy and desperate scramble for pride. But, like W.C Fields once said, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it.”
Part of Morrill’s problem was that the school was out of its league, almost literally. Morrill played in the smallest division in Nebraska that plays 11-man football and school officials say next year they’ll probably move down to Eight-Man football which has got to be more fun anyway. Morrill’s coaches told the “A.P.” they were saddened that more of the school’s 50 boys didn’t go out for the team but who knows? Maybe Morrill just has more fun things for a young lad to do on his weekends than get his head bashed in on every play.
Maybe Morrill just needs a little updating. The school’s website still wishes everyone “a good summer” and the lunch menu is from last May. But at least the Lions dined well that spring: Taco Salad, Pigs-in-a-blanket and Biscuits & Gravy are some of the offerings on the cafeteria menu. Unappetizingly, though, in the middle of the month the culinary choices are narrowed down to just one – “Cook’s Choice.” Do you get the impression that “Cook’s Choice” consists of whatever tacos, biscuits and pigs can fit in a blender or on a slice of toast?
Morrill may feel forlorn but it isn’t alone. In Amarillo, Texas, Arbor Christian Academy has also punted away the 2011 season after going 0-6 including last week’s 58-0 assault against Memphis. Like Morrill, Arbor Christian now has downsizing on its mind as the school will switch to Six-Man in 2012.
The Vikings, Dolphins, Rams and Colts have looked like they’re playing with just six or eight guys this year so maybe they can jump leagues as well. Maybe the NFL can implement a policy similar to that of European soccer leagues (“football associations”). Imagine if promotion and relegation existed in all American sports – the Cleveland Browns, Chicago Cubs and Golden State Warriors would probably be on Morrill or Arbor Christian’s schedule by now and the New England Patriots and New York Yankees would only play each other, perhaps in a golden palace owned by Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman.
Or, maybe Morrill and Arbor Christian can get some special exemption and combine forces and play 14-man football while the other team only plays 11 but gets all the biscuits and gravy it can handle.
We can’t help wonder if those in Minnesota, Miami, St. Louis and Indianapolis almost envy these high school kids. Between the four NFL teams they’re already 0-16 and, shudder to think, since none of these fumbling four play each other this season, each of them could actually finish 0-16 themselves. Fans in Morrill and Amarillo will be watching. But how will they be rooting?