Video Football Games Keep A Sportswriter In The Know

By: Bruce Burton, Assistant Sports Editor
Friday, August 12, 2005 4:18 PM PDT

Bruce Burton
I got a call from my older brother the other day, and because we're both busy people - or at least we pretend to be - he began the conversation the way we begin all of our phone conversations, by asking if he was interrupting anything.My answer was no, I was just fooling around with a football game on the PlayStation 2."Oh," was his No. 10 Downing Street-like response. "So, you got that game?""That game," he referred to is Madden NFL 2006, the sports video game which one online writer aptly described recently as the Harry Potter book of video games, the theory being that anyone who stood in line to purchase it when it was released at selected stores around the country midnight Monday is either 13 years old or has had their lives surgically removed since becoming an adult.In my defense I wasn't playing, "that game," - at the moment, I'm still only in the infant stages with NCAA Football 2006, which means I won't purchase Madden for at least another month. And if and when I do buy Madden, I will do so at a decent hour, like mid-afternoon.
As a result, I still claim half a life.More to the point, I maintain that the past decade that I've spent playing virtual football has aided my sports writing. I've kept up with all of the new offensive innovations in part because of video games. I understand better now the idea behind sending a receiver into a defensive area just to occupy the safety and free up another receiver.I've learned to disguise and vary my blitzes on defense, and mix up my play calling on offense rather than just going deep all the time. And I've learned what Granite Bay High football coach Ernie Cooper has known for years: that good special teams play can be the difference in close gamesBecause I understand these things better, I can better relate those concepts to you - the reader - when I cover an actual football game. That's what I tell people, anyway, and you have to admit, it's a good sounding excuse. It might really be a lame one, but when I'm explaining to people why I'm playing PlayStation when I should be trying to meet Press-Tribune deadlines, plausible believability is all I'm looking for.There is, however, one definite advantage to video football over real life. Where else can you manipulate NFL receivers Terrell Owens and Randy Moss as you like with buttons, and experience all of their on-field thrills while dealing with none of their off-field headaches?
In video football Owens keeps his mouth shut, Moss keeps his imaginary pants up and no one tests positive for steroids, much less wags their finger Bill Clinton like at congressmen.In the end, the value of video sports games depends on your point of view. It's like recently when I gave my copy of NCAA Football 2005 to a co-worker for free and felt like the big brother who gives his hand-me-down clothes to little brother. Or, it could be that I was the video game drug dealer giving out a free sample with the knowledge that the guy who accepts will get hooked and come back again for more.And when he comes back, I'll make him pay me in megabytes

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