Spring Game, 2018

A spring football game is kind of like school itself; it’s real, but it isn’t.

We all show up at the stadium. The players put on all the gear. The announcers and the officials and even the band and cheerleaders show up and do the usual routines. The parking lot is crowded with grills and portable generators, and the scoreboard records each touchdown.

The players look for every possible opportunity to distinguish themselves. The media reports the results.

Only, the results don’t count. By the time of the opening kickoff next fall, the Spring Game will be a distant memory. Next fall, when the season begins, every play will matter, and the statistics will be preserved forever.

Driving home from the 2018 version of Spring Game, it occurred to me how much this ritual is like school. It is all about preparation, learning skills that will serve later when the game is real.

We try really hard, but the hits aren’t quite as real, especially for the quarterback.

Some will get attention here but they will be non-factors in the real season, others who were invisible today will appear later.  It is better to make an impact during the season. The Spring Game is cool, but we all know it is practice.

Practice is important, but as Alan Iverson reminded us years ago, the practice is not the game.

Let’s see how far we can press this analogy.

Perhaps the Spring Game is something like project-based learning. It is more than the drills of practice, or the worksheets of school, and it is created to simulate real world tasks.

It still isn’t real the way the regular season, or the life of work after school is real.

That’s not bad. Now we get into slipperier territory.

Is playing a game, even during a regular season that ends in a real trophy, a “real” task the way work is real?

For that matter, is work “real” in the same way other things in life such as family and faith and core values are real? Or is work ultimately just another game?

We can ponder that question all summer, until the season begins this fall.

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