I’m in my annual Madden Phase, wherein I spend six weeks playing an outdated version of the game, construct an entire league full of fictional teams with ill-advised uniform choices, and create a virtual NFL dynasty that last many seasons and is staffed by fictional players with computer-generated names like Tito Orlando and Bam Manningham. I know you haven’t heard of those guys, but trust me, they’re the real deal.
But this year has been different. Linus has officially discovered football. His football consciousness is exploding at an incredible rate. Two weeks ago I was still explaining the concept of punting on fourth down, and today he was telling me when the other team was in a zone, and calling out open receivers before the snap. It’s fair to say he’s in his own Madden Phase as well.
We had been playing as teammates and doing relatively well, so I decided maybe the time had come for us to play each other competitively. He’s still mastering the game play, and he doesn’t know situational play calling at all, so he just lets Madden call the plays. He doesn’t call audibles, either, but he knows what they are and will probably start using them in the next 16 hours or so. But I figured if he had Madden calling the plays, and if we both made a point of showing our play diagrams up on the screen before the snap, that should give him a fighting chance to compete and make it at least a learning situation for him. I also had us choose teams neither of us were familiar with.
So we played, and naturally I dominated him. But it was in a competitive sort of way. I ate up clock and was ahead 7-0 nearing halftime. He never got into my territory on offense, but I kept the scoring to a minimum. Then my I threw two interceptions on consecutive passes that he returned for touchdowns in the final 40 seconds of the first half. So I’m down 14-7.
Long story short, the second half featured many questionable events, both officiating calls and computer judgment calls/glitches that resulted in me taking a heartbreaking OT loss on a 98 yard TD run that should have actually been a safety. That’s a tough way to lose a game, especially the first game you’ve ever played against your 8 year old son.
Sure, I’ll admit it. I underestimated him. I didn’t take him seriously as an opponent, and then it was too late. True, I gave him every conceivable advantage, and he also cheated by making it difficult for me to kick by rapidly moving his R2 button. Even if that’s not cheating, it’s certainly bad sportsmanship. I chose not to correct him at the time, as I didn’t think it would matter to the outcome of the game and also didn’t want to let him know he was hindering me. But after he baited me into a 14 yard punt at a critical moment, I thought it would seem petty to bring it up right then. And also, I didn’t want to let him know he had hindered me.
Next time, we won’t show our plays. And we’ll play with teams of similar ability as well. And then we’ll see.
The problem is, what I think we’ll see is that I’ve been stuck at the same skill level for years, and his game is evolving at light speed. I have a friend who told me about finally beating his dad at one-on-one basketball, and how it was sort of that archetypal moment of first beating your dad at something, where your dad is really trying, and how that victory in some very real way changes your view of yourself, your father, becoming a man, etc. For me, that happened one time I kicked my dad’s ass at Uno. As I slammed my cards on the table and screamed “Skip to me, Uno, and DRAW TWO!”, I knew I was becoming a man. For Linus, it happened when his running back inexplicably ran through my safety’s body and found an entire field of green in front of him.
Which just means I’m going to have to take a little bit of his manhood away next time we play. I’m scripting the first 15 plays like Bill Walsh, and this time I’m not including any of the interceptions in the script. And this time the game is in MY house. Well technically it’s in his house, too. But the main thing is, no more kid gloves. No more, “Here’s the diagram of the play I’m about to run”.
And I’ll just say it now: He’s not better than I am. And I’m so sure he thinks he’s better than me, just because he can activate his defensive backs and use them to make aggressive plays on the ball to get interceptions after I specifically advised him to never do that, because it’s rarely done and it almost always results in touchdowns for the other team. Guess that’s only for me and not so much for him, so maybe he thinks he’s better than me.
I don’t want to give him any bulletin board material or anything like that, but I’m not too worried about that because he’s only eight. I’ll just say that I think I’m a seven point favorite.