For the benefit of those of you who hadn't realised, these little pieces are all about the professional side of American Football. What you might not realise, though, is that there are two other levels to the game - High School and College. These are exactly as they say they are. High School games are played by those who have not left school yet and are hugely well supported. Some of you may have seen the television series Friday Night Lights. This was originally based on a famous book written about high school football in the late 1980s. Famous and controversial, as it exposed the pressure that these young athletes were placed under, the pressures imposed upon them and the crazy education system which contrives to keep the academically inept in school because they are good sportsmen.
You will gather that high school games are mostly played on a Friday night, which means that Saturday is the day for college - effectively university - games. The goal of every high school player is to win a scholarship to college, which then gives them a shot at the big time of NFL football. It is the parallel of the apprenticeship system in soccer, only with more studying and less boot cleaning; indeed, some colleges have sports facilities which put even those of Premiership soccer clubs to shame. Needless to say, the attrition rate is high. Only a tiny proportion of those who win college scholarships will reach the NFL and only a fraction of those will be successful there. To do this, many will have to change position - for example, Antwan Randle El was a star college quarterback who became a moderately successful wide receiver in the NFL. He won a Superbowl with the Steelers, who would occasionally put his old skills to use by having him throw a pass instead of the quarterback (trick plays like this are known as 'gadget plays', for reasons I've never been able to find out, let alone explain).
Why am I telling you this? Because of something which happened in a college game last weekend. Texas Tech's QB Graham Harrell threw for 646 yards in a game against Oklahoma State and still lost. Imagine how that must feel. You throw the ball for almost SIX AND A HALF TIMES the length of the field and still end up on the losing side. And remember that in calculating these yards, they only count if someone catches the ball after you've thrown it. The game finished 49-45 to Oklahoma, so it is not as if the passes he threw were ineffective, or the product of bad choices. Indeed, the game ended dramatically when the Oklahoma tight end (you know how I love those guys) Brandon Pettigrew ran more than half of the length of the pitch for a touchdown.
Only three people have thrown further than Harrell during a college game. Oddly enough, the man he passed to take that fourth place was Cody Hodges, who also played for Texas Tech. The fact that Hodges set his mark in 2005, though, might indicate that other teams have now sussed out Oklahoma's tactics.
And if all this wasn't enough to depress Harrell, of the top five guys in this list, only one, David Klingler, made it to the NFL - and he was a huge disappointment there. It's tough at the not-quite-top.
Meanwhile, in the NFL itself:
● The Giants come back from 17-3 down at half time to beat the Redskins 24-17 with their defense holding out for four plays on their own one yard line to seal the win;
● Nate Burleson catches a touchdown pass with a minute to go to enable the Seahawks to edge out the Bengals 24-21;
● Old Man Favre levels Dan Marino's record of 420 career TDs and couldn't care less: “I'm so glad we one I couldn't care less about the record”, he paraphrased;
● Atlanta lost again, but Joey Harrington had his best day since taking over from Michael Vick and all was going well until Carolina lost starting QB Jake Delhomme. Replacement David Carr made a pitch for the starting role by leading the touchdown drive which put the Panthers ahead. The killer, though, was Falcons' cornerback DeAngelo Hall losing his cool at Panthers WR Steve Smith. First he picked up a penalty for shoving Smith, then added another for continuing to abuse him. This not only lead to the touchdown from which Carolina levelled the scores, it cost him a $100,000 fine and suspension from at least the first quarter of the Falcons' next game. And you thought Chelsea were in trouble;
● My favourite whipping boy finally got his comeuppance this week. A loss to the Cowboys lead in turn to Bears coach Lovie Smith losing his restraint and Rex Grossman losing his starting berth to veteran Brian Griese. Yes, that's pronounced 'greasy'. And no, it doesn't mean that he takes Rex's place on my laugh-list. Where's Eli Manning?
● As if trying to prove my 'this is a pretty safe sport' riff of a fortnight agon, Texan's defensive end Cedric Killings broke his neck on Sunday. He's making even swifter progress than Kevin Everett - who is still doing very well - but may not play again. We wish both of them well;
● A bad week for star names. Shaun Alexander, JP Losman, Heinz Ward, Tommie Harris and Steven Jackson will all miss games with injuries, whilst Deuce Mcallister's season is over after a torn cruciate ligament;
● The Saints' nightmare continues as they lose to the Titans;
● Marc Bulger will play on with two broken ribs. Well, at least until the first time someone tackles him;
● Patriots' Vince Wilfork is fined $12,500 for the low tackle which injured Losman. Video evidence indicates that it may have been an accident, but the Pats aren't exactly flavour of the month and it is hard not to suspect that Wilfork is paying for the sins of others;
● Samari Rolle of the Ravens will miss another week after suffering an adverse reaction to medication. Which just goes to show that all the medical facilities in the world won't help if your body won't play;
● Finally, it is nice to hear that the life of Michael Vick is getting worse. Not only is he now likely to be indicted in further dogfighting charges which might lead him to 40 minutes in the clink, he also tested positive for marijuana in September, in violation of his bail. Idiot - but a nice way for the rest of us to end the week.