There are very few jobs in this world where one can do what he loves, make a lot of money, and be given the title of professional athlete. Sadly, I will never have one of those few jobs, and most likely, neither will you. Don’t get me wrong, what kid doesn’t aspire to be a professional athlete, but at some point we realize that we will never make a living throwing touchdown passes or hit buzzer-beating three-pointers to win the NBA Title. But what if had a job where we were still better than 99% of the rest of the world, but significantly worse than the top 1% of the world? We still got paid to be a professional athlete, without any of the hardships that come with being one. What a life it would be to say your a professional athlete, but never actually play. What a life it would be, to be a professional bench warmer.
My sports career ended at a very young age, younger than most kids. When you’re parents are short, stout, and nonathletic, your athletic career dies before you hit puberty, which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. I never had to suffer the wrath of disappointment because I already knew the outcome wasn’t going to end in my favor. So when I was a member of my high school baseball team, I understood that my role on the team would revolve around me not actually playing; I had to find other ways to make my impact felt.
As a personified bench warmer, you have to embrace the job, because it is no easy one at all. It is a skill to sit the bench, because your role on the team is constantly changing. One minute you’re the guy giving the comic relief, the next minute you’re the guy consoling your teammate after he struck-out for the fourth time in the game, leaving you in a tough spot because there’s no easy way to tell someone they suck (trust me I’ve been there it’s not easy). You truly have to love the job, otherwise there’s no point of even calling yourself a teammate because you still are apart of a team, regardless of your impact on the field.
I have always been fascinated by the role of the backup. Even though I can proudly call myself a backup, I still feel like I know nothing about it. When you think about it, we all depend on a backup in some way shape or form. The sports world is no different. The backup quarterback is an essential part of an NFL team’s makeup. The pinch-hitter is often times put in the game at the most crucial moment. All around us, we depend on the backups to come up big when we need them most. We ask them to do the hardest thing there is; come off the bench cold and deliver like they’ve been playing the entire game.
The NFL season has been a memorable in many aspects. Long time individual records are on the verge of being broken, young teams are rising to the top and making serious cases to make a run to the Super Bowl, and how can we all forget the infamous replacement refs that were almost as bad as high school refs (good joke right?). But take a deeper look into this season, and you’ll find that the use of the back-up quarterback has never played such an important role.
When Ben Roelthisberger went down with his usual mid-season injury, a man no one knows, but everyone’s heard of, Charlie Batch, came to the rescue and kept the Steelers in playoff contention while Big Ben was hurt. With the ever changing landscape of the NFL, where quarterbacks are deemed “gods” above everyone else, the back-up quarterback has never been more vital than it is now. Guys like Batch, Nick Foles, Greg Mcelroy, Kirk Cousins, and Jason Campbell have all had to come in and step up for their teams when they needed it most.
I find it fascinating to see the role of the back-up quarterback changing so quickly across the landscape of football. It seems as though you need two starting quarterbacks to be successful now a days. People questioned the Redskins decision to draft Cousins in the fourth round of last year’s NFL draft after moving up to select Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, but Cousins has turned out to be a sleeper pick who will hopefully solidify the back-up quarterback position in Washington. It’s funny, who could have ever imagined a discussion on the importance of back-up quarterbacks, but with more and more teams moving in the direction of using a “duel-threat” quarterback, it only makes sense to have someone behind him ready to play at any moment.
The NFL is witnessing the “Golden Age” of the quarterback. The quarterback position has evolved to a new level no one has ever seen before. Guys like Cam Newton and RGIII are doing things we only thought were possible in video games. But with the growth and development of exciting players like Newton and RGIII, comes the continued growth and importance of the guys no one talks about, the back-up quarterback. Expect to see even more back-ups play major roles on teams within the next few years while the evolution of the “dream quarterback” continues to be sought after.