America's game

Its noises become the soundtrackto our autumn. The grunts,whistles, cheers, the sharpcrunch of two swift bodies violentlycolliding. It's all part of themix tape that echoes and humsinside our stadiums, classrooms,households -- and in our heads--over the course of the fall.

As a cultural force, the sporthas become omnipresent. Footballinspires passion in thiscountry, the kind of passion thatis difficult to find outside therealms of politics or religion. Itsstrategic and yet barbaric beautybrings together men andwomen from every walk of life,and in many cases, it crosses racialand economic lines to helpfoster a sense of community.

Football forms connections betweenthe rich and poor, old andyoung, bold and timid.

And though the sport's intensityswells throughout the falluntil it crests with the Super Bowl, each day the game shapesthe lives of hundreds of thousands,if not millions, of thoseunable to ignore its allure.

It can be found in the faces ofthe parents who stand breathlesson the sideline as their sontakes his first handoff in a youthleague.

You can see it in the cheerleaderwho paints her cheeks andpractices back flips as she choreographsthe homecominggame's halftime performance.

You'll find it in the die-hardfan who skips work to drive toanother state and tailgate in anticipationof the big rivalryshowdown.

And you'll see it in the eyes ofthe aging NFL superstar, the onewho ignores his aching musclesand his stiff joints, and prays, ashe puts on his helmet each Sundayafternoon, for one last tasteof fame and glory.

Beginning today and continuingevery Sunday until the endof the year, The Sun will presenta series dedicated to the peoplewho help make up the varied aspectsof America's game. You'llexperience the glamour of anNFL superstar's life, the thrilland anguish of a gambler tryingto master his trade, the quietdedication of a high schoolcheerleader and tireless effortsof an anonymous equipmentmanager.

Our first installment, aboutMaryland's Andrew Crummeyand the injury he sufferedOct. 6, begins here.


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