A Project for Better Journalism chapter
Sports

Turning a blind eye to supporting players

The can’t blink moments in sports — the final play. Twenty seconds left on the clock, no timeouts left in the fourth quarter. The quarterback is sacked. Close endings in a game often come down to the quarterback (QB). All eyes are on them — until something goes wrong. Then the blame shifts.

When a QB is sacked, commentators often say it’s the lineman’s fault. These players are key to any winning team, but are often overlooked by fans.

“I just wish that when our team wins, they say good job (offensive) O-line as much as they say good job to my QB,” varsity right tackle Tzadeek Yehudah, whose main job is to protect the quarterback, said.

The O-line is one of the most important parts of the football team. The O-Line blocks for the QB so he has more time to make better passes, and creates intentional holes for the running back to break free and gain as many yards as possible.

“They’re the backbone to everything we do,” varsity QB Sylo Staton said. “They open up running lanes for me and control the line for me to pass the ball. Little do people pay attention to them because people follow the ball but they are literally the key to our success.”

Staton said he is thankful for his offensive line, and even offered to take them to dinner as a sign of his appreciation last year. Their success, he said, is important for his success.

“Being an offensive lineman is fun. I love seeing my teammate running down the field scoring, knowing that I blocked someone to make it happen,” Yehudah said. “I think we get most noticed only when we pancake someone, and not as much when our team wins.”

On many National Football League (NFL) teams, the highest paid players are often the QB and star defenders. Only three teams in the NFL pay offensive lineman the most on the team. Two of them play the “blind side” position (left tackle). Generally QBs are right handed, and have a blind spot when they turn to throw. The left tackle is responsible for covering that blind spot and protecting the QB.

“I think the left tackle position has a big responsibility and I feel Sylo can trust me,” left tackle Geovanni Reyes said.

The San Francisco 49er´s Left Tackle Joe Staley was paid $11 million this season — the highest salary on the team. On the Philadelphia Eagles, Left tackle Jason Peters was also paid $11 million — the highest on the roster. On the Dallas Cowboys, center Travis Frederick was paid $14 million this season.    

¨The offensive line is an underrated position of the game, but without it you can´t pass or run efficiently,” Varsity football coach Marcus Teal said.

Sports fans mostly watch games to see star players score or jaw dropping plays. Fans rarely wear an offensive lineman´s jersey at the store or at a game, and people rarely credit a win to a great O-line.

“People watch for the ooh’s and the ahh’s — not the boring important stuff that is needed to win,” Athletic director Billy Hemberger said. “As a coach I know that position is not that fun, but I make that position know they’re vital for success and give them a little extra love.”

The stakes are just as high on the basketball court, where more than one player is needed to effectively perform. Five seconds on the clock. Double overtime. The ball is inbounded, and the star player catches dribbles. Steps back and shoots. Makes it. Game over.

In a tense moment like this, defense has to be clutch so the shooter won’t have time to make the shot.

Hemberger, head of the women´s basketball team, believes that the lock down defender is the least recognized spot of the floor.

“Having a lock-down defender is a game changer and a momentum starter,” Hemberger said of the defensive role.

Hemberger stated being a solid defender doesn’t provide the highlighted statistics that a scorer does. It’s an underrated role for the girl’s basketball team, but is a crucial part of winning.

“Being able to play solid defense is the biggest key to winning any basketball game and if players can incorporate that in their game plan than they [a basketball team] will win a lot,” varsity center Sean Sampson said.

In the National Basketball Association (NBA) most players don’t get paid for their defense. It’s the points per game, rebounds that get them the high contracts. For example, James Harden, guard for the Houston Rockets, is known for his lack of defense throughout the league, but he is due $28 million this season and averages a double-double (10 or more points, rebounds, and assists, in two of these categories in the same game).

Paul Blair, head men’s basketball coach, believes that a good communicator is underrated on the court.

“Kids these days take more of a “street-ball” approach to the court and they don’t communicate too well,” Blair said.   

While star players get the attention they deserve, athletes agree that a win is a team effort and all players should be recognized for their contributions to the team.

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