“NFL’s Disappearing Huddle” was a recent article in the NYT. The focus was on the growing prevalence of the “hurry-up offense” where the huddle is supplanted by the quarterback calling audible signals as the team lines up immediately following the preceding play.
Many players bemoan huddleless football. Michael Oriard, a former center with the Kansas City Chiefs, an all-American at Notre Dame and the author of books on football culture, called the huddle a sacred place, because it belonged to the players and not the coaches. An Oregon State University professor stated that in the huddle “there was bonding and a kind of sharing of intensity.” Quarterbacks say the huddle is a place to cement the team spirit, as well as observing which players might be angry, injured, or demoralized. The huddle could be considered the NFL’s version of a group hug.
The world needs more huddles. A multitude of societal factors generate “hurry-up lives,” the result often being relational disconnection and disassociation. Example: my childhood neighborhoods were real communities where we knew our neighbors and had at least occasional social interaction. On the contrary, I lived in a small rural Washington community for thirteen years and never once had coffee with a single resident of my neighborhood. In my new community I have developed acquaintances with several residents, even sharing a glass of wine on the patio. By my lights, progress.
People are not loners like cougars or badgers. Built into the human DNA seems to be a proclivity, necessity even, toward community. In spite of – yea, because of – all the forces that drive us apart, we need to explore and exploit more ways to “huddle.” It’s healthy . . . comforting . . . life-giving. Maybe it’s more than coincidence that huddle rhymes with cuddle.