The Appeal of Running and Shooting and the Foolishness of Giving

Football fans love quarterbacks. Basketball fans love point guards. In this week at Mbird sports, […]

Matt Patrick / 11.6.13

Football fans love quarterbacks. Basketball fans love point guards. In this week at Mbird sports, we’ll examine some key elements that make up the two positions, and try to make some distinctions as to why they are so beloved, while noting how they may be even more attractive today than ever.

Joe Namath. Peyton Manning. John Elway. Joe Montana–what’s the appeal? Is it the all-american poster boy persona? The rocket arm? Maybe it’s how they dissect defenses/secondaries with ease, and place the ball exactly where they want. Is it leading offenses downfield and calling audibles amongst screaming fans, keeping everyone calm when the situation is everything but? Brett Favre most powerfully embodied the role of the quarterback when, immediately after throwing a touchdown pass, would sprint to congratulate the receiver to which his pass was thrown. This is the quarterback.

John Stockton. Magic Johnson. Bob Cousy. “Pistol” Pete. The needle-threading passes, savvy ball handling and court vision. It’s the play-calling with time running off the clock; it’s leading the fast break. There’s really no one on the floor like the point guard–it’s no wonder they’re called “floor generals.” Former NBA point guard Jason Kidd used to leap into the air when a fellow teammate would dunk after receiving a pass from him.


To be sure, both the point guard and quarterback are, historically, leaders. Non-anxious individuals that function as coaches just as much as a players. However, quarterbacks and point guards, before anything else, are distributors. Favre and Kidd embody the “give it away” sentiment beautifully–it even became part of their identity as players. Even more than “leader,” the role of distributor has been the primary role by which QB’s and PG’s are known. Times have changed, though.

Robert Griffin IIIHurry up offenses. Spread formations–we are in the midst of an ever-changing era of football, particularly with quarterback position. While formally known as a mere passer, now quarterbacks are known equally as “play makers”–more to the point, runners. Michael Vick was one of the first quarterbacks to epitomize this multi-purpose, freakishly athletic play-making quarterback that is so commonly seen on Sundays today. Even our favorite college football player, Johnny Manziel, is known just as much for his ability as a scrambler as a passer.

Likewise, the point guard position has changed. Historically, PG’s are assist-men before anything else. Now, PG’s who lead their teams in scoring are anything but uncommon. In fact, seeing the player who is essentially a mere passer dunk over the other team’s center happens once a week it seems. In short, both positions, due to changing offensive strategies, style of play, etc., are more individualistic in practice than ever.

While they have always been attractive, I’d argue that our new “run-first” quarterback and “shoot-first” point guard have made the positions as attractive as ever. In other words, the individualism of the new wave of QB’s and PG’s appeals to our innate individualism and thirst for glory. Bare with me: quarterbacks of old, when a play would go to hell and a hand basket, would simply throw the ball away and move on. Think back to Michael Vick in his prime: if a designed play went downhill, Vick would use his freaky athleticism to make a play, usually by running upfield like a running back. And watch Derrick Rose or (especially) Russell Westbrook play: if a play breaks down, or the clock is running out and they have the ball, you can bet your bottom dollar they’ll shoot it. In fact, the play was probably designed for the point guard to score regardless. The very players who embodied distribution now lead through retention.

Perhaps the propensity to “run” and “shoot” instead of “pass” is just exciting to watch, and that’s simply it. I could watch Michael Vick and Russell Westbrook Highlights for hours! Maybe it’s our bootstrap theology/capitalistic ideology: if all starts falling down, will get us out of this, or, putting it bluntly, I’ll get myself out. Maybe St. Augustine’s describing humanity as “turned/curved in on oneself” most appropriately describes all of this. Maybe I’m being too spiritual. You might think I am, and that’s alright.

There’s pushback against the traditional point guard and quarterback–the distributor type. The old way of playing is boring at least. R.G. III and Allen Iverson’s approach to their respective sports is far more appealing than the traditional/distributor types like John Stockton and Peyton Manning. The notion of giving, giving, and more giving is just foolish.