We see a group of athletes running on the sidewalk deep in discussion, always curious about what they are saying - what the topic is on today's run. Typically it's something innocuous; what they thought of the latest movie, where a good burrito could be found, how many miles they ran last week. Inane things.
Occasionally it is something of consequence by the more erudite members of the group - how the valence of carbon affects the formation of a chemical bond, why the speed of a fluid occurs simultaneously with a decrease in static pressure (aka Bernoulli's principle), or a physics class discussion of how a cat lands feet first even if dropped from their back three feet above the ground.
Topics way over my head.
On runs one of my teammates at Iowa constantly talked about football despite his skinny frame, obsessed with somehow participating, interested in creating an indoor game in facilities the size of a basketball arena. Yeah. Right.
We joked he could build a vibrating metal plate 94'x50' with players on ice skates or use a Nerf football and gym class flags. I mean, how in the heck could they ever play tackle inside with twenty-two players in such a confined space? Get real.
But he never seemed perplexed, always tossing out a potential solution to every query, surprising us with his thoughtful and creative ideas. Maybe 7-8 players on a team - each member playing offense and defense. Definitely no punting, and some type of hocky-style padded walls for the sideline out-of-bounds. A field 25 yds x 50 yds? Maybe.
But Einstein...how about field goals?
"Every kick would go into the crowd." I smirked. "You'd need a million balls for every game. Plus, some fan would get nailed by the kicks. There would have to be an ambulance onsite." Everyone snickered.
"I don't have it completely figured out...but I do have an idea." Jim smiled. "Remember the baseball rebound nets? The ones we used in the back yard when you didn't have anyone to throw with. That's what I'm going to have all the way across each endzone...so if the kick is good you get the three points, but if you miss the ball ricochets back into play."
I'll be damned if fifteen years later, in 1987, Jim Foster got the idea going, launching the Arena Football League with the basic rules he described on our runs back in 1972. Kurt Warner of the St. Louis Rams was one of his success stories, the former Northern Iowa QB named MVP of the XXXIV Super Bowl champions in 2000 after playing for the AFL Iowa Barnstormers from 1995-97.
Like Joel Silver, the guy who invented Ultimate Frisbee or the trio of Bill Bell, Barney McCallum, & Joe Pritchard who created Pickleball, a perceived necessity might be the mother of invention. So the next time you think a group runners are talking about some hair-brained idea on a ten mile run, you might be surprised.
It could be an idea no one else has ever considered!