Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can We Go Back to Real Football Again?

(WARNING! Today's "My Two Cents" features a rant from a middle-aged man about how "things were better when I was a kid")

I have a couple of theorys about the NFL.  First, I believe that if the modern rules of the game had been in place for the entire history of the league, Deion Sanders would be the only defensive player in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  "Prime Time" would be the only defensive player not because of his career interception numbers or his prowess as a punt returner.  Instead, Deion would be the only defender in Canton because he never once attempted to actually tackle someone.

Every other defensive player in the Hall of Fame would have been totally incapable of playing in today's NFL.  Think Ndamakong Suh's arm-stomp was "horrible"?  That was an average play for Dick Butkus.  Hitting a receiver trying to catch a ball is illegal because he is "defenseless?  Dick "Night Train" Lane used to clothesline guys coming across the middle--whether they had the ball or not.  Ronnie Lott wouldn't be allowed on the field nowadays--because he would either be suspended for leading with his helmet or he wouldn't be cleared by the team physician because of "concussion like symptoms".  Chuck Bednarik is famous for two things:  being the last two-way star in the league and for almost killing Frank Gifford with a huge hit--forcing a game-winning fumble.  The entire Steel Curtain, Fearsome Foursome and Purple People Eaters would be playing for free--given the number of fines they would incur for "unneccesary roughness".

I follow a number of NFL analysts, "insiders" and talking heads on Twitter--and the general consensus with all of them is that nobody knows how you are supposed to legally play defense anymore.  Touching the quarterback a split-second after he releases the ball--FLAG.  Seperating a receiver from the ball as he tries to catch it--FLAG.  Looking at a receiver as he reaches for the ball on a deep pass--FLAG.  If we had more than four talented quarterbacks in the league right now, every game would go over 100-points.

Which brings me to my second theory:  The only thing that matters to the NFL now is Fantasy Football.  It's no coincidence that the rise of the league as the be-all, end-all of the American sports landscape mirrors the rise in popularity of Fantasy Football.  And since scoring is the only things that counts in the vast majority of leagues--that is the only thing that most fans now care about.  How else to explain the NFL Redzone Channel--which features nothing but scoring plays all Sunday long--or the need to provide all of the individual stats on the "crawl" instead of the actual scores of the games?

As someone who grew up watching football in the glory days of team defense (and the running game--but that's a topic for another Two Cents) this new, all offense all the time trend in the sport bores me.  It might as well be the NBA--where last possession wins every game.

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