Didn’t Even See it Coming

Like the great Roman and Greek civilizations, the National Football League’s demise has officially begun.

America’s 365 day a year pass time took a big blow right in the gut today. After a 31-1 vote, the NFL’s passed the ‘Helmet Rule’, which penalizes a player who makes or initiates contact with the crown of his helmet outside of the tackle box. The NFL has made a big statement with this rule change in regards to the health of its current and future players.

However, the NFL made another statement that just might not be one that anyone can foresee right now: The NFL will cease to exist in 50 years.

Go ahead, call me crazy.

But before you do, think about it.

The NFL is currently at its pinnacle with regards to not only its own history, but in the context of professional sports history as a whole. In terms of advertising, television viewers and gross revenue in general, the NFL is second to none. To put it simply, the NFL has become the ultimate money-making machine.

The game is changing though. Due to the enormous amount of law suits that have been piling in from former NFL players, Roger Goodell has been forced to act. Head shots have been taking out of the game, and rightfully so. Quarterbacks are treated like royalty, and rightfully so.

The NFL is going too far though. Even though Mike Florio of NBC’s Pro Football Talk has pointed out that the new helmet rule is more limited than it is widely believed to be, this is a classic sign of the beginning of the end.

The NFL moved kickoffs up to the 35 yard line last year, which has partially removed the kick return from the game. The next logical step would be to eliminate the kickoff altogether. Well, doesn’t that sound fantastic? It won’t be long before the NFL removes what can be the most exciting play in any given game. A play that has the potential for fireworks every time it isn’t kicked out of the end zone. I’m looking at you Jacoby Jones.

Although former players will always have a biased view, not much different than the elderly man at the bus stop who yearns for the way things were back in his day, they correctly understand the game is leaning too much in the direction of safety. They know what the risks are, and they accept them. Current players make the same conscious decision. As callous as it may sound, those are the cold hard facts.

Professional football is not a bubble-wrapped world.

The NFL has been able to create this empire in large part due to the violent nature of the game. The NFL is the first world version of the Roman Gladiator’s. The greatest physical specimens are placed in a confined arena where the ultimate goal is to smash their opponent into oblivion while each armed like Iron Man light.

And we love it. Maybe it’s just me, but the rugby shoulder tackle isn’t quite as exciting.

It’s probably not the first time you have heard this, but the game is slowly but surely turning into a game of flag football. While flag football may be a lot of fun to play, I imagine it’s not as good on TV, even if it is in high def. Little does the NFL know that this gradual transition is putting the league towards its inevitable termination.

These changes do not just have ramifications on the way the game is going to be played in the future for professionals either. Every rule change affects how the game is being viewed by parents looking to put their kids into sports at a young age. From 2009-2011, the number of kids who play tackle football was down 15 percent. Although it could be viewed as a good thing that the game will be safer to kids, a lot of parents might simply be saying, why risk it? If all these rule changes are necessary for the game to be safer, what does that say to a parent who has the choice between soccer, baseball, basketball and football for their child?

There has already been a drastic decrease in youth participation in football across the United States. To believe that these rule changes will work to increase those numbers is a very utopian outlook on the situation. Despite the rule changes, the risk will always be there as long as players are armed with the equipment that they have. Most parents will understand that.

With the ever-expanding body of medical evidence outlining the damaging effects playing football can have on an individual later in life, the NFL will be forced to make the game even safer as time goes on. That, or face an enormous amount of law suits.

What’s the next?

Tackle football, with helmets and pads, is an extremely dangerous game. The way to change that involves compromising the very thing that makes the game appealing to so many fans.

The NFL is succeeding at both.

The seemingly natural evolution, or de-evolution, of the rule changes that have transpired over the past few years would be to continue down this safety road. The NFL reached its peak of violence and, not coincidentally, its peak in revenue and viewership. As the decline in violence continues, so will its decline as the league all other leagues aspire to be.

Before we know it, the game will have turned into something almost unrecognizable. Again, this won’t be an immediate transformation. It will be a snail’s pace change that will face serious opposition from a multitude of outlets.

But 50 years from now, the NFL as we currently know and love, in all its concussion-filled glory, will be no more.

Agree? Disagree? Reply in the comments section below or e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com

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Noticeable Difference?

They were ruining ‘America’s game.’ It was a travesty.

Well, the real referees were back this past week. But could you really tell the difference?

Of course you could. It was obvious. The replacement refs were so bad that anything was going to be better than the supposed disgrace that Roger Goodell allowed to happen.

Sure, the difference between the real refs and the replacements was obvious. Just like it was obvious to these people on the street that the iPhone 5 was clearly better than the iPhone 4S. Too bad those people didn’t realize that the good people from the Jimmy Kimmel Show were pulling a fast one on them and that they were, in fact, testing out the iPhone 4S, a phone which a number of them already had.

The hatred towards the replacement refs was a classic example of the public buying into media generated hype 101. From the preseason on, the media set the stage for that W-T-F moment. The stuttering on the announcement of a penalty and the inevitable bad call in the course of a game was going to be foreshadowing for their inevitable failure.

The public drank up every ounce of the hater-ade.

FoxSports analyst and former NFL VP of Officiating Mike Pereira wrote a very critical article after week 2 about the replacements yet was only able to cite relatively trivial issues.

The blown non-interception that upset more than a few cheese heads in Wisconsin was what everyone was waiting for. People said it was a disgrace to the game but it is exactly what everyone wanted, especially the media. They pounded on it like a hungry Lion waiting in the tall grass only to have a wounded gazelle stumble on by. The replacement refs were the wounded gazelle.

They never stood a chance.

The media used the replacement refs as if they were a placebo drug. The media scientists told us precisely what they were going to do to us and people put the blinders on and looked only for evidence that would fulfill that prophecy. The public’s mind became set on the replacement refs being terrible and nothing was going to get in the way of that.

This past week should have shown us all that the replacement refs were not all that bad.

For the first 3 weeks, legions of fans echoed a similar sentiment of ‘you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone.’ However, week 4 was more like getting back together with that ex-girlfriend you wanted to get back with so badly but after getting her back you wondered why you ever missed her so much in the first place.

I can bet that if we didn’t know that the referees were replacements through the first weeks, the difference fans were truly aware of would have been minimal.

The lack of excessive pushing and shoving kerfuffle’s was no doubt noticeable in week 4 but, again, this was really more of a minor issue than anything. The biggest problem critics of the replacement refs had with regards to this was that it slowed down the game. Okay then, the average time of games through the first three weeks was 3 hours and 14 minutes. The average time of games for week 4 was 3 hours and 8 minutes.

In case you weren’t able to do the math, that’s a 6 minute difference.

An absolute farce?

The replacement refs were subject to this double standard that they were ruining the integrity of the game or as some fans liked to say, “our game.” Each blown call was met with criticism of ridiculous proportions. Luckily for the refs this past week, they were subject to a reprieve on most anything because, for some reason, there was this unreasonable standard placed on the replacement refs that crucial mistakes would not be tolerated.

But were the refs ruining the integrity of the game this past week when Darren Sproles was ruled down by contact even though he clearly fumbled? When the Eagles were flagged for consecutive non-existent pass interference calls late in the game? When the Cleveland Browns received an illegitimate shot at a final second miracle against the Ravens?

Didn’t think so.

The replacement officials seemed so bad simply because everyone was so caught up in condemning and scrutinizing their every move. It isn’t that the replacement referees were just as good as the real referees, it’s that they weren’t nearly as bad as they were portrayed to be.

I guess people just forgot that the real referees make gigantic game-altering mistakes as well.

In the moment though, it is so easy to forget what happened in the past. I mean, people already seem to have forgotten Lebron James embarrassed the city of Cleveland on national television to create his super team.

Thing is, the replacement refs were never tarnishing ‘America’s game.’

You just wanted to think they were.

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Saints Bounty Scandal Overblown

Let the vilification begin. The Saints are on their way from being seen as, well, saints to scoundrels. The team that boosted the morale of the city ravaged by Hurricane Katrina aren’t so angelic after all. The halo hovering over Sean Payton are now devil horns grotesquely protruding from his head.

The severe punishment the Saints will undoubtedly receive is justified. However, the accompanying public slander is not.

Don’t get me wrong, the bounty system is despicable and I’m not talking about those cute little characters from the animated movie. In a game where violence is already front and center, adding a monetary incentive to hurt opposing human beings is downright heartless.

I am all for Roger Goodell’s stance on eliminating head shots from the game of football. The NFL may be a little sissier in this era but for the long-term health and safety of the players who don’t understand enough about the issue to help themselves, the increased sissiness is well worth it.

The New Orleans Saints have to be penalized severely for this bounty scandal. The NFL has to do it to send a message around the league as it has done with head shot artists like James Harrison. If it takes a couple of draft picks a million bucks that is fine by me.

What I won’t stand for though is the defamation of the Saints. Similarly to the UCLA incident earlier this week, the Saints are going to be seen in a light that they don’t deserve. It isn’t right that UCLA basketball players were doing ecstasy at raves or that star players were receiving excessive preferential treatment. The problem with the Sports Illustrated story was that it made out UCLA to be the only team in the country to have those issues.

That shouldn’t happen for the New Orleans Saints either.

The sad fact of the matter is that the bounty program is an old practice in the NFL. Gregg Williams didn’t invent it in 2009. Heck, the Washington Post reported that the Washington Redskins had a bounty program under Gregg Williams as well. The famous bounty bowl games in 1989 where Buddy Ryan had bounties placed on quarterback Tory Aikman and kicker Luis Zendejas are the most famous instances of this practice.

It’s an age-old system that certainly still takes place across the NFL. The Saints just happened to be the team that got caught.

Brett Favre’s comments on the subject speak volumes considering he was one of the biggest targets of the Saints bounty scandal. Saints linebacker Jonathan Vilma offered up $10,000 to knock him out of the NFC Championship game in 2009. Favre took some brutal shots that very much bordered on the illegal variety that game. Nevertheless, Favre was not upset, noting that that bounties are simply a part of the game. The ageless wonder stated that “said or unsaid, guys do it anyway.” “I’m not pissed. It’s football.”

Like steroids, because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it right but vilifying the Saints alone isn’t warranted. I’m no NFL insider but this is surely a practice that is understood by players around the league as not being uncommon and possibly the norm. Listen to what Brett Favre is saying. He wasn’t the least bit surprised.

Everyone seems to be placing this scandal on a different level than Spygate. The title of John Clayton’s article on ESPN is “Saints bounty story worse than Spygate.” I don’t see it that way. To the best of my knowledge, the filming of opposing team’s walkthroughs is not one of those unsaid things that teams around the league do. I’m thinking Brett Favre would be more than a little bit pissed if he had been told that the Saints had been videotaping his team’s signals.

Who knows, Spygate might have been the reason behind a Super Bowl victory or two for the New England Patriots. Other Super Bowl champion teams aren’t doing that kind of thing. If we are strictly talking about integrity of the game, this bounty scandal can in no way be worse than Spygate.

A tarnished legacy for doing what other teams are doing and have been doing for years isn’t fair. Do we really know that the Minnesota Vikings didn’t have a bounty program as well in 2009? Sure, it’s naive to believe no one other than the New England Patriots have at least attempted to cheat the game using comparable methods but nothing has come out since 2008. The Washington Redskins have already been outed for their bounty program of the past. How much more is out there?

Hopefully Roger Goodell sends a message loud enough so that these bounty programs can finally be put to a halt. Player safety is the number one priority. Give the Saints the chair so to speak.

Just don’t let it ruin the their reputation.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will happily return the favour.

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Are the NFL’s New Replay Rules Necessary?

The NFL is introducing new replay rules for the 2011-12 season

Football is not meant to be perfect. No sport is. Sports are meant for entertainment. They are meant for our enjoyment.

The game of football was just fine before challenges were brought in. Occasional mistakes were made by referees but we’re all human.

Challenges were introduced, which made the game even better. It gave teams the opportunities to dispute calls that they disagreed with. If they were wrong they lost their challenge and a timeout. They were penalized so the game wasn’t slowed down with an excessive amount of stoppages for mildly controversial plays.

Apparently, the NFL wants the game to be perfect. New replay rules are being put in place for the new season to ensure that no mistakes are made. Apparently, the NFL doesn’t want the game to be fan-friendly. Apparently, the game isn’t about the fans.

A replay official will now automatically review any score. If there is any question whatsoever to the ruling on the field, the play will be reviewed by the referee in the same manner that a challenge is.

I can’t tell you how highly unnecessary this decision from the NFL is. The challenge system was fine that way it was. The coach could used his challenges how he pleased and if he ran out of them, tough luck. There was a reward for being able to use challenges properly.

The NFL is taking strategy away from the game while also adding on needless time to an already lengthy game.

The fans don’t want that. “Getting the call right” shouldn’t be at all costs necessary. The fluidity of the game can only be compromised to a certain extent.

Perfection isn’t what fans need from the game of football. Every aspect of the game doesn’t need to be controlled by the higher office.

The intent of the new replay rule is so coaches can increase their chances of not running out of challenges or timeouts.

The whole beauty of the previous challenge system is now gone. It made challenging calls challenging. It added a certain special something to the game. The system wasn’t made and shouldn’t be for the Homer Simpsons of the world.

It seems like the NFL wants to get rid of controversy entirely. Scoring plays are no doubt the most important but an attempt at eliminating controversy from the game all together is a hopeless endeavour. It’s like asking Homer Simpson to think logically.

In the end I’m probably griping about 5 to 10 minutes a game of extra garbage time but it’s the principle of the matter. This sounds like the slippery slope that Major League Baseball has been worried about.

The speed of the game isn’t a problem for the NFL like it is for the MLB. However, that doesn’t suggest that the fans shouldn’t be considered in the decision-making process. It looks as though the fans were an afterthought in this case.

The NFL has already gotten to the point where they are needlessly reviewing plays. It’s not far-fetched to believe that it could go further than this. The new rules could be taking the game one step closer to a video replay dictatorship of Hitler proportions.

That might be extreme thinking but I don’t want my point to get lost. The NFL shouldn’t be using constant advancements in technology to mess with the game too much. If keeping the game of football the way it is means a rare controversy caused by a human mistake then so be it.

Perfection was never in the description.

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What a Shame

What goes around comes around. Stupidity is what got Roger Clemens into this mess and, for now; stupidity has gotten him out of the mess.

Roger Clemens didn’t have to testify in front of Congress. His Roger Goodell sized ego and James Harrison like stupidity told him to lie in front of congress. Sorry, allegedly lie.

Steroids in baseball aren’t a big issue in the grand scheme of the world. Aids, murders, poverty should probably be put ahead of cheating in a game. However, lying under oath isn’t something to be taken lightly.

It’s a shame that two guys could get off scot-free for perjuring.

Regular readers of mine know that I hate steroids with a passion. The fact that everyone was doing it is no excuse. What if everyone was jumping off a cliff? That’s what Mom teaches you when you’re 10. I hated to see Barry Bonds get off without even a slap on the wrist.

This is not about steroids though.

Related: Musings on the 2011 Hall of Fame Class

Baseball is a game. However, when the government gets involved the game becomes life. The consequences of your actions are no longer within the game. Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens supposedly understood what was happening and proceeded accordingly.

Bonds’ trial has been called a waste of the taxpayer’s money by many. The Roger Clemens trial is facing the same criticism on top of the potential for a second trial costing more money. Nevertheless, just because the issue involved is about a game doesn’t mean that the law shouldn’t be enforced. There are bigger issues in the world but perjuring under these circumstances is hardly different from lying under oath at a murder trial.

It’s a sham that Roger Clemens could get off scot-free because of an inexcusable mishap. Maybe the prosecution misremembered that the evidence they presented was deemed inadmissible?

Clemens’ situation is far different from Bonds’. He wasn’t subject to an investigation. Clemens wanted to throw the middle finger to the world by testifying. He wanted prove to the haters that he wasn’t on steroids. He thought he could make a mockery out of the system to repair his image. He flat out lied to a panel of Congressmen and got caught in a web of misremembers.

He ought to be punished for it.

At this point it isn’t personal. Roger Clemens disgusts me but that isn’t why he should be punished or why the prosecution should continue pushing for a re-trial. The law is the law. Perjury is a felony.

He didn’t simply lie to the media about steroids like so many have. Lying publicly about the issue is child’s play. Roger Clemens’ mind was on the school grounds playing cops and robbers. He didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into.

Marion Jones was sent to prison after insurmountable evidence finally forced her admission of guilt. She lied to a federal grand jury and spent 6 months in prison for it.

That didn’t happen to Barry Bonds.

It will be a shame if Roger Clemens also finds his way off the hook.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. Also, follow me on twitter @paintstheblack and I will gladly return the favour.

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