Tuesday, September 25, 2012

It's just a game ... a crumbling game

I know I'm not the most rational football fan. Unlike some people, it takes me time to recover from a bad loss or a call I perceive as a travesty. I am fully aware of this and am trying harder to put it in perspective. Part of my problem, if you can call it that, is that I see too much of what's wrong in American politics and business in the NFL these days.

That's why I'm bristling at those who suggest that "it's just a game" or that Roger Goodell won't change anything because "fans are still watching and going to the games." Both sentiments are correct, to a degree. But on another level, both are wrong.

I get that it's just a game. But it should still be the best game it can be. It isn't, and it's deliberately so because the league wants to cheat officials of their pension plans — a small fraction of the overall labor agreement that can be attributed to greed. I've heard talk that this could technically count as consumer fraud. In spirit at least, it absolutely is.

As for the bottom-line argument, this is also hard to argue. At least as far as this season is concerned, since ticket holders have mostly already put their cash down. But as Goodell himself has shown us with his Saints actions, future fallout can be a bitch. And unlike with Bountyhate, there's no reasonable doubt as to the catalyst in this case.

The game sucks and it sucks because the moneybags at the top don't care that it sucks. 

In the late '90s, I conceived a story about a football team in a low-budget league run by a greedy old man whose philosophy was, "I like winning. But I don't care if we win as long as we get asses in the seats. These morons will be dazzled just to be at a game of some sort. What the hell else is there to do here? Get talent if you can afford it, but don't try too hard." 

Should've written my crappy, derivative story before it became crappy, derivative nonfiction.


Nick Istre said...

When I started playing hockey in high school, one of the reasons I got away from watching football was the way football players tackled by, basically, leading with their head made be wince. I was never specifically taught this in hockey, but when playing hockey, it became pretty obvious why you don't lead with your head in a body check; you're just as likely to break your own neck doing so. And not only in the collision itself, if you miss, you're likely to have the unforgiving boards to cushion your momentum. My first guess is it's the helmet designs; hockey helmets do nothing to lessen pressure on the neck if a collision is initiated with the crown of the head (Which is why, if I'm in a situation where I'm going to be hit in the head and there's nothing I can do to stop it (I.E., tripped up and heading into the boards head-first), I'll lead with my face, not put my head down. Yeah, the pain and injury is going to suck, but it's better than a broken neck). I've never worn or studied football helmets; it seems they might defer some force to the shoulder-pads in such a hit, but do they really?

I mentioned this because it seems I'm seeing more helmet-to-helmet hits being pointed out at the NFL this year. If players are resorting to such hits because they're getting away with it more often thanks to the referees, than we are going to see more injuries. This will result in more top talent dropping out due to injuries and less new talent coming in because, really, they may not feel like the NFL is worth it even with the salary. And frankly, such a change will do nothing to bring me back to watching the NFL anyways.

Anyways, I have to support the referees in this. Especially, as you infer, what's going on the NFL is pretty much an allegory for what I'm seeing is wrong with American politics and business too.

Ian McGibboney said...

One of the first things anyone learns playing football is the correct way to lead with your head. Which is: always look at what you're hitting. With your head down like a spear or bent down, a hard hit can paralyze you, because your spine won't absorb a blow as well in that position. But with your head looking up and a helmet on, you can actually deliver a painless and relatively harmless hit. Coaches give lots of reps with the express purpose of making that a habit. (Paralyzed Detroit Lion Mike Utley said that on his last play, he lowered his head as a reflex.)

Football gear absorbs a lot of blows, and gets more advanced with time. Still, the head is always the most perilous appendage. Helmet-to-helmet hits should be illegal, and that's one of the few Goodell-era changes with which I agree. And you're right, Nick, that we're seeing a lot more infractions. It's basic football nature to flout the rules as much as the refs will let you. (Have you ever heard about the things that go on in pileups?) It's wide-open season for that now, which goes against Goodell's stated safety crusade (though not against his unspoken greed crusade).

I'm pissed at the league, not by the refs themselves. I kind of feel bad for them. They'll make mistakes. But I don't think the league should be so blasé about fan and player concerns, or so casual about the bad decisions being made.

Nick Istre said...

And being pissed off at the league, owners, and executives is the right attitude. Getting pissed off at the refs is like getting pissed off at illegals taking jobs on farms and in construction...

Nick Istre said...

Just thought of something else:

This debacle is a pretty good metaphor on what happens when you dial back on enforcement of rules and regulations; like cutting back on inspectors, auditors, fire marshals, etc. The rules won't matter without consistent enforcement of them.