Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Packer Sweep

Ok, rant time.

This whole "player safety" issue has gone overboard. The league has announced that it will be sending teams a video of what does and does not constitute a legal hit, along with some corporate message that they want coaches to read out. And it's starting to get ridiculous.

The main points of contention are the hits laid on Mohamed Massaquoi and Josh Cribbs by Steelers LB James Harrison, plus the hit laid by Dunta Robinson on DeSean Jackson. Personally, I don't see it. I don't get it. I've seen the hits and I don't get what all the fuss is about. Maybe on the Robinson hit you could argue "shoulder to the head of a defenseless receiver", but It's questionable how defenseless Jackson is and it's a stupid rule anyway. What are you supposed to do about a "defenseless" receiver who might be about to score a TD or get a first down? You decide, "I'll hit him low, in the chest". Then the guy ducks. Now it's helmet to helmet again.

And now the league is making a big thing out of helmet contact? Well how about you stop offensive players from ducking then? I don't know about you, but I don't think my reactions would be quick enough to avoid hitting a player who ducks at the last minute in the head. And I said helmet contact and not "helmet to helmet" contact because there have been a number of questionable calls -- including one this week in the Chargers/Rams game -- where a pass rusher has incidentally stroked a QB on the head with his forearm and drawn a 15 yard flag.

For me, it's getting close to the "quit point"; that is, the moment in time when you decide it's not worth the hassle of watching. You know you'll only get frustrated and worked up about something that doesn't really matter. So you just tune out. For me the "quit point" in soccer came last year after the world cup. I was sick of watching the England teams millionaire "superstars" (really need to lay off the quotation marks) bottoming out to teams made up of part-time players. The annoyance and frustration was superseding any semblance of fun and ultimately that is why we watch sports.

Someone should really tell Roger Goodell that. I think he believes that if he can just remove all the hitting from the game and any notion of defensive play, then people will come flocking in to watch. I think instead Mr. Goodell should try reading the comments section of a few posts on some of the various news outlets. What he would find is an army of die hard football fans who are approaching their own "quit point".

Football is football. It's a violent game. That's the reality. Boxing is violent to. It's also another big sport. Except in boxing they've already thought about safety. They make amateur boxers wear helmets and the bouts are scored based on clean hits with the glove on the head. If you're a boxing fan it can be ok to watch, to see whose is coming up through the ranks. But nobody is going to pay Pay Per View money for an amateur bout.

It's not the skill factor that's the problem. If anything, amateur boxers tend to be very highly skillful. It has more to do with the same reason people pay more money to watch heavyweights than they do flyweights. It's because they want to watch two grown men punching the living daylights out of each other. That's a fact.

That's also a big reason why people watch football. Now I know there will be coaches reading this who will be jumping out of their chairs to bemoan the fact that they watch football for the tactics and the strategy etc. That's certainly true. But a big reason for that is because you, me and many other people understand a little deeper about the inner workings of a football team and how strategy and tactics operate in relation to football. The average fan whose never been exposed to this has a slightly less well developed understanding, but can still appreciate it.

But let's be real. People watch football because at heart, it is a violent, crunching sport. They -- as do I -- enjoy the collisions. We enjoy watching a good defensive hit as much a beautifully spiralled pass into the end zone. It's one of the key factors in the enjoyment of the game. If you take it out, it ceases to be football. You can market it as some other sport, but it's not football and never will be, no matter how hard you try to call it that.

And as for the players and players safety? Find a different sport.

The main argument I have against the "player safety" crowd (which currently appears to consist of Commissioner Roger Goodell, and Mike Florio from is simply that nobody is forcing the players to play. They won't get paid the millions if they leave, but then that's tough. The reality is that NFL players are like strippers (possibly the kind that you would find in a back street of Bangkok).

Like strippers, Players get paid only so long as they continue to do the things that people are willing to pay money to watch. If a stripper came onto the stage one day and announced that she refused to remove her clothes because she felt it was demeaning and degrading to women and that she was making a stand for the equal rights of the feminine half of the human race, that's fine...... but she would be booed of the stage, penniless.

Ergo, if NFL players wish to earn millions of dollars then they must dance to the sound of the public purse strings. If the public wants hits to the head, then they must have hits to the head. If they want to see a reasonably violent sport where players get injured and beaten up on a routine basis, then so be it. Anyone who doesn't want to play, merely has to step down and go and play somewhere else. If Goodell wants to turn football into a non-contact sport then that's fine, but just don't expect the millions of the past to tune in and pay to watch.

The players union and the league are currently locked in a CBA battle over hard dollars. At this rate, the next CBA will be over who gets the leagues sole dime and the remaining contents of the coffee machine.


Now for something completely different. This will probably appeal more to football coaches and those who take an interest in the deeper workings of football, but basically I stumbled across a video on YouTube of Vince Lombardi doing a bit of coaching. Nothing major. So I contacted the YouTube user who posted the video and with much persuasion managed to convince him to dig out his old VHS tapes and have a go at posting some of the other material. What he came up with is a true historical gem. Vince Lombardi, one of the greatest coaches in the history of professional football, coaching the famous "Packer Sweep". With thanks to LuckyLaRue17, enjoy.

Have a great day everyone.

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