Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things That Need to Change in the NFL

In this latest HarpinOnUSA offering a Steelers fan reckons gridiron can learn a bit from rugby…

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As yet another season of exciting NFL action bears down on us, (and the drive for ring number seven begins anew for our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers), I thought I would take a minute and touch on a few things not to like about the NFL.

Not to reduce our fervor and love for the game, but to remind ourselves that the game is not perfect, and things can always be improved.

1. Instant Replay

The instant replay system is a joke. I hate it. I hate that coaches have to do something to ensure calls are right. The refs (and the NFL) should want the calls right. I hate that coaches can lose time outs based on a bad call by a ref.

And I find it abhorrent that Major League Baseball is adopting a similar system.

People say, “Well, the refs on the field have to make the call.” Why? Why does that particular guy have to walk over to a booth and make the call.?

Several years ago I was living in England and happened to turn on a rugby game. Although I understood not one thing about the game, I saw something that I found very insightful.

They had an official, a trained replay official, in the booth who would review every scoring play automatically. Additionally, he had control of the scoreboard, so if he thought a play was questionable, he could signal the refs on the field that he wanted to review the play.

He would review the play, and then post his determination of the outcome on the scoreboard. Apparently, they have a scoring play called a “try,” so when the home team scored, the word “TRY” appeared on the screen and the crowd went nuts.

At the speed of the NFL, and how hard it is to make calls on the field, why can we not do this? Why does the coach have to tell the refs they messed something up?

Thankfully, the NFL has made all turnovers and scoring plays automatically reviewed, but why have anything in the hands of the coaches?

The good news is that the NFL is slowly moving towards taking this responsibility out of the coaches’ hands. We should all be thankful for that.

2. Pre-season

Honestly, what is the point of this? I really don’t know. People tell me it’s to get in “football shape” and evaluate the players who are on the fringes of making the team.

Fair enough, but four games? That seems very excessive. (And to think they used to play six of these games every year!)

On top of the pointlessness of the pre-season, how many players suffer season ending injuries in the pre-season? (Our own rookie RB Le’veon Bell may be out for 6-8 weeks because of an injury sustained during a pre-season game.)

The thing about the pre-season is that it is a money grab for the owners, plain and simple. If you want to buy season tickets for a team, you are forced to buy not eight, but 10 tickets, two of which are for pre-season games, at regular season ticket prices!

The owners are making billions of dollars and the still want more..

I heard on local sports talk radio recently that the coaches need four games to pick their 53-man teams. Really? Is it that close that two games wouldn’t do it? You need what amounts to another quarter of a football season to determine who your third string linebacker is going to be?

One can only hope that in the next collective bargaining agreement, the players will succeed in getting this abomination killed off for good.

(As an aside, if we are going to have the pre-season, why do teams kick field goals in the pre-season that are shorter than thirty yards? Couldn’t your offense use that extra down to practice plays inside the opponent’s 20? Does your kicking team really need to practice chip-shot field goals? Who cares if you win or lose the game? It’s a freaking pre-season game! Practice the things you really need to practice, coaches!)

3. The Pro Bowl

What a piece of crap this game has become. It is far and away the worst “All Star Game” of the four major sports in this country.

All the boredom of the second half of a pre-season game, and all the effort of a bunch of guys not wanting to get hurt.

Let’s be clear, I totally understand why the players don’t actually play during the Pro Bowl, but that raises the question, why bother? I’m starting to think the game would actually be more entertaining if they played 7-on-7 flag football.

As the NFL has proven time and again, if there is any way they can keep the attention on them, they have done and will do it.

I say have the Pro Bowl selections and leave it at that. Don’t even bother playing the game.

4. Legislating the game

Football is a dangerous game. Men running at other men as fast as they can is not a natural act.

It’s not that I’m against protecting the players, but at some point don’t we have to tell the people making the rules, “If you want to have this game, you need to understand that the game is inherently dangerous and players could be hurt, possibly severely”?

Where is it going to end? I mean, quarterbacks are protected almost to the point that if you look at them cross-eyed, you can be flagged. (Except if their name is Ben Roethlisberger, seemingly).

I’m not crass enough to say that the only reason the game is popular is because of the brutality of it, but that has to play a part, doesn’t it? Isn’t it the same reason boxing was popular in the past and MMA is popular now?

Moreover, at the speeds at which these guys are moving, it is nearly impossible to not hurt each other on occasion.

If there is one thing we can learn from the government, it’s that having more laws rarely makes a situation better.

5. Overtime

I have to say that the way it is now is better than it was. It was a virtual certainty that if you won the coin toss, you won the game. Now, at least you have a fighting chance if you lose the toss.

But, why can they not just play another set amount of time, say eight minutes. Play eight more minutes. Whomever is in the lead at the end of that eight minutes wins. Then, go to something like what they have now. If the other team wins the coin toss, elects to receive, and puts an eight minute drive on you to win the game, you deserve to lose.

I would much rather have the entire team determine the outcome of a game than some random drop of a coin or an odd bounce of a ball.

6. Personal seat licences

I can’t begin to imagine why people pay this. And, I can’t figure out what is more horrifying: That someone thought people would fall for this, or that people actually have.

Basically, a PSL is a fee you pay that entitles you buy season tickets for your favorite team.

I’m not kidding! You have a pay to have the right to buy season tickets! This is far and away one of the most egregious, arrogant, obscene things it has ever been my sorry privilege to witness.

Talk about a money grab! Why not simply charge double for the season tickets and admit you are fleecing your fans?!

The fact that anyone would not have a problem with this is a testament to how much we love this damn game and are willing to bend over and take it up the behind to attend it.

This is my personal plea to anyone within the sound of my voice who has the power to abolish this disgusting practice, please do so immediately.

7. Bye week before the Super Bowl

Again, this is a ploy by the NFL to keep football in the public eye as long as possible and it quite possibly one of the most aggravating things about the Super Bowl.

Having to wait an extra week, while you listen to a barrage of talking heads debate everything about the upcoming big game is just so very irritating! By the time the game finally rolls around, I’ve gotten so tired of listening to people talk about it that I practically stopped watching TV just to escape the cacophony.

The only thing I can think of that is more tedious is how ESPN devotes every minute of programming from the moment the Super Bowl Ends until the middle of June to basketball. I’m a simple kid from Western PA. I don’t care about basketball and I really never did. To watch wall to wall coverage of basketball while sports like hockey and baseball are virtually ignored is just sad. It is for this reason that I do not watch or listen to ESPN for that four-month span. There’s just no point. They are not showing anything I care about.

Back on the subject of the Super Bowl bye week, Commissioner Goodell, please do us all a favor and play the damn game the Sunday after the conference championship games.

8. Joe Namath

Haven’t we had enough of this clown? He’s about 40 years past relevant, and even 40 years ago, he wasn’t that relevant.

When he’s not drunk and hitting on sideline reporters, he’s offering his “insight” on the game, a game which he has not played or coached in several decades!

Namath is famous for one thing. He guaranteed a Super Bowl win and then his team won. He really didn’t contribute anything to the win. His defense held an 18-point favorite in the Baltimore Colts to seven points. Namath was an afterthought, really, but somehow rode a 17-for-28, 205 passing yard performance to a Super Bowl MVP and a Hall of Fame induction.

Look up Namath’s stats once. Is he really deserving of the adulation heaped on him? He is the only quarterback in the Hall with more interceptions than touchdowns. He has an abysmal career completion percentage of 50.1%, and he only played in 140 games (or what, today, would be about nine seasons). By way of comparison, Tony Romo has played in 121 games, has a completion percentage of 64.7, and 177 touchdowns against 91 picks. Is Romo a Hall of Famer? Hardly, but I would take Romo over Namath in his prime.

I hate to bang on a fellow Western Pennsylvanian, but Namath used up his 15 minutes of fame getting into the Hall of Fame. He shouldn’t be there, and he certainly shouldn’t be someone we are interested in now.

To quote the hilarious Pittsburgher, Dennis Miller, “Of course, that’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”

Author : Matt Pappas

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Taken by JLP from RDS press box on Nov 16, 2019