It's been a long time my fine S&BP brethren, the lockout and other things have kept me from writing on here and I apologize. But I've been holding this in for a long time and I have to let off some steam. I respect Roger Goodell for cleaning up the league and heavily reducing the illegal conduct of the players.
Let's face facts here, the NFL is becoming incredibly soft. As I type this, Mike Golic is going off on how the NFL's becoming so soft. His view point and my own are very similar. I hate these long intros, so let's just delve right in to then nitty gritty after the jump.
A couple days ago, I was watching my Raiders Super Bowl DVD. I loved watching the year in review movie for each Super Bowl season. And in watching that DVD, I found two things.
- Reggie Kinlaw is a horribly underrated Raiders player.
- The league is boringly soft now.
The league used to be full of the biggest, baddest, and toughest guys in the world. They were gargantuan monsters who wanted to beat the snot out of the guy across from them. These players were what built the stereotypical football player that the kids see in their goofy cartoons. Larger than life, growling and snarling with evil in their eyes, and just itching to crush someone.
I'd hate to see what football episodes of cartoons would be like if they were based on today's NFL. Instead of the cartoon character who's over his head playing football getting flattened by two guys. He'd just get pulled down to the ground. The football characters looking much smaller, with less hatred, less nastiness, less appealing.
Okay, so maybe that analogy wasn't crystal clear. So here's a stark reality for everyone. You ready?
My high school's football team plays tougher and harder football than the NFL players. Now you'll say that's horribly wrong. That only the best players and best hitters go to the NFL. No duh. Of course Ray Lewis, or even guys as low as Ricky Brown will hit harder than a high school kid.
I'm talking for their age and their level of play comparatively, my high school team is playing harder and tougher football.
NFL Rule: Can't put all your weight on a QB.
Someone should have told that to our team's defense. Can't tell you how many times we'd have two or three guys jump right on top of the QB trying to crush him.
NFL Rule: Can't lead with your helmet to tackle.
Someone should have told our arch rival that. We always beat the crap out of them, but not without getting speared by a helmet into the ribs countless times.
NFL Rule: No head to head collisions.
Trust me on this one. In a single-A high school stadium, you'll hear so many helmets cracking together you'd think there was a guy sitting beside you popping his own popcorn.
NFL Rule: No launching (leaving your feet) into a tackle.
I won't even go into how stupid I think this rule is, I'm just glad that's not in the high school rule book or else no team would be able to field enough players due to suspensions from repeated violations of this rule.
So why in the world is this? The NFL is full of investments and highly paid players and teams don't want to blow all their money on a concussion case? That's risk of playing the owner's game. High school is full of young men and women, kids compared to NFL players. Their bodies not as strong, not as battle-tested, not as developed.
And when those young men take the field, they're at more risk of injury, and their lives hardly begun. An NFL player is probably already set for life. Yet these kids are out there playing harder and more physical for their level of football. Why? Because somewhere along the way it seems that the NFL forgot what the F stands for. What football stands for.
Football is one of the truest sports metaphors for life. Any Given Sunday is only challenged by Rocky in my mind as the best sports movie that is actually about life. The only reason Rocky doesn't win it for me is because Al Pacino gives one hell of a great speech.
Football isn't just a game for these guys, it's life. But yet football in the NFL got misconstrued. A league that favors QB's to the point it's sickening and will do whatever it can to the defense to get Arena League scoring numbers without the gimmicks. All the while caring more about their precious investments and avoiding lawsuits about injured retired players, than the spirit and heart of the game.
Any Given Sunday was made around 2000, just 11 years ago. The football of that era that they're portraying, just 11 years ago, was far more physical and soulful than what we have now. It's sad honestly. The tackles on TV are nothing compared to what it used to be. Even the interactions between the WR and DB's in coverage are nothing more than a game of patty cake. What happened to real in-your-face press coverage?
Now the only rule I honestly am in agreement with towards safety is helmet-to-helmet collisions. It's unnecessary, incredibly dangerous, and shouldn't be in any level of football. I mean you never want people to go from a star 28-year old having the time of his life, to 50 year old with major brain damage and dementia.
However, the league shouldn't take away from the physical nature that makes football great to keep that from happening. The only safety measure that should be needed, is when that player signs his contract. When he decides to play pro, or play college, play high school, or even play pee-wee.
The decision on whether or not to play football and accept the risks that come with the raw physical battle that is football is made when you take that first look at the label on the back of your helmet.
WARNING: THIS HELMET DOES NOT GUARANTEE PROTECTION AGAINST CONCUSSIONS, HEAD TRAUMAS, PARALYSIS, OR DEATH.
Players know the risks. They always have. From the days of leather helmets, to the one bar, to the ugly revolution facemasks and futuristic helmets. From Jim Brown, to Johnny Unitas, to Joe Namath, to Roger Staubach, to Jack Lambert, to Howie Long, to Warren Moon, to Ray Lewis, to Adrian Peterson, to Cam Newton; they know the risks.
But they still want to play football. They've come this far watching the big mean physical games of the past, to playing the more casual blue collar high school game, to reaching college and having to reel back and playing soft and having to make a living doing so in the pros? Something just isn't adding up.
Just how long will it be before two hand touch becomes the norm? At this rate it'll be that way for QB's in only about 5 or 10 years. You already can't get up to hit a QB if you've been knocked down (the Brady rule), or put all your weight on them, or hit them below the waist. Gene Upshaw and Jack Tatum must be rolling in their graves.
I hope the day never comes. It may seem ridiculous and impossible to all of you out there. But let me ask this, did you think back in 1980 that things would be how they are now? Even as early as 2000 would you have thought that? Maybe my future son will be on here asking future S&BP members if they thought the now two-hand touch football league would have come to this back in 2010 or 2011. I sure hope not.