What happened to our beloved game of Football we knew growing up as kids? The game that called for the survival of the fittest, where the rough and tough not only roamed, but dominated, physically. The game that called for the mano y mano showdown in practice. Tackling drills were spectacles for players, coaches, fans, and parents alike. Lineman battled to see who could drive the other back the furthest until coaches blew the whistle. A game where going “head-up” or “head-on” was not a penalty but the norm. Even for youth Football “shoulder pops” are ancient history. Today’s professional teams hardly practice, doubledays have been cut, and hitting drills are a no-show. The once gridiron classic has been diluted. We now witness a watered down version of the game we grew up watching, as many fans loved the game for its heavy hitting defensive stars and ground and pound rugged offensive strategies.
The game we knew encouraged defensive lineman to trample opposing Quarterbacks and running backs in the backfield. Today’s game, for defensive players and fans, unfortunately resembles summer camp 7 on 7 drills, where there is no contact at all. In fact lineman are not even involved in such tournaments. Therefore, Flag Football has hit mainstream, lineman in today’s game would be better off shadowing opposing hogs as opposed to making any attempt to touch the preserved, precious quarterbacks. I mean defensive players may still pursue sacking the quarterback, but they must remember not to hit him in the head, neck, shoulder, chest, ribs or knees. Good luck with that shoe-lace quarterback sack, just make sure he land softly and does not get dirty.
Fortunately for the NFL league front office and individual team owners, quarterbacks are the protected faces of their franchise, bubble boys, with the referees acting as their guardian angels on the field. Penalty flags fly as if they are the new ensign of the league. The precedence set by the league has even caused many, if not all teams in the league to adopt a pass first, second, and third style of offense. Adopted from the high scoring popular collegiate style of play, RIP smash mouth football, you will be missed. Slowly but surely this offensive juggernaut has been implemented into the league for one simple reason, points.
Running the ball, smash mouth defense, and playing for field position eat up too much game clock and minimize opportunities to light up scoreboards and intrigue your non blue collar casual fan. Just as in the NBA, 3 jump shots are launched in record numbers, so now are 40 and 50 yard bombs to speedy wide receivers, while the bigger sure handed receivers can now roam the middle of the field without worry of being demolished by incoming safeties and linebackers. Receivers are protected down the field and the quarterbacks also behind the line of scrimmage, and not just by his offensive lineman, but by the league. With the concussion lawsuits by former players haunting the league office, the NFL, instead of admitting to medical malpractice, have turned football into a safe zone for offensive stars. Which in turn allows higher scoring games, increased stat lines for fantasy gurus, and of course more of that mean green that comes in from fans, advertisers, and networks across the globe.
Points equals money. Economics are turning this wheel and it does not take a Harvard degree to figure this out. The money pouring in has influenced the league more than the settlement they paid to former players suffering from injuries and illnesses due to team doctors lying about their symptoms and severity of certain injuries, numbing the pain for temporary gain. When Baseball fans demanded more runs, the MLB looked the other way while its players took performance enhancing drugs and Steroids. Why? “Because chicks dig the long ball,” remember? The game supplied what the consumer demanded. For the case of the NFL and its league front office, this is a different push, a smarter one, a “safer” one. Now “precautions” are taken when handling injuries, often times influencing outcomes in games. Are their outside investors? Is Vegas playing a role with its lucrative casino sportsbooks? Money talks, or so I’ve heard. Penalty flags from awful calls are extending drives, and eventually putting teams in scoring position to light up the scoreboard even more so. Is this outside influence known to the games insiders? Points are given and taken away by league officials which lead spectators to question only after the game slightly surpasses or falls just short of point spreads. Hey, I just call it like I see it, unlike today’s referees. The NFL enjoys the influx of more people spending more money at games, the house and “insiders” reap the rewards of the money spent on games of which only few know the truth of the so-called injury reports and real outcomes. All in the name of Player Safety. It is a monopoly my friends, a non stop money making machine that you and I will continue to feed. Why? Because today’s world fiends for entertainment, and even with a watered down version of “America’s Game,” we will continue to consume the product and they will gladly supply it.
The mean green dominates today’s game, so RIP Gridiron Classic, thanks for the memories.