Saturday, February 2, 2013

About Obama's Pro Football Comments...

Tim Tebow dumped on his ass by a Lions' defender in October, 2011. Football is a rough game and too many weakening changes (on defense) will transform it into something else - and not what most fans came to watch.

Much of the football world last week was hyper-cautious about President Obama's opinions of the sport when he opined that: "I would have to seriously consider letting any sons play football."

Well, now that is HIS opinion, and he is entitled to it! I am not going to portray him as a "communist" or "sissy" or "Pansie" (sic, sp.) as some nutwhack bloggers have done who never played a down of football in their lives....but know how to flap their gums if it's anything about Obama. (And, btw, this is the thanks he gets for ensuring they can collect their VA or S.S. disability benefits!)

Picking up on the Prez' theme, Baltimore safety Bernard Pollard noted in New Orleans (Media Day) that he could "foresee the end of the game within thirty years".. By that he didn't mean the absolute end but - if things keep going as they are now - the end of a violent game which features hard defensive hits, such as the one Pollard made on Pats RB Steven Ridley (and got fined for in the AFC Playoff game).  Already, the defenses of assorted teams have been neutered with assorted new rules since the 90s that have sought to emphasize high octane passing offenses at the expense of defense. Thus, we've seen rules such as you can't whack a guy off his route beyond 5 yards (Deacon Jones and Ray Nitschke would have laughed at that one) nor can you hit a QB in a certain way ("roughing the QB") or make too much contact down the field fighting for the football ("pass interference"). The effect has been to turn the game into an almost entirely passing exercise for guys like Peyton Manning, Tom Brady and Drew Brees.

Add to that now the new impetus to control "head hits" - i.e. leading with the helmet- and you can make the case that Pollard may not be very far off in his forecasts. (I kidded to wifey, a rabid Ravens' fan two days ago, he probably meant we will have tag football instead of tackle in 30 years.)  Now, according to a CBS News spot last night, the Commissioner (Roger Goodell) plans to have the zebras look for any sign of head hits in tomorrow's game. NO using the helmet to stop a guy no matter how high powered or large, or long legged. So wait? No helmet to Colin Kaepernick's solar plexus? That's the best way to stop a guy!

But no, the Commish, according to a CBS TV host, insists all the tackles be made "using the shoulders". I suppose that Ray Lewis heard the warning, as well as Terrell Suggs, and of course, the Niners' Patrick Willis and Justin Smith! In any case it will be quite interesting to watch and see what transpires and how many flags get tossed. Oh, also how many fines are assessed on Monday!

Look, I sympathize with Obama but football is a rough sport, probably best compared to the game of rugby or 'ruggers' from which much of its structure, plays were copied. (Though in rugby there are no forward passes). Also, contrary to myth, football can be violent even in its tag or flag variation. When I attended Monsignor Pace High (1962-64) there was no varsity or other tackle football team yet - but we did have intramural tag teams. I played inside LB for "the USC Trojans" - the name of one such intramural team - and my job was to sack the quarterback. I loved it. And be aware that on every down that meant crashing through blocks of the O-line using arms, elbows. That meant you sported bruises after each game, though maybe not concussions.

Yes, people like Obama are now fretting, especially after the news of five Pop Warner players suffering concussions in one pee wee game, and missing so many players that the opposing team romped 55-0. In that case, I can certainly see grounds for some caution, because we can't have a whole slew of 10-13 years olds turned into brain -damaged zombies before they reach the age of 18. But in the case of the NFL, it's a different kettle of fish, because these guys know what they're being paid millions each year for.  Yes, it's sad Dave Duerson and Junior Seau committed suicide, but they knew what the game was all about and what was expected of them.

Alas, those deaths, as well as others - and numerous lawsuits- now threaten to see the league wussify and dilute the game so much that it may well become boring within five years or less, paving the way for Pollard's prediction. This is sad, because it means the only way many of us will enjoy those tough hits anymore will be via the old NFL video releases such as "NFL's Greatest Hits".

It may then be the best thing Ray Lewis is retiring this year. There seems to be no more room in the league for dedicated, heavy hitters whose only objective is to prevent the opponent's QB, RB or WR from gaining a yard.

As for Obama, he's lucky he has no sons, so he isn't faced with the decision to allow them to play or not. For the rest of us, we hope the game will at least continue with some semblance of allowing rough tackles, and at least some use of helmets. After all, would YOU want to try to take down Frank Gore using your shoulders?

No comments: