Sunday, August 20, 2006

Football and Time

The trouble with pre-writing blog posts is to find topics reasonably recent which events are not likely to change while you're away, thus giving the appearance that you are there, writing, but just don't give a crap about current events.


Anyway, I found this item, and thought it was a good jumping off point to get into a discussion of something that's bothered me for a long time:
Is the NFL preseason too long?

"Four games is ridiculous, man," Portis said. "How much wear and tear can you get? Maybe they need to let us start smoking cigarettes or something in the locker room again, like they did back in the day. And play with no mouthpiece, play with the pads and the helmets that they did back then, then maybe you'll need to go through all this training."

NFL teams have played four preseason games -- not counting special events like the overseas American Bowls and the Hall of Fame game -- since 1978, when two exhibitions were dropped and the regular season expanded from 14 to 16. The long preseason was a necessary routine for decades, because players would spend their offseasons working other jobs to supplement their football incomes.

"There was no limit on when you came to training camp in those days," said Buffalo general manager Marv Levy, who was an assistant to Redskins coach George Allen in the 1970s. "When you worked for George Allen, you came June 1. George wanted to win every game, including the exhibitions. I remember standing on the sidelines next to Jack Pardee during the sixth game one year. He said, 'You know I'm 35 years old, and I've played every minute on defense in all six games."'

Now, football is a year-round occupation that pays handsomely. Players arrive for conditioning workouts as early as February.

Drop the "pre" off that, Sparky. It's the damn season that's too damned long!

I used to play football. I was pretty good. I could throw a ball about 60-65 yards without too much arm strain, tight spiral, and drop it into a receiver's hands. Or I could catch just about anything thrown to me. I was never recruited for college, but that was because I went to one of those brainy schools and couldn't be bothered suiting up for my high school team and getting hammered in 55-3 losses just to show that I could pick my way on a broken field run to set up a field goal.

I played football from late October, when it got too cold to hit a ball with a bat, until early January, when it finally just got too damned cold, and we'd start playing basketball and hockey.

Once I put down the pigskin, that was it until the following August when, maybe at the beach, because we couldn't throw around a hardball, we'd bring the football and toss it.

I think of all the sports that money has ruined, it's ruined football the worst: players see precious little of the billion dollar contracts, which instead line the pockets of the owners (next time someone gives you grief over a player's salary, ask them if they'd prefer George Steinbrenner playing third base).

The owners effectively broke the player's union and effectively broke the game. Owners now demand more and pay substantially less to get it than any other sport.

And why? Because for some bizarre reason, American men think the best way to spend a beautiful crisp clear Sunday afternoon is sitting inside, drinking beer and munching chips while watching guys who's body type is better suited to the Michelin Man than to Modern Man, grunt and groan for twenty minutes out of every three and a half hours.

Opening kickoff on a Sunday afternoon is 1 PM ET. The last whistle is 12 midnight Monday night. In between, you are promised to see at least four games (one on each network on Sunday afternoon, the Sunday night game, and th eMonday night game.)

That's a LOT of beer! Meanwhile, the weather is colling off, from the high 80s in the first weekend (September 10, if memory serves) to the low 30s in the final regular season (late December).

Just in time to start shoveling snow, and you've been sitting on your fat ass, rather than desperately squeezing a few more afternoons of tennis or even *shudder* golf (and that may be the first and only time I ever have a kind word about golf!), or even just taking a walk and pondering the world around you, destressing for the final time before your 9 to 5.

Football used to be an exciting expression of team spirit: as a unit, you move down the field to your ultimate objective. Now, you're lucky if it's three and out, so many penalties get called. The "West Coast offense"? We used to call it "schoolyard" and we were better at it, when we'd get on one knee and draw lines in the dust on the asphalt.

George Carlin on Baseball and Football:
Baseball is a 19th century pastoral game.
Football is a 20th century new world order paramilitary power struggle.

Baseball is played in a park...the baseball park.
Football is played in a stadium, sometimes called Soldier Field or War Memorial Stadium.

The baseball field is...a diamond.
The football field is a gridiron.

Baseball begins in the spring, the season of new life.
Football begins in the fall, when everything is dying.

In football, you wear a helmet.
In baseball, you wear a cap!

Football is concerned with downs. What down is it? Oh, it's the last down.
Baseball is concerned with ups. Who's up? Are you up? He's up! I'm up!!

In football, you get a penalty.
In baseball, you make an error...oops!

In football, the specialist comes on to kick something.
In baseball, the specialist comes in to relieve somebody.

Football has tackling, clipping, spearing, piling on, personal fouls, late hitting, sacking, and unnecessary roughness.
Baseball has . . . the sacrifice.

Football is played in any kind of weather--rain, snow, sleet, hail, fog, major catastrophe, can't see, don't know if there's a game going on, mud on the field, can't read the uniforms, can't read the yard markers--doesn't matter, the struggle will continue.
In baseball, if it rains, we don't go out to play. I can't go out, it's raining out!!

Baseball has the s e v e n t h i n n i n g s t r e t c h .
Football has the twominutewarning.

And, of course, the objectives of the games are also completely different.

In football, the object is for the quarterback, sometimes called the field general, to be on target with his aerial assault, riddling the defense by hitting his receivers with deadly accuracy in spite of the blitz, even if he has to use the shotgun. With short bullet passes and long bombs, he marches into enemy territory, balancing this aerial assault with a sustained ground attack which may consist of power plays designed to punch holes in the forward wall of the enemy's defensive line.
In baseball, the object is to get home . . . safe.