Sunday, December 21, 2014

Thinking Outside the Gridiron

This won't happen any time soon but as an example of a non-intuitive approach to problem solving I have a theory that the way to make pro football more safe is to double the schedule and have teams play at least twice a week. Maybe even three times a week. Instead of 16 games, the schedule would be 48 games long in the same time period from Sept to January. My theory is that like basketball and baseball which have 82 and 160 games respectively, the NFL players will pace themselves, the physical nature of the hits will have to be turned down. Every week you can decide to play utterly fatigued because you went all out during the last game, or you pace yourself, like NBA and MLB players. The reason the NFL is so violent is because the players have 6 days to lift weights, replenish their energy and they know they will have 6 days off after the game so they give 100%. This makes for a high impact/energy game but it's clearly too violent even for the taste of the owners as more and more rules are being made to protect players. Well, what the fuck? The rules aren't working because it's rarely a dirty hit that causes the injury and the hits that get the flag aren't the ones that cause injury. The extreme nature of the game has not changed at all because the players themselves have no incentive to go easy. The only way to give them an incentive is by punishing them with more games so they physically can not be as violent and careless because they know in three days they have to do it all over again. That is exactly how MLB and NBA get through their seasons, they pace themselves. The teams that don't pace themselves are without key players late in the season.

I personally like the 16 game model NFL now has because it does provide an opportunity for every game to count in a big way and therefore every play counts. It's a short season. 16 games over 4 months. The Red Sox and Celtics play that many games in 2 weeks and the athletes adjust, they pick moments when to go all out and when not to. NFL prizes itself on a big roster to compensate for the injuries that are guaranteed. While that's a good gladiator model I think it's literally Medieval, a human bloodsport. Paradoxically, the answer is to give fans more football. More football means the players will be forced to dial it down out of self preservation. More rules does nothing because you will always have competitive top athletes in their prime with 6 days of rest and preparation so they will physically be able to be as punishing as possible and that's what usually happens. But with only three days rest and one day of travel...they will physically be unable to hit as hard or run as fast and even if they can hit as hard they know that it's a choice between hitting hard now and skipping the next game or hitting a little less hard now and playing the next game. Today, they can hit as hard as possible now, wait 6 days and hit as hard as possible again. It's barbaric by design. The bonus with my plan is that there will be more games, more participation from all the roster. Everyone wins.

One thing that annoyed me with high school sports is the lack of a B league. High School sport tryouts have maybe 100 kids competing for 20 spots. So 80 kids don't make the A team, either Freshman, Junior Varsity, Varsity. Well, why in the world is there no B, C and D league to accommodate the other kids? Of course they would not travel but the whole traveling high school team phenomenon is blindly hegemonic and will eventually be phased out as fossil fuels become non-existent and interstate travel becomes regulated. Local leagues will develop. But in the meantime, I don't understand why other teams would not form, practice and compete. The facilities are abundant, the equipment is abundant and the athletes want to play. But I remember failing to be chosen for the Freshman baseball team and after some weeping I simply put the idea of playing out of my mind until the city league started up. That makes no sense because there was at least a month between the start of the Freshman season and the start of the City League. There wasn't one teacher who could take an hour after school to coach an supervise B team on school property? Apparently not. Every kid should get a chance to play and benefit from the school's equipment and facilities.
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Man in the Van by Oggy Bleacher is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.