Ehhn…. Eff ? Hell

This is a mashup of two posts I made on my personal site back in the spring about the NFL. If it seems a bit disjointed, it’s because it’s two entirely different entries, merged into one here.

Sorry to any females out there who may not give a damn about football but, being the Xmas of the football season, well, I have to touch on this spectacle.

With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the game that will decide which so-called “elite athlete” will spend the next few years pretending he eats <strong><em>Chunky Soup</em></strong> all the time.  To be fair, <strong><em>Donovan McNabb</em></strong> looks like he’s eaten his fair share since he got the endorsement, and has certainly played like it. Hey, remember when <strong><em>Rush Limbaugh</em></strong> said <strong><em>Donovan McNabb</em></strong> was overrated due to certain social factors and everyone went nuts ? Now, 7 years later, everyone else is saying what <strong><em>Rush Limbaugh</em></strong> noticed from the get go.

As my guru Josiah once said “He’ll get you to the prom but when it’s time to dance he’ll be in the bathroom with the trots….that Chunky Soup eatin’ c**cks*cker”

So, the biggest of big games approaches. That time of year where millions of people become football fans and have no idea who’s playing the game. That time of year where millions more people tune in, rendering irrelevant (if only for a few hours) and misusing technological advancements steeped in sheer genius. You know, the people who watch ONLY for the commercials, when mankind has spent DECADES creating VCRS followed by PVRs specifically for us to SKIP the commercials. Some even record the game FOR the commercials.

Ahh yes, that wonderful time of year, when everyone is steeped in the January blues after having illogically spent far too much money on gifts for a reciprocity based “holiday” only to toss logic out the window once more to get together, eat horrible foods washed down by alcohol all in the name of watching COMMERCIALS.

It’s great, isn’t it ?

Well, enough of that. I am not here to talk about society’s ills or the likes.  I am here to talk about football.

Now, you may be asking who I am cheering for. Well, while I don’t have a “horse in the race” so to speak, I do have a track in the sport.  WTF am I on about ?

The NFL is a copycat league. Whatever team wins, the rest of the league tries to emulate. I am pulling for offensive creativity. Truth be told, I would have liked to have seen the Pats win, but they’re about two more years away. GB vs Pitt isn’t too bad. If I HAVE to choose, I will root for GB, for no other reason than <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mike_McCarthy_%28American_football%29″>Mike McCarthy</a> is a little bit more daring on offense than is <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bruce_Arians”>Bruce Arians</a>.  That’s not to say Pittsburgh isn’t creative offensively; they are. It’s just that Green Bay is a little more creative.

Also, let’s clear something up right away. To this day, people STILL think of the Steelers as a team that grinds it out on the ground and plays stout defense. Not so. The Steelers have a nice little aerial attack.

That leads me to another tired notion. “Offense puts people in the seats but defense wins championships.” It’s the adult equivalent of “it’s not whether you win or lose, but how you played the game.” Nonsense. The basic premise behind that slogan is that a stout defense trumps all. My counter is a timely defense trumps all. New Orleans won last year with a great offense and a defense that made big plays at the right time. The Pats dynasty of 2000-2004 was not particularly stout on defense, but they made key plays at the right time.  Oh, and for the record, lots of great defenses look great because the offense puts the defense in great position to succeed.

Too much attention is paid to hard stats. For example, a team might lead the league in total defense. However, they might well play in a horrible division, and maybe their offense is so anemic they play clock control, limiting opposition plays and the opposition isn’t airing it out because they aren’t worried about being scored on. Conversely, a team might have a high powered offense, go into prevent defense earlier in games, opening up underneath routes which inflates completion percentage and yards per play against, while also being susceptible to draw plays. Garbage time stats count against a team and those garbage stats can significantly impact a team’s rankings. It’s all nonsense.  Not to mention, there are lots of defending players who will lull players into a false sense of security by allowing a few plays against, with the specific intention of making a big play when the time is right.  Hard stats are pretty much useless. You know who likes hard stats ? Fans who cheer for teams that are otherwise useless but have a hard stat to talk about. Fantasy football players. Agents who take a piece of the player’s action.

To me, the ultimate example of a player who was a product of hard stats was John Randle. Remember him ? The defensive tackle for the Minnesota Vikings who wore wrestler style face paint ?  Randle certainly had tremendous athletic ability. And, while he was tasked with playing a 3 technique (under tackle, in layman’s terms) he was really a glorified pass rushing defensive end playing DT. Randle racked up an awful lot of sacks from the DT position. His numbers were really unprecedented for the position. Sure got him some big contracts.

However, let’s really look at Randle. Randle’s main move was looping way outside, being able to get around a guard. Guards are generally considered maulers who are not athletic enough to play tackle. So he was able to get past guys he was more athletic than. Good work.

I will round up, giving him the benefit of the doubt by giving him credit for an average of one sack per game over his career. A typical sack is about a 7 yard loss. So, John Randle accounted for 7 yards lost per game. However, does that 7 yards lost really make up for all the draws and dive plays he gave up every single game because he took himself out of position desperately trying to get a sack ?  Does it make up for the passes completed over the middle because he wasn’t crashing the pocket and was boxed outside ? Of course it doesn’t.

Randle was a liability, pure and simple. But, he sure did rack up a lot of sacks, a hard stat, and he sure made a lot of money being a defensive liability. Why ? Because his agent would point to the sacks, compare him against other DTs, putting the team in a position to shell out $$$ rather than piss off the season ticket holders, so they lived with it. Of course, they eventually brought in Jerry Ball to be a REAL DT. In fact, you can say they are still hating themselves for the Randle era since they have two monster, space eating DTs to this day.

That’s one of the things I love about the modern baseball era, particularly the <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moneyball”>Moneyball</a> era, as created by the great <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billy_Beane”>Billy Beane</a> and perfected by his disciples. In short, Moneyball teaches there’s more to baseball than hard stats, and can allow small market teams to compete. Of course, some of Beane’s disciples went to big market teams, such as <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theo_Epstein”>Theo Epstein</a>, and have had tremendous success by applying Moneyball principles with a big budget.

The core of <strong><em>Moneyball</em></strong> is <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sabermetric”>Sabermetrics</a>. To give you a coles notes version of what that means is <em>On Base Percentage</em> is better than <em>Batting Average</em>, even though batting average wins batting titles which begets more player money.  It has also placed an emphasis on pitch count. Teams that play saberball specialize in one thing – taking pitches. It not only gives you a better look as the pitcher’s stuff, but it serves greater purposes:

<code>Every batter run up the count.</code>

<code>Second time through the order, they will have seen plenty of pitches to learn his delivery but now the arm they are hitting off of is more tired.</code>

<code>By the 5th or 6th inning they’re digging into their bullpen.</code>

Over the course of a 3-4 game series, this gives the batters worn out arms instead of fresh arms to hit off of.  Of course, now sabermetric stats have been given officially recognized categories and now they are being used by agents. 

The NFL has their own version as well, but few teams use it and rarely announce their decisions. Ever see a productive player who is in his prime with no discernible attitude problems get inexplicably traded/released ? Chances are, the team dumping him tracks some sort of sabermetric he wasn’t living up to.

Why am I going to such lengths to talk about this stuff ? I am losing interest in the <strong><em>NFL</em></strong>.  It’s too vanilla. Too bland. It’s become like soccer, like hockey in the trap era. They pushed the “defense wins championships” nonsense so much, simply to justify their bland product so coaches could keep their jobs.

The NFL needs a makeover. The field dimensions are the same as they have been since the start. The problem is, quarterbacks these days are the size that offensive and defensive lineman were in those days.  The players have gotten bigger, but the field hasn’t.  I keep hearing how “it’s the best of the best” which is garbage. It’s the best of a certain type. The NFL, with roster limits and salary caps, can only carry a certain amount of people. The salary cap limits what they can spend. There are lots of great smaller players out there jobless because teams are afraid to lose a piece of their cap on someone who MAY get hurt playing with the behemoths.

The NFL is a north and south game, not won by athleticism, but by whose behemoths can lean longer and push harder.  I would love to see a CFL sized field with CFL hash marks or, at the very least, NCAA hash marks. To be honest, I would like to see TRUE home field advantage, like they do in baseball and like what used to happen in hockey. Have a range of field sizes allowable and a team can decide if they want to be a bruising team or a run n gun team. Remember back in the day, the old Boston Gardens, the Bruins built their teams with burly people, designed for close quarters combat ? Same idea. Some baseball teams have giant outfields with giant foul territory and build their teams around pitching and athletic players, where teams in small parks like Boston like to have some bashers. Why not allow that flexibility in the <strong><em>NFL</em></strong> ?

You keep hearing how the NFL is concerned with player safety, hence the crackdowns on headshots. Nonsense. They are concerned with losing money and losing marquee players means losing money. You know how we know they don’t care about player safety ? They want to expand the season to 18 games. Another reason we know they don’t care, but is rarely discussed ? Kickoffs. Special teams is kamikazee football. However, the NFL moved back the line from where the ball gets kicked off from and changed the size of the kicking tee.  Before, teams could more or less either try to kick it through the end zone for a touchback, or pin the returner deep with a high hanger. Moving it back and changing the tee size has resulted in more returns. Oh, they claim it was to speed up games but we know the returns and injuries are what make the highlight reels, not touchbacks and fair catches.  So, the league FORCED more kamikazee plays, But, they are concerned with player safety. LOL

Then there’s the gear. That insanely hard plastic is not protective. It creates a false sense of security making people launch themselves into each other and that plastic hurts when you’re on the receiving end. But, you know what ? It sure does sound awesome on the tv when it smacks.  Just like the glass at hockey games that is designed for “give” – nonsense, it looks more impressive.

If the NFL TRULY cares about player safety they’ll increase the size of the field, which will require more athleticism and, with a more wide open surface, there’ll be fewer concussive hits.

I like a big hit as much as the next guy.  One of my favorite moments was <strong><em>Major Wright</em></strong>, of the <strong><em>Florida Gators</em></strong>, <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fOZnLEGJaiU”>absolutely devastating Manuel Johnson</a>. It was the opening drive of the game and you knew right there that the game was over.  In fact, that hit had such an impact, it was what caused <a href=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7AY2DEIlt8&feature=related”>this game clinching interception</a> by <strong><em>Ahmad Black</em></strong> late in the game.

Opening up the game won’t eliminate big hits. It will, however, increase athleticism.  Increasing roster sizes and the salary cap will also allow for more athletic players, of the smaller variety. Here’s my issue – when a defensive tackle waddles off the field then is seen keeled over sucking an oxygen mask because he ran 3 plays, one of which required him to sprint 7 yards, it’s hard to consider the <strong><em>NFL</em></strong> a game of the best of the best football players.

Oh, and another issue I have. In college, a sack counts as negative rushing yards. In the pros, it’s negative passing yards. In essence, what they’re saying is, although the glorified dart player aka the quarterback (also known as a “pocket passer” LMAO) ran himself back into the pocket, he won’t run himself out, so it counts as negative passing yards. Well, if you’re working on the assumption that he was going to pass and definitely NOT run, then why not consider a sack to be an incomplete pass ? It’s obviously a failed passing play.

Oh, there’s plenty to mock about the <strong><em>NFL</em></strong>, but I think I’ve done enough during potato chip bowl week.

NFL.

Also known as the “No Fun League.”

Remember a few weeks ago I railed against their nonsense of pretending they actually care about player safety ? How they spoke constantly about it but never took any measures to improve player safety, merely paying it lip service ?

Well, it seems they have taken a step. Or so they would have you believe.

Now, let me get this out of the way right now – I don’t care about player safety in professional football, or any football. Football is a contact sport and there are risks involved simply by suiting up.  If parents let their kids play, that’s their decision.  However, this whole fervor is about professional athletes (GROWN MEN) who earn millions of dollars to play this contact sport. Nobody forces them to. It’s a choice, and they are compensated handsomely for playing their game. And remember, ultimately it IS a GAME. So, because of that, I don’t care about player safety.

What I DO care about is a league that has become more unwatchable by the season, thanks to watered down conservative playing styles, pretending to actually care about player safety from a safety perspective. Make no mistake, they care about player safety to a certain extent – star player gets hurt, they lose a marketing tool.  That’s as far as their concern for player safety extends – keeping him healthy so they don’t lose his sales appeal.

Look at the recent example by the NFL regarding kickoffs.  I realize I may have jinxed it when I said, back on Feb 9, that <a href=”http://www.ossifiedonline.com/?p=539″>”You keep hearing how the NFL is concerned with player safety, hence the crackdowns on headshots. Nonsense. They are concerned with losing money and losing marquee players means losing money. You know how we know they don’t care about player safety ? They want to expand the season to 18 games. Another reason we know they don’t care, but is rarely discussed ? Kickoffs. Special teams is kamikazee football. However, the NFL moved back the line from where the ball gets kicked off from and changed the size of the kicking tee. Before, teams could more or less either try to kick it through the end zone for a touchback, or pin the returner deep with a high hanger. Moving it back and changing the tee size has resulted in more returns. Oh, they claim it was to speed up games but we know the returns and injuries are what make the highlight reels, not touchbacks and fair catches. So, the league FORCED more kamikazee plays, But, they are concerned with player safety. LOL”</a>

The NFL recently announced that kickoffs will now happen at the 35 yard line instead of the 30 yard line.  That means more touchbacks. Many more.  Now, some people may be inclined to say “But…..but…..but…..Mr Bone, more touchbacks means fewer returns which will result in fewer injuries which shows the NFL DOES care about player safety.”

Wrong. Incorrect.

You know what more touchbacks means ? More TV timeouts. You know what more TV timeouts means ? More $$$ !!!  Now, I am not opposed to a person or organization making as much money as humanly possible, as long as it’s done ethically. Get as much as you can !!!  However, let’s not mistake this money grab as concern for player safety.

My theory about player safety is that it all truly started back around 2002 when <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tgdlqNtbBAA&feature=related”>Warren Sapp DEVASTATED Chad Clifton</a>. To sum up, the Bucs had picked off a pass. As a rule, when a defense gets the ball, they have to go on offense.  <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> turned upfield and found himself a lineman to hit. Absolutely legal hit. What <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> did was NO different than an offensive linemen running to the second level on a play from scrimmage, looking for a linebacker, safety or cornerback to flatten.

The real problem made from <strong><em>Sapp’s</em></strong> play was that <strong><em>Clifton</em></strong>  was about 15 yards or so away from the play, and people raised a stink wondering if it’s necessary. Well, on an interception run back, the players running tend to cut back a lot, so it could have only been a matter of time before he WAS in the play and then what? He doesn’t hit the guy his size, then the 300 pound man he didn’t hit gets a free shot at a 190 pound man.

Part of the other stink about the play is because <strong><em>Sapp</em></strong> wasn’t very well liked. He was obnoxious, arrogant, brash, and people wanted to string him up not because he did something against the rules, but because they didn’t like him.

The real, true problem was <strong><em>Clifton</em></strong>. From the moment you step on the field your first time, it is drilled in your head to keep your head on a swivel. <strong><em>Clifton</em></strong> didn’t follow that rule and got himself leveled. As a football player seeking to make a hit, one of the juiciest things in the world is seeing someone with their head turned, giving you a free shot. It changes the tempo of the game, if not for the whole team, then at least for the player you level and whoever lines up against him.

But, <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> wasn’t a likable guy so people wanted him to pay.  That’s where this all comes from – instead of determining if the hit was legal or illegal, it then became a matter of whether it was necessary or unnecessary and it all was because of <strong><em>Warren Sapp’s</em></strong> unlikable personality. If it’s legal, it’s necessary, simple as that. Football is a game of attrition, so all legal hits are necessary.

Nope, <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> made a dirty play because he just wasn’t a likeable guy. I had many debates with people around the time it happened and those who felt he should have been penalized all had the same thing to say:

<code>Complainer > “He should be suspended and fined. That kind of thing has no business being in the game”</code>

<code>Bone > “You do realize that his hit was %100 legal and broke NO rules, right ?”</code>

<code>Complainer > “Well there’s no need for it. He didn’t have to. He should be punished.”</code>

<code>Bone > “Punished for what ? He broke no rule”</code>

<code>Complainer > “It was a dirty hit”</code>

<code>Bone > “No, it wasn’t. It was %100 legal”</code>

<code>Complainer > “Well, it might be legal, but it was dirty because he did it specifically to hurt him”</code>

<code>Bone > “I see. So we should impose a society where people’s punishment is meted out not by whether or not rules were broken or crimes committed, but by how likable they are as a person. Sounds like a good time”</code>

People wanted <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> punished because they didn’t like him. He was from The University of Miami aka “The U.” Also known as “Thug U.” He was passed over by a lot of teams because he tested positive for marijuana. He flapped his gums at opposing players. He had an ongoing verbal sparring match with <strong><em>Brett Favre</em></strong> who, at the time, was still a beloved figure.  <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> was not the first guy to shoot his mouth off on the field, and he will not be the last. It’s part of the game. <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> tackled the beloved <strong><em>Jerry Rice</em></strong> in 1997. He facemasked him, and drew a penalty. On the play, <strong><em>Rice</em></strong> tore his ACL. Nevermind that facemasking penalties happen in pretty much every game – players are all different sizes and when players are ducking, bobbing and weaving, sometimes the facemask is going to get grabbed. Facemasking happens all the time and it is extremely rare that the recipient suffers a torn ACL from it. But, it was <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> who facemasked <strong>J<em>erry Rice</em></strong>, so there’s no doubt he wrenched him in such a way so as to try to tear his ACL. Right ? But that, and all the other factors play into why we didn’t like him. Unless you were a <strong><em>TB Bucs</em></strong> fan. 

Also, no need for it ?  I am willing to bet <strong><em>Clifton</em></strong> never again forgot the basic day 1 rule and went running around the field aimlessly, not watching where he was going.  And I would be willing to bet that many players thereafter used that as a reminder. In a way, <strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> provided a valuable public service.

But, we don’t like <strong><em>Warren Sap</em>p</strong> so he must be punished.

<strong><em>Warren Sapp</em></strong> must be punished because he’s an *sshole. Same with Barry Bonds – he’s cranky and moody and isn’t a big fan of the media, so he must be guilty of everything he’s accused of – after all, there are no cordial rule breakers. That whole “wolf in sheep’s clothing” expression was just something our parents taught us to keep us in line; it isn’t really true/applicable.

I honestly believe that, in my lifetime, the <strong><em>NFL</em></strong> will essentially become a glorified flag football game. I don’t think tackling will ever truly be removed, but I think it will become something like rugby where players start having to drag players down. I also believe hits will be outlawed. Not completely, as contact is unavoidable, but I believe we will see some rules in place similar to charging calls in hockey, where if a player takes more than x amount of strides, it will be illegal.  They will have to qualify that because there will be contact in the scrum at the line of scrimmage.  However we will see a day where, if a QB floats a pass that hangs up, the DBs will no longer be allowed to lick their chops and go for a full sprint to level the receiver. That will be a penalty. Mark my words.

I’m out, like the NFL’s charade about player safety.

Later,

The Bone