Scattered Words about Football

One thing I didn’t see too much of in the first week of this season: hard hits and stretchers. I hope this is a trend that will continue. There are times I think the NFL being dubbed the “No Fun League” makes perfect sense, and officials can be too strict or too arbitrary about how they enforce player safety regulations. I hate seeing a great defense getting dinged for 15 yards because someone fell in the QB a second after he made a pass.

But I still saw plenty of sacks, aggressive pass rush, and tough coverage in the secondary. I just didn’t see those bone-jarring hits that I’ve enjoyed less and less lately. By the end of last season, it sometimes seemed like the cart was coming out at least once every game. Then I’d see the last play on replay and my stomach would turn. Heads whipping around at unnatural angles, legs bowing and then folding as two or three more players join a tackle.

Oh, it’s great when one player demolishes another and they both get up fine. I used to love watching receivers go up to make a catch, knowing they were going to get crushed for it. But I can’t enjoy that anymore, knowing how often guys don’t bounce right back. Knowing that even if they do, football still can do lasting, invisible damage.

Football is working toward a different balance now, and I’m willing to put up with hiccups along the way. Is the game worse for it? So far, I don’t think so, despite glitches. Turns out that I love the strategy of football and the finesse of good play, and don’t really need the hard hits. The ordinary everyday violence of the sport is good enough for me.

See Our Ad in Golf Digest

Cialis has weird ads. A camera gazes through a filter so sickly green that it’s like watching from inside a Jameson bottle, and then rugged men solve manly problem ruggedly. But the strangest things is that each ad exhorts you to see their ad in Golf Digest, which leads me to the inescapable conclusion that Golf Digest enjoys the limpest readership in the world.

Super-Duper Tastelessly Cold

Coors has realized they have a major problem, and that some Coors drinkers might accidentally someday taste their Coors Light. So they’ve introduced a revolutionary new piece of technology, the “Cold Bar” that shows when your beer goes from “Cold” to “Super Cold”. This leaves Bud Light with nowhere to go but “manning up” with nitrogen-cooling.

Da Bears

I had written-off the Bears this season. This was going to be a Packers – Lions fight for the division, and the Bears were going to enter into the freefall that usually accompanies a contract extension for Lovie Smith.

So the Bears’ merciless beating of the Atlanta Falcons has me cautiously optimistic about our chances of taking the division again. At the same time, the Packers look even better than they did last season, and Jay Cutler is still making risky passes that could totally kill any momentum the Bears have. It’s going to be an exciting season, I think, but the Bears have a long way to go before being a conference contender.

Perhaps the most terrifying thing I saw, however, was Tom Brady and the Patriots. Rodgers had a tougher opponent, but I didn’t expect Brady and his receivers to be looking so good. And it’s not just a matter of one or two targets. He has an offensive arsenal to choose from. Branch, Welker, Gronkowski, Ochocinco. A good QB can be neutralized by a rush and a good coverage, but how do you rush someone with that many weapons, and how do you cover them all?

  1. I’m right there with you on the violence thing. Seeing one dude impose a massive fail condition on another dude is sort of awe inspiring. Knowing that the average NFL player loses 10 years of life over the course of an average 3 year career… Man I can’t watch that. I hope they figure it out.

    I’ve never watched Hockey, but one of the reason I’m going to start, is that- from what I can tell- it’s more about the threat of violence than the actuality of it. Obviously violence occurs, but it’s not an incidental, baked in part of every play.

    I could be wrong.

    One of the reasons I love professional StarCraft 2 matches is that all the strategy is there- but players don’t risk death.

      • Flitcraft
      • September 17th, 2011 2:49pm

      Yeah, and those last years are often ugly ones: depression, dementia, poverty… There are a lot of things the league and the union need to address, and a lot of changes need to happen off the field.

      I think you’re mostly wrong about hockey, although it really depends on the team. I’ve written about how violence functions in the NHL before, and I do think there is a ritualized structure to it that actually keeps the sport from being a bloodbath. But I’ve also seen a lot of games that get completely out of hand, and some legal hits that looked more like attempted murder. Reading about some ex-hockey stars committing suicide in this last year, I’m starting to realize the toll hockey takes as well.

      But I also think the answer might be easier in hockey because, like you say, violence isn’t baked into every play, and a lot of the worst hits have more to do with the way the arenas are laid-out than malicious intent. I don’t even think it’s a matter of eliminating fighting entirely or eliminating hard checking. I think officials just need to do a better job of using their discretion to manage the tone of a game. It’s fun and amazing to watch an absolute brawl of a hockey game, but those are dangerous and a lot of them could be headed off if refs stopped giving players the benefit of the doubt on hard hits.

      I doubt I’ll ever get into e-sports. They’re impressive, but the athleticism of games like football and hockey is a huge part of the joy for me.

    • garion333
    • September 17th, 2011 5:03pm

    I still want big hits, I just want safe hits. Brandon Merriweather was released because, in the end, he was a “dirty” player. He just doesn’t know how to hit properly.

    The Ravens are usually called dirty by people who don’t like the team. Yes, the Ravens hit hard and they enjoy doing so. However, they are also good at making sure they’re hitting clean and using proper form tackling technique. This past week the Steelers were complaining that the Ravens o-line was using illegal chop blocks. I don’t agree (the type they used last week are currently legal), but I do agree that it’s a rule that should be looked at. Hitting low is really dangerous.

    That said, clean big hits are nice and all, but I watch football for the strategy and that seems to be what you’re talking about and (presumably) what the NFL leaders are trying to do with all their rules and regulations. Except all the bs about receivers and touching the QB. That stuff needs to go as passing has become way too easy.

      • Flitcraft
      • September 19th, 2011 1:56pm

      The receivers and QB pose a problem. They’re the most exposed players, and so they need the most protection. I think passing is just going to be an easier part of the game from here on, although I would bet we see corners and safeties getting better at man coverage now. I don’t know what to do about this aspect of the game, though. A receiver getting blasted while he taking a pass can be really dangerous. Same with a QB going down in a hard-hitting pile. But at the same time, what seems to be happening right now is defensive players are being asked to take all the risk with no idea of what the rules really are. There was a hit on Cutler yesterday that drew a flag, but it seemed pretty normal to me. Yet I’ve seen him take savage cheap shots, and the refs don’t say a thing. There needs to be consistency and clarity, and right now the QB protection rules are as clear as mud.

        • Dan
        • September 20th, 2011 5:36pm

        I’m all for protecting players

        • Dan
        • September 20th, 2011 5:53pm

        (sorry had to see if it would let me post. You’re web host pisses me the hell off, because it seems like every time I put some effort into writing a long-ish response, it gives me an error. In fact, I already wasted about 15 min replying to this very thread earlier in the weekend, just to see the whole thing disappear. So in the future I’m going to test the ability to post before saying something).

        Two things: I absolutely agree with the need to protect players. No one wants to see someone who they loved to watch on the field as a vegetable 5-10 years later. For instance, the Dunta Robinson hit on the Philly WR (Maclin?) was absolutely sickening. But it is also a hit which has always been illegal (spearing with your head). I do agree with the new rule about leaving your feet to launch into the receiver (now illegal), but if anything Robinson just proved he can fucking destroy a WR without having to leave his feet (which he didn’t actually do this time). The other huge problem with this situation is the coaching. I just saw a headline that had a quote from a Philly defensive coach (don’t remember if it was positional or the coordinator) who flat out said that Dunta was playing the way they coached him to play. That’s a huge problem, if the player pays a penalty for doing what he is told but the people who are telling him to play that way get off scot-free, especially since his continued employment depends on doing what the coaches/front office demand of him.

        The other side that I hate is the blatantly differential treatment given to a) certain positions but b) the league superstars. And how the refs always blow the calls and fuck the Lions in favor of your Bears. To a certain extent, I understand the need to protect particular positions. Kickers are incredibly vulnerable due to the physical mechanics of what they have to do, so special protection for them makes sense. I have a real problem with the way they have changed the rules for QBs though. Perfect case in point, the Tom Brady rule. It sucks that he was out for the season, but that happens to dozens of players every year. The reason he got his own rule was the fact that the league makes so much marketing money off the star players. To me a QB should have the awareness to either get rid of the ball sooner or go down in such a way as to keep from getting injured (Peyton Manning was a master of this second move the last couple years, which is part of why he had such a long streak of games before the neck rehab problem).

        Finally, the refs have gone way too far in trying to protect the QB. Last years second Bears-Lions game was a perfect example of this. Suh took a penalty and fine for what looked like a perfectly legal hit on Cutler. In my opinion, any player who is beyond the line of scrimmage, in bounds, and carrying the ball (not sliding) is fair play to be wrapped up and driven into the ground. I don’t care how much the Bears gave up in draft picks and salaries, that was a fucking legal hit. The fact that the league went and fined him after the fact was completely absurd. That’s effectively telling a defender that they cannot do their job anywhere on the field at any time without the fear of an arbitrary ruling from the league.

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