The Pussification Of American Sports

John NeumanCorrespondent IOctober 7, 2009

MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 12:  Former NBA player Dennis Rodman attends the True Religion swimwear fashion show during 'Mercedes Benz Fashion Week: Miami Swim' in the Oasis tent at the Raleigh Hotel on July 12, 2007 in Miami Beach.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Getty Images for IMG)

Today's athletes are becoming and being treated like pussy cats more and more each day -- when a difficult situation arrives, don't confront it -- run from it, blow the whistle, throw a flag, or bring the bullpen in.  In the three biggest American sports -- the NFL, the MLB, and the NBA, rule changes have increasingly made it more difficult for fans to enjoy the games and decreased the level of entertainment. 

1. The NFL is perhaps the biggest sport guilty of pussification.  Remember the days, not too far back, in the 1990's when you could strategize to knock the quarterback out of the game?  In the new NFL, this strategy and many others have been put to shame by Roger GOOD-ell and other NFL executives.

 A. They've made the rules so strict that you can't dare to breathe on a quarterback or risk a 15 yard penalty.  You can't hit the quarterback below the knees or above the shoulders.  This leaves a very small area for the defender to aim at when they are trying to make a play within a matter of seconds at full force.  The out-of-bounce 15 yard flag seems to be something we see regularly; when a player's momentum carries them out of the playing area and they accidentally bring a player down a flag is thrown.

B. The latest phenomenon is the Brett Favre "pitch count" by Brad Childers, who said that he is keeping him between 20 - 29 throws (If I'm the opponent, thanks for giving me your strategy Brad).  If you can't throw more than 29 passes, you shouldn't be in the NFL.  As if ruining baseball isn't enough, now they got to try and ruin football.

C. The horse-collar tackle.  Anything to keep the offense on the field, right?  This is a basic tackle where the player tucks their hand in the back of the padding behind the opponent player's neck and pulls them down.  Former Cowboy's DB Roy Williams used it as a part of his regular tackle methods.  It now costs teams 15 yards.  Why not just let the player walk into the endzone if you get behind him?

D. Rules for dancing and celebration.  Yeah, the NFL has even put handcuffs around dancing.  While you can still get your grove on in the endzone, taunting penalties are applied to individual celebrations, and you can no longer get creative by using props or doing team celebrations.  That means no more Mile High Salutes, unless it's just by one player.  No more throat slashing gestures, sorry Favre.  I miss the 1990's when each player had their own celebration.

Remember the Dolphins' Irving Fryar & 49ers' Merton Hanks chicken dancing? How about Ricky Watters and Steve Young high stepping and turning the endzone into Studio 54?  Everyone always knew when "The Playmaker" Michael Irvin got a first down.  Nobody could forget about "Prime Time" Deion Sanders making a theater out of celebrations.  And Shannon Sharpe was always coming up with something fun.  Thanks a lot T.O. for bringing that Sharpie to the game and ruining it for everyone.

E. Helmet to helmet hits are a 15 yard penalty.  The 2000 Ravens, the greatest defense of all time who won a Super Bowl, said they would gladly pay the fine for the helmet to helmet hits, especially if it meant a big stop on third down or knocking out a key player.  The league then made it a huge fine and a penalty.  Why the penalty?  If you pay the parking ticket, you should still get to keep your car in that spot until you leave, right?

F. No bandanas and no removing helmets in the end zones.  Ray Lewis looked even more aggressive with the dark purple bandana on; like you were meeting him in the back of the alley.  How about nearly the entire 1994 San Francisco 49ers team sporting the bandanas?  What about Emmitt running around with helmet off in the endzone?  I guess the NFL executives didn't want to scare the 60 year old white men off their rocking chairs on a Sunday afternoon.

2. The MLB is completely out of control.

A. Since 2005, the media has emphasized pitch counts to the point where people are watching it on a scoreboard.  Forget the days where pitchers threw 150+ pitches, wait...that was this decade.  Former Arizona Diamondback's pitcher, Randy Johnson, threw 150 pitches in a single game in 2002.  Forget the game.  Lets just go to the ballpark and count pitches -- how neat.

Even in 2008, C.C. Sabathia threw 140 pitches on his third consecutive start in 9 days at the end of the season pushing the Milwaukee Brewers to a playoff appearance.  So why are MLB teams babying these starters so much? 

It was standard throughout the 1980's and earlier decades to throw on three days rest -- now pitchers throw every fifth day.  And now the majority of teams have their pitchers on strict pitch counts and they pull them out around 100 pitches.  There is hope that the mark could go up to 120, as Detroit Tiger's ace pitcher Justin Verlander threw 120+ pitches in 11 appearances.  Maybe this will push it up to 120 in the future.  But forget the days of a pitcher throwing 160 pitches in a regular season game.  I guess they have to justify these "middle relief specialists" who blow the games for the starters to get paid $4 million a year.

B. The play at the plate has evaporated.  Instead of players smashing and colliding into the catcher, the player's gracefully slide into the play and try to avoid the tag, rather than plow over the catcher.  Why not just blow him a kiss while you're at it?

C. Starters rarely ever pitch out of the bullpen in meaningful do or die games.  During the Minnesota Twins vs. Detroit Tigers "tiebreaker" game for the 2009 Central Division title, both teams gracefully used their middle relievers, rather than their starters in the bullpen.  Each team watched their bullpen nearly lose the game, until finally it happened in the 12th inning when the Twins won 6-5.  There was no sign of any starter warming up in the bullpen in a do or die game.  After playing 162 games, who doesn't want to go home, right?

D. The players are tired of playing doubleheaders so they scheduled fewer.  Why don't we just say they wish we could trim down that season 20 games and still make the same amount of money?  Lets play baseball in the snow.  The doubleheaders have become rare because players don't want to lose all their energy before they hit the bar scene and coaches don't want to get a headache from counting too many pitches.

3. The only major sport left closest to its truest form is the NBA.

A. The NBA has added defense to the game with the initiation of the zone, popularized by college and international rules.  The NBA allows bumping and "disiplined aggression."  In the past, the NBA allowed "reckless aggression" and many handchecks.  Teams like Magic Johnson's Lakers, Bird's Celtics, and Isiah's "Bad Boys" were known for their rough and rugged play.  It was nothing to see a kick being dealt, an arm bar, a clothesline, or even an elbow to the grill.  This was the classic NBA of the 1980's, when defense emerged from the dark.  I thought Celtics vs. Lakers was a wrestling match.

B. In the 1990's, the NBA swung the opposite direction with the ticky-tack fouls and Jordan & Pippen were able to capture championships aging in their late 30's.  In 2002, the NBA brought defense back to the table, introduced the modified zone defense, and allowed more bumping upon referee discretion and physical play as long as it does not constitute "reckless aggression." 

C. Give credit to the NBA for bringing defense back into the game in the 2000s with the modified zone, although it seems unlikely will see it at the level it was in the 1980's when Dennis Rodman and Bill Laimbeer were throwing elbows and Kurt Rambis was clotheslining people in the paint.

D. The flagrant foul was added in 1990 to protect Michael Jordan from the Detroit Pistons.  In 1989, the Pistons threw Jordan around and he cried about it and David Stern knew the game was commercially expanding and there was too much NBC and Nike money to turn down.  The foul was instituted at a flagrant 1 level, in which excessive contact, determined by an official, led to an extra possession on top of the two free throws.  They should have called this the "Dennis Rodman rule."

E. The league later added the flagrant 2 level foul, which is an automatic ejection, free throws, and an extra possession.  Flagrant fouls result in hefty fines and can also lead to suspensions.  The last few seasons have saw officials and the league using video to review whether or not a previous play was a flagrant or not.  If you were smart enough to get away with it without the ref seeing it during the game, you should be rewarded not punished, right?

F. The player relations have become a tea party.  Many rivalries have been watered down with all the handshaking and hugging going on towards the oppositional team.  In the 1980s, Larry Bird wouldn't help Magic Johnson up, Rick Mahorn wouldn't help Michael Jordan up, and now everything has become a big lovefest with 90% of the teams.  Detroit Pistons' former guard Lindsay Hunter said in 2007 that his former teammate Rasheed Wallace was doing too much of it.  I mean how many times did he hug Celtics' superstar Kevin Garnett the last two years?  I thought Boston vs. Detroit was supposed to be a rivalry?  I'm glad they're now teammates in Boston so they can take each other out to lunch more often.

Sometimes it makes me wonder, as a sports fan in my late 20's, if I am seeing my last endzone celebration, my last roughing the passer penalty, or my last horse collar tackle.  While people may love their fantasy teams, we shouldn't lose sight of the purity of the games just to get Tom Brady an extra 12 fantasy points on a drive that stayed alive because of a good acting job.  What ever happened to rivalries and watching your most hated team lose?  And my last question is:  When are they going to start putting flags on the quarterbacks?