There is no question that football reigns supreme in America right now. The streets of New Orleans were still filled with disciples of the Saints when the talk of the 2010 draft started.
This appears to be the NFL’s “Golden Era”. We have great players at the most visible position in all of team sports; Brady, Manning, Favre, Brees, McNabb. We also have the young guns like Philip Rivers and Matt Ryan.
The last Super Bowl was the most watched television program since the final episode of MASH .
Yes, the final episode of MASH .
Unfortunately, there is nowhere for the NFL to go but down from here.
I remember when the NBA was king. Michael Jordan won his sixth title in eight years and the NBA scored its highest rated championship ever. The NBA players were both tough and talented; they had as many characters as your favorite Marvel Comic or any wrestling federation.
Following the finals came two major events that have changed the face of basketball: the retirement of arguably the greatest basketball player to ever live and the NBA lockout.
Even before these two major events happened, the NBA was slowly making its way into the post-bad boy era of basketball that we loved.
Changes in the hand-checking rules go back to 1994 (point of reference would be after Jordan’s third title), starting with taking away the hand and continued in 1997 when they took away the forearm.
These rules were in place to make the games less physical and to give players opportunity to score more points. They added the defensive 3-second violation and other rules to augment offensive production.
The NFL is going through a similar metamorphosis, though for different reasons. Currently, we are in the “safety first” era of professional football. Rule changes have always been a part of the NFL. The clipping and spearing rules that exist today were not a part of the football vocabulary of the 60s and 70s. Deacon Jones’ head slap would get him ejected from today’s football.
That was even before my time, but in the modern football era, I’d say the first shot was fired when Chuck Cecil laid Jerry Rice out one Sunday in Arizona.
Sine then, the rules on the use of the helmet as a weapon (and the utter coddling of the quarterback) have taken the bite out of the defensive side of football. Is the NFL forgetting that collisions are what made football what it is? However, I’m not saying that the game shouldn’t be as safe as possible. As a matter of fact, I suggest we take off all the equipment and give everyone pink flags. That would be safe.
Football is the last refuge of raw, unabashed masculinity and machismo. Football is for the character that is willing to run headlong into a 260 pound running back dubbed “the Nigerian Nightmare” on a Monday night in front of inebriated Denver fans on the goal line and win the battle.
That is what makes American football great and that is what is American about it.
On the verge of a possible lockout in 2011, King Goddell needs to be careful that his small steps in the way of changing the nature of football doesn’t contribute to the fall of an empire.