December 26, 2011

The future of football

A couple of weeks ago, the NFL signed gigantic new contracts with some of the TV networks that carry its games. The NFL's deep pockets are now reminiscent of those of the cigarette companies a generation ago, which attracted huge lawsuits. Legal battles over brain injuries appear inevitable. 

Football is a helluva game, but it's time for its fans to start thinking about what parts of the game should and could be preserved to keep football from going the way of boxing.

For example, football is traditionally built around huge interior linemen colliding, but only the more knowledgeable fans watch line play. Most fans care most about passing and open field running. But the rules make the five interior linemen to be ineligible to receive passes, so, rather than spread linemen out where they could try to get open to catch passes, it makes sense to bunch them shoulder to shoulder for trench warfare. Perhaps an everybody eligible to receive rule would spread the game out. Or, perhaps, in the long run, there will be fewer players on the field and something resembling summer passing league play will emerge. 

142 comments:

rightsaidfred said...

Maybe a size rule on lineman?

Football works because we get the intermittent reinforcement of an open field run, or a long bomb. Too much of the juice = staleness.

Anonymous said...

???????

Line play is what enables passing and running.

What a bizarre suggestion.

sbkook said...

Ever watched Aussie Rules football? Constant action, no pads or helmets. Why doesn't somebody in the NFL just pick up the ball and RUN?

Chuck Rudd nee G.L.Piggy said...

"The NFL Concussion Blog" is a good resource to tackle this question. It tracks concussions per week, by position, by team, and by equipment maker. Pretty interesting site.

Per the site's stats, Offensive linemen and Defensive Backs have the highest incidence of concussion - with DBs having the most.

This makes me think that the NFL will limit leaping through the air to grab passes or make tackles or something of that nature.

http://theconcussionblog.com/2011/12/23/2011-nfl-concussion-update-week-15/#more-5306

Thrasymachus said...

Football is not as black as the NBA, but it is very black and getting blacker. Americans have had blackness for breakfast, lunch and dinner for around 20 years now, and they are getting a little tired of it I think. A popular and sports culture built around blacks has peaked and is due for a decline, although the decline will probably be slow.

Tom Regan said...

The most curious thing about American football to an outsider is how absurdly specialized the players' roles are, with entirely different offensive and defensive units, and then special teams on top of that.
If teams were limited to, say, 20 players per game, you'd need two-way players. You could not afford to have players who can do nothing but grapple at the line of scrimmage, nothing but kick. You'd need allrounders.
That would be an end to absolute behemoth linemen, because at a squeeze - after a couple of injuries - they might need to play linebacker, or tight end, so they might have to be able to (gasp!) run or catch.
In basketball, all players need to be able to pass and shoot. In baseball, all need to be able to hit and field, in soccer, even the defenders at times need to run with the ball at their feet and join in attacks as required, in rugby, even the big forwards occasionally need to have a dash with the ball or execute an accurate pass.
Why can't American footballers be expected to do the same?

Anonymous said...

"Football is a helluva game..."

You TRULY are an American chauvinist. An asshat. No one in the World cares about American football, and it's popularity in the U.S is stagnating evident by the growing popularity of real FOOTball in American high schools.

The World finds American football incomprehensible, and without action. They sprint at each other for ten seconds and then stop for three minutes. BORING. You claim that soccer has too little scoring to be interesting, an incredibly bizarre critique. I fail to see how lack of scoring makes a game uninteresting to a higher degree than lack of ACTION makes another game boring. Also, this is the kind of critique that would be more typical of a capitalist concerned with advertising time rather than a true sports fan. Oh wait, you're an American. Never mind...

Anonymous said...

They have this. It's called arena football. Its not as interesting.

Football is in if it ain't broke don't fix it mode.

Five Daarstens said...

The football helmet, originally designed to make the sport safer, have actually made it more dangerous. Football would be better to go back in it's past and become more like Rugby, where they have less serious injuries than American Football.

Anonymous said...

The problem with your idea is that the majority of brain injuries don't happen among the big guys in the trenches. They happen in the passing game and in open field situations where players can develop a lot of momentum before colliding. So, it seems like your proposal would increase the number of brain-injuries rather than decrease them.

David Barker said...

Professional football might resist change, but lawsuits will eventually force high schools and colleges to drop their programs. Without them professional football will lose its source of fans and players.

American football might eventually be seen as an artifact of the age of American imperialism. Before WWI, the game was seen as un-gentlemanly and football stadia were thought to be reminiscent of ancient Roman decadence. But the violence and military nature of the game became popular in the United States as it muscled its way around the world during the 20th Century.

When we tire of empire, soccer might become the national sport, or the entire sports business might decline. Historical reenactors might stage football games for museums – touch, of course, and explain to wide-eyed audiences that players used to crash into and knock each other down.

Devin Finbarr said...

The trouble is that most serious concussions happen to the defensive backs, quarterbacks and recievers. 50% of all concussions happened to these players. The kick unit also really suffers - they account for 20% of concussions. The linemen are generally not hitting each other at such high speed, and so they suffer fewer concussions.

The only real solution for solving the concussion problem would be as follows:

a) All players who catch a forward pass or catch and return a kick must wear flags.
b) quarterbacks must wear flags too
c) running backs do not need to wear flags, but if they catch a pass past the line of scrimmage, they are automatically down.
d) players can be downed by having their flag pulled or by being tackled rugby style (there must be intention to wrap - no body hits or shoulder spearing allowed). Defensive backs who spear receivers are expelled from the game.
e) blocking and pass rushing occurs as normal

These change would make football a very different game, a much tamer game. I do think it would still be fun to watch, although certainly it would lose something.

Anonymous said...

The way of boxing in that simply it isn't as popular as it once was? Or that an alphabet soup of sanctioning bodies evaluating titles (along with an expansion in the number of weight classes), coupled with corruption and the fact that the best boxers within given weight ranges avoid boxing each other on too frequent a basis, leading to a decline in popularity?

Whiskey said...

Merry Christmas Steve. I'm thankful for your columns, they pretty much always brighten my day. Thanks for all you do!

Tobacco-style lawsuits are not inevitable. One factor: most NFL players are BLACK. Disparate impact? Society has a huge say in swaying what is a target (the ire of SWPL Neo Calvinist Elites thinking they have a moral duty to tell other people how to live) and what is not. For example, "Green" stuff centers around dimming the lights on Sunday Night Football's set. Not say, limiting the travel and means of travel (commercial, say, not chartered jets) for teams. Or mandating limited TV cameras to "stay green."

[In defense of the original Calvinists, they did not care much what other people did in other places, removed from them. THAT was an import from the Quakers.]

Luke Lea said...

There would be fewer serious concussions (I imagine) if they played without helmets and shoulder pads. Players wouldn't run into each other with such abandon.

How does Rugby compare?

Truth said...

I've read that one of the proposals the NFL is seriously considering is the abolishment of the three-point stance. The linemen would all start standing up to minimize launching.

Anonymous said...

According to this wiki the NFL gets more revenue per year ($11B) than MLB and the NBA combined. The English Premier League is at $2.5B euros, comparable to the NBA and the NHL.

Here in NYC baseball is still much more important than football. I'm judging both by the amount of real-life conversations about it and by the amount of local press coverage. This is true for whites, blacks and Hispanics and for both lower and middle classes. I don't think swipples and yuppies are much into team sports, so they don't count.

It's my impression that boxing declined in popularity more because of the perception of cheating (thrown fights) than because of brain injuries, but I could be wrong.

Why has football overtaken baseball over the years? Probably the same reason why movies about explosions and comic book heroes have crowded out other sorts of movies. A part of its appeal is very elemental. Big guys crash. War.

Steve, you could use football's rise at baseball's expense as a counterexample to Steven Pinker's thesis. If you haven't already.

DaveinHackensack said...

"Perhaps an everybody eligible to receive rule would spread the game out."

Something along those lines has already emerged at the high school level: the A-11 Offense.

It's worth bearing in mind, though, that a lot of the head injuries in football aren't caused by huge interior linemen, but by small and fast defensive backs. The NFL has already addressed this in a controversial way, by penalizing safeties for hitting 'defenseless' receivers too hard.

beowulf said...

Well there's always Mike Ditka's solution, take away the face masks.
If the NFL wanted to go full-on Throwback Sunday, they could require drop kicks for field goals and PAT as well.

After the recent rash of helmet to helmet hits in the NFL everyone seems to want to chime in with their solution to the problem to stop these hits. Legendary coach Mike Ditka, is no exception, offering his own outlandish opinion on the subject.

Ditka was quoted saying, "I said a long time ago if you want to change the game take the mask off the helmet," he said. "It will change the game a lot. If you want to change the game and get it back to where people aren't striking with the head and using the head as a weapon, take the mask off the helmet."

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/495469-nfl-helmet-to-helmet-hits-mike-ditkas-solution-get-rid-of-helmets

The Ditka Solution would mean more broken noses and missing teeth, but fewer long-term neurological injuries (Maybe I'm soft, but I'd let players wear goggles to keep from losing eyes).

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

"You TRULY are an American chauvinist. An asshat. No one in the World cares about American football, and it's popularity in the U.S is stagnating evident by the growing popularity of real FOOTball in American high schools."

You're the asshat. People have been talking about soccer as "America's sport of the future" for decades. If you want to measure stagnation you measure NFL/NCAA football revenues, not the popularity of soccer.

It seems as if almost every American played soccer for a few years as a kid - probably more than played little league football or even basketball. Yet most of us don't care. We still like American football.

Soccer is boring as hell to watch, and it seems to us Americans as if half the games are decided by shootouts, or by scores like 1-0. In contrast, football games are far more likely to be won by multiple scores, meaning that the victor is clearly the superior team. In American football a close score means the teams really were evenly matched.

As for correcting the injury problem, I recall reading in SI many years ago - 1999ish - about the grave disabilities suffered by many former professional football players, often after just a few years in the pros. The NFL is making a mint, and has no incentive to fix the problem without lawsuits or pressure from the players' union, and pressure from the union might affect those who benefit from certain styles of play - i.e., it ain't gunna happen.

Anonymous said...

I miss Sailer most, but I also miss Thursday, Dearime, Svigor and the real Whiskey from 2 years ago. Did you drones kill them or what?

Robert Holmgren said...

If they were to change from a turf field to one made of sand it would result in players moving more slowly and without the force that creates injuries.

Anonymous said...

Just play rugby union in rugby kit, but without the obstruction law and allowing forward passing.

Anonymous said...

No Merry Christmas post this year? :(

DaveinHackensack said...

I still don't get the football versus hockey hostility. A commenter in this thread gave the soccer version, but I remember hearing similar sentiments from a college football coach in the 80s: how soccer was the enemy, how interest in football was growing overseas, etc. I can't be the only one able to appreciate both.

Although I don't watch soccer regularly, I did enjoy watching the World Cup. The low scoring doesn't bother me, since the threat of scoring is nearly constant. Whenever the ref goes under the hood during an NFL game to analyze whether a receiver had control of the ball, it makes me appreciate the flow of a soccer game.

Dave in Seattle said...

I think three simple rule changes would make the NFL much more exciting and safer. Only allow the old fashioned leather helmets of yesteryear. Change the tackling rules to that of rugby union-no tackling above the shoulders and the tackler must attempt to wrap up the ball carrier. Players must play both ways and can only be substituted for injuries-allow only 3 or 4 substitutions per game. Players will be much more well rounded athletes, endurance and toughness will be key factors in choosing a starting player-not their 40 time. I can see a lot more all round types playing this kind of football-a Dick Butkus or John Riggins would have no problem transitioning to playing both ways, for Michael Vick it would be a problem. Lineman wouldn't be as massive and would have to be more nimble having to play both ways and special teams. The NFL would have to shorten the season but it make the game so much more interesting.

Black Sea said...

"You TRULY are an American chauvinist. An asshat. No one in the World cares about American football . . . "

A perfect example of a comment that has nothing to do with the topic of the post, which was about the problem of brain trauma among football players, and how the game might be changed to minimize this.

When I see a post on a topic which bores me, I usually don't read the post, much less comment on it. To both read the post and then rail against it -- in an utterly irrelevant manner -- does seem a litle unhinged. You must have a lot of free time on your hands.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

If they were to change from a turf field to one made of sand it would result in players moving more slowly and without the force that creates injuries.

Having players wear cleat-less shoes would slow the game down as well. Though as a dilettante of the game, I don't know if this would cause unintended consequences.

I am Lugash.

Glaivester said...

The advantage of a game like American football is that there is a real good chance of a type of scoring on each play. That is, the team can gain ground on each play.
Like baseball, you have the opportunity for "minor scoring" (i.e. gaining yards or getting players on base) leading to "real scoring" (getting points/runs). This, I think, adds an interesting element to the game (you can get appreciably closer to scoring with each play) that is not present in basketball (constant scoring, your victories do not "accumulate" toward making a score the way that gained yards do) and soccer (ball goes all over the field, occasionally it goes in the goalposts).

Yeah, there is constant action in soccer, but most of it does not amount to anything.

Svigor said...

Why can't American footballers be expected to do the same?

When you have plays that are more complicated than "kick it that way," you get specialization.

It's precisely the simplicity and sameness that make futbol less interesting to watch than football.

Making football more like futbol = loser.

Svigor said...

Anon, football's a better spectator sport than futbol. Futbol's too much like pong. Checkers vs. chess.

Svigor said...

People suggesting rugby or Australian football need to really make their case. I don't know either way, but it's entirely possible that adding tons of American thug-culture blacks and multi-million dollar salaries to Aussie or rugby rules would erode the flattering distances between them and football.

(there must be intention to wrap - no body hits or shoulder spearing allowed). Defensive backs who spear receivers are expelled from the game.

Sounds like the best suggestion so far. Expel players from the game for violating this rule. Expel them from the league after x infractions in a year.

dearieme said...

@Anon: dearieme has been temporarily silenced by a profiterole overdose.

Papyrus said...

Actually, your suggestion is terribly misguided. It would lead to more concussions, not less.

Lineman are not the ones at the greatest risk of concussions. Guys like WR's, RB's, QB's, and DB's are the ones suffering repeated concussions. They are the one's how play in space and get running full speed before colliding into, or being collided into, another player. So spreading the game out would only lead to more concussions.

Ironically, the league made changes about a decade ago to make the league more of a passing league, so they can increase scoring. As one might have guessed, this has also lead to the increase in concussions. Due to consumer demand, it is going to be tough for the NFL to repeal this new rules, but they might have to.

NOTA said...

I will actively discourage my boys playing football, and would do everything I could to keep them from boxing. That squshy gray stuff in the bone box on your shoulders is you.

W Baker said...

Football won't change in the next 20 years, Steve, except for some minute monkeying with rules and pay caps.

What will change is high school ball. The northeast will get rid of it (except for the Catholic schools). It'll be virtually dead in the northern midwest except for the largest HS's. High school ball will look like D1AA ball in 15 - 20 years. Average line size of large programs in the South now is 300 lbs./6' 3" and taller. A lot of teams have, like their collegiate counterparts, stuck the needle in their seniors.

Like youth imitating their elders in many things, look for there to be less and less distinction between solid hs and D1 players.

It's not pretty, but it's not going anywhere soon.

Camlost said...

If they were to change from a turf field to one made of sand it would result in players moving more slowly and without the force that creates injuries.

Nah, those NFL sand players would just end up like Robert Edwards.

Steve Richter said...

Have a max limit on the total weight of the 11 players on the field at one time.

peterike said...

The World finds American football incomprehensible, and without action.

Americans find incomprehensible how a bunch of guys kicking a ball back and forth for ten minutes followed by a single kick towards the goal constitutes "action."

Americans find incomprehensible how grown men on soccer fields weep like little girls.

Americans find incomprehensible how grown men on soccer fields are so shameless as to fake injuries all the time.

Americans find incomprehensible how games in the "biggest tournament in the world" are routinely decided after 90 minutes of play by men kicking a ball into a gigantic goal against a goalie who will entirely by dumb luck leap in the proper direction to block said kick.

Americans find incomprehensible how half the highlights of any given soccer game consist of missed shots, balls soaring over goals, etc.

Anonymous said...

Beowulf, that's the Dan Jenkins Solution from about 30 years ago. "Facemasks have taken the fear out of the game." sayeth he.

josh said...

Remember the excitement that William "The Refirgerator" Perry caused because of his size? Today he wouldnt get a second look. The players are huge and powerful becuase of steroids,they are juicing themselves like crazy,and starting earlier and earlier. (Question:Do blacks respond better to juice than whites,is their upper limit of gain higher than a white guy's? Can they tolerate more of the stuff than a white guy can?)My idea is for a rich guy like Trump,who it must be admitetd,did a good job with the World Football League,to start a White Football League,with whites only,steroids not allowed.

Truth said...

" Americans have had blackness for breakfast, lunch and dinner for around 20 years now, and they are getting a little tired of it I think."

And this has what to do with the topic, again?

"A popular and sports culture built around blacks has peaked and is due for a decline, although the decline will probably be slow."

Oh, so that's why these guys make millions and you get paid by the hour.

Anonymous said...

In ca where Steve lives some of the best players are in the few mainly white enclaves in Northern and Southern Ca. In fact, Santa Margatia High school which as few blacks but a few play football for them with some Somosian kids. The danger in Ca less blacks and whites in the future. Not every hispanic is a Mark Sanchez but in a generation less big white kids that do football, or basketball or swim and so forth.

Truth said...

"Tobacco-style lawsuits are not inevitable. One factor: most NFL players are BLACK."

Yeah, black Americans are not eligible to use the court system.

BTW, the rest of your post makes no sense at all, but you're used to that.

Dutch Boy said...

There actually is a proposal to start a professional football league in which all the players wear eligible numbers and could be eligible depending on the formation (bye bye human soda machines!). The season would start in the Spring and end before the regular professional season starts.

Doug1 said...

Steve--

Leave American football alone. It's the best spectator sport in the world, by far.

As for brain injury lawsuits, the NFL should make players sign assumption of risk waivers, and the law should make them enforceable. Maybe that is what happens.

God damn namby pamby American civil law and it's ridiculous suits.

There's risk of injury playing football as a pro!!!!????? Who knew???

Aaron Baugher said...

We'll start caring about soccer riiiiight after we convert all our speed limit signs to kilometers per hour. Which, if I recall correctly from the indoctrination films they showed us in grade school 35 years ago, was inevitable and right around the corner.

As many others have said, people have tried "opening up" the game, with arena football being the extreme in that area. It's too much. (Also, the refs have a hard enough time getting pass interference calls correct now; make the other half of the players eligible and you'll need more refs than players.) The NFL has the right pace for today's TV audience: a few seconds of high-speed action followed by enough down-time for replays and discussion and a dash to the fridge, which can be reduced in the final minutes of close games to increase the tension. A good game plays like a TV drama, with slower setup and exposition at the beginning, building to the resolution at the end. It fits the medium perfectly, just as boxing fit it perfectly in the early days of TV when there was one fixed camera.

However, I do think someday we'll look back and decide that the NFL peaked sometime in the last decade. For a lot of reasons: shrinking disposable income for expensive tickets and jerseys; increased criminality and crassness by the players; competition from other TV genres and the hugely popular and profitable college game; Title IX lawsuits shutting down football programs at schools that can't afford to provide equal programs for girls, sending more good athletes from small schools into other sports at a young age. Also, our attention spans seem to keep shrinking, so maybe the next generation will see tackle football the way many people today see baseball -- maybe they will watch arena football.

Dominion of Canada said...

The football vs. soccer comparison is retarded, as those games aren't similar at all (plus soccer is boooooring).

I am more interested in why rugby hasn't caught on more in the US. Lots of big hits, more action than football, and fewer concussions.

Paul Mendez said...

No one in the World cares about American football, and it's popularity in the U.S is stagnating evident by the growing popularity of real FOOTball in American high schools.

Ditto Captain Jack!

I was on a high school soccer team in 1975 and felt very cutting edge.

If I had been a millionaire back then, I would have spent whatever it took to be the owner of a pro team in the North American Soccer League.

How could I lose?

Svigor said...

Football uses formations in a way that other sports don't (except for the sports that are quite similar, like rugby). It's sorta like forming a flying wedge or a testudo in ancient combat. There's nothing like it in basketball, futbol, or baseball. Baseball does have football's role complexity (specialization) though - more, actually.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Re: concussions - it's the helmets. You can make all the rules you want, but as long as you wrap a player's head in an over-engineered helmet, concussions will be a feature of the game.

There is a feedback loop from the equipment that makes the game a collision sport that is ridiculously fast-twitch loaded. The game needs more fluidity and less--and softer--padding. The equipment should be to minimize joint injuries, not protect from broken bones caused by human missiles swathed in foam and fiberglass. This was why they banned all the arm padding that made players' elbows, forearms and fists into lethal weapons.

Frankly, I'd prefer to see the middle class start going all in for rugby.

Anonymous said...

I am a thorough believer in vigorous manly out-door sports, but when they become, instead of a pastime, a permanent business, or whenever they interfere with serious work, then they are a sure sign of decadence.

Theodore Roosevelt

Ed said...

This thread has alot of good comments, but Tom Regan's particularly struck me. I also find the level of specialization in football absurd. I would go so far as to get rid of special teams. You could still kick the ball -in fact you could kick the ball just to move it down the field, if one of your own players could recover it- but the kicker has to be on the field as part of the normal play with the quarterback, offensive lines, receives etc and you have to somehow get the ball to him.

However, I'm not sure how many changes you can make to American football and it still be recognizably American football. The other big problem I have with the game is that you can't even theoretically get a bunch of people to a field somewhere and play something resembling what you see on TV. This is possible with basketball and soccer, and to a lesser degree with baseball, but with football its either touch football or bring out the pads, helmets, and so on. I suspect that this is why American football became really big with the TV era and never had much success in spreading beyond the U.S. However, rules designed to reduce concussions, if successfully implemented in a way that doesn't destroy the appeal of the game, could change this.

The thread also reminded me how, growing up in New York City, I have been semi-detached from mainstream American culture. The NFL is followed here, but professional baseball is still bigger, and there is not much interest in college sports, a little in college basketball and none at all in college football.

Anonymous said...

America's obsession with this game has reached damaging proportions.

Anonymous said...

slow down the game and get rid of dumbed down (over coached specialist) players (would also increase the number of whites )

real turf
soft helmets
soft padding (like shoulder pads)
no clock stoppage
no platoons
only two subs per a game.
no timeouts/over coaching.

of course that would decrease commercial time so we can't have that...

candid_observer said...

Soccer?

Man, that is a sport whose appeal I'll never get.

One side will be passing the ball down the field, getting closer and closer to the opposing goal, and then what happens 99 times out of a 100? Someone from the other side intercepts the ball, and kicks it to the other end, and the process starts all over again from scratch.

Where's the suspense here, the building up of momentum?

Really, this is an exciting sport? Or even a sport? It's like a game invented by 7 year olds with ADHD to play on the street.

TD said...

"...the rules make the five interior linemen to be ineligible to receive passes"

This sort of arbitrary, super-specialized rule is what makes football so goofy to me. For the game to even work, the whole thing has to be choreographed from the outside. It's a bureaucratic, labyrinthine nightmare.

Even for all its fixation on arcane statistics, etc., baseball is still an elegantly simple game. So is basketball. So is soccer. Sure, they all have their own little quirks (five-second counts, offside rules, etc.), but football is nothing BUT a bunch of quirks -- with layer upon layer of painstaking, ever-evolving rules to address each of the game's intrinsic flaws. As soon as you patch over one of the flaws, another reveals itself, and it's time for another painstaking rule.

I honestly don't know how anybody can stand it.

I mean, the entire basis of the game hinges on a random measurement -- "10 yards." When something is that particular and arbitrary out of the gate, it's inevitably going to grow into one big, gnarled mess. And that's what football is. "The five interior linemen are ineligible to receive passes"... like, huh? Do any of these people realize how goofy this stuff is?

John Cunningham said...

Frank DeFord, some years ago on NPR, had the ultimate dismissal on soccer. A Brit reporter asked him why soccer was not no.1 in the US, unlike the rest of the world. Frank said, "It's obvious. Americans like sports, as baseball, basketball, and US football, which mandate the use of the hands. After all, use of the hands is what distinguishes us from the beasts of the field."

Antioco Dascalon said...

I think the next major change will be eliminating kickoff returns, since that is one of the few situations where two people run at each other at full speed.
Next, along with bigger helmets, I think WRs and QBs will get more protection by the refs, maybe with harsher penalties for big hits.
I like the idea of limiting rosters, forcing players to be more versatile and thus less likely to pit giants against small people.

Anonymous said...

"and it's popularity in the U.S is stagnating evident by the growing popularity of real FOOTball in American high schools."

They've been saying that for 30 or 40 years. Soccer is popular in Seattle and just about nowhere else. And even in Seattle the departed Sonics are still more talked about than the Sounders. UFC and the NHL are more popular than soccer. Baseball is losing popularity partly because it's slow, boring and low scoring, soccer is even worse.

Five Daarstens said...

Here is an interesting blog post about Rugby vs Football injuries:

http://austrianeconomists.typepad.com/weblog/2009/11/back-to-some-economic-basics-football-vs-rugby.html

Baloo said...

Glad you're back, Steve. I was afraid Eric Holder got you.

Matra said...

They should abolish Special Teams along with Offence and Defence and just have the same 11 players on at all times with perhaps the option of about 3 non-reversible substitutions. I was watching the other day and there was a running back who got a first down and then had to rest for the next play! He ran a whole 12 or so yards then needed a break. Not much of an athlete obviously. Having players come on to do just one task along with a completely different set of players for different situations makes a mockery of the idea that they are a team. This might also save you from having to widen the goalposts as the kicker would be someone already on the field whose not as likely to be as good as the current kickers. If you did bring on a specialist field goal kicker he'd have to stay on for the rest of the game.

I'd also get rid of most padding and helmets. The sport would be more interesting to watch if the players tackled instead of hitting.

Ever watched Aussie Rules football? Constant action, no pads or helmets

The action is boring and the scoring is ridiculously uninteresting.

Anonymous said...

They should abolish Special Teams along with Offence and Defence and just have the same 11 players on at all times with perhaps the option of about 3 non-reversible substitutions.
like rugby.. abolish the over coaching too -smarter athletes with more middle speed endurance=demographic shift.

Anonymous said...

. A popular and sports culture built around blacks
The fact that colleges (and the NFL ) are willing to overlook rape, drug use, thuggish behavior, poor role models for children indicates to me we've passed, long ago, from greek olympian ideals (sports as a metophor/lesson) to gladitorial entertainment for decadent, dumb masses.

Anonymous said...

Maybe a size rule on lineman?
rugby has no such problems -you can't have 375 pound guys with 4.5 forties who can keep that up the whole game.

Camlost said...

"A popular and sports culture built around blacks has peaked and is due for a decline, although the decline will probably be slow."

Nah, racial backlash hasn't affected the NFL's bottom line yet. The NFL has been able to market very wisely by focusing on the teams and quarterbacks. For instance, most Americans still can't name a single player from the Green Bay Packers outside of Aaron Rodgers (and even he only got his first major commercial endorsement very recently).

Meanwhile, the NBA is languishing due to its focus on pure star power, which worked well for commissioner David Stern when you had affable and living room palatable guys like Jordan, Erving, Magic, etc.... but not so much when your flagship stars are accused felon divas like Kobe Bryant or tattooed, heavily entouraged freaks like Allen Iverson or Carmelo Anthony.

Anonymous said...

The fact that colleges (and the NFL ) are willing to overlook rape, drug use, thuggish behavior, poor role models for children indicates to me we've passed, long ago, from greek olympian ideals (sports as a metophor/lesson) to gladitorial entertainment for decadent, dumb masses.

When have sports not been about gladitorial(sic) entertainment?

Even students at Oxford and Cambridge get bloodlust when their respective rugby teams take to the field.

rjp said...

Football dies when the NFL decises it wants a piece of the fantasy football action, via a franchise fee for drafting players to a team in the various venues that organize the leagues.

This will happen the first time the NFL sees it needs more money while under these new contracts.

Fantasy football players will quit in droves when they have to pay the NFL to play. And there will no longer be free leagues because the tax will be collected by the league organizers.

Organized fantasy football is the only thing keeping it afloat right now. Very few people would manually run a league and do all the stats keeping.

Hunsdon said...

I echo the other commentors who are favorably inclined towards rugby, with players going both ways (eww, ick, not like THAT!) and de minimis padding and protection. In fact, I'd be heartily in favor of replacing the NFL with rugby, either union or league rules.

However, it would never fly in America. The incessant stoppages in American football may be seen either as a bug, or a feature. For the fans, they are a bug, for the advertisers, a feature.

Follow the $$.

TD said...

Frank said, "It's obvious. Americans like sports, as baseball, basketball, and US football, which mandate the use of the hands. After all, use of the hands is what distinguishes us from the beasts of the field."

Yeah, Dr. Frank DeFord, that incisive scholar of anthropology and sociology. Certainly the go-to thinker in the field.

That comment of his is an old cliche (and isn't unique to him), and it makes no more sense now than it did then. The hominids on the parcel of land called "the United States" are not somehow dramatically different from the hominids on the world's other parcels of land. We all value the use of hands. You don't have to be in the United States to have some particular affinity for that part of the body.

Christ, it's just sports. Football's transformation into gridiron football in the U.S. is just a historical happenstance. The truth is, it could have been soccer here that took off here, just as easily as it happened elsewhere. Attaching some sort of overarching binary cultural analysis to it all is kind of precious.

Hacienda said...

The decline of the American male can tracked by the rise of offense over defense. Interventionism over territorial defense.

It's a sad commentary when astringent Steve becomes gimmicky Steve. A sucker for easy high scoring candy plays. It's surely a bad omen.

Real Americans prefer 10-3 football games, when a Larry Cszonka 7 yard run was the defining play of the gaem. When the Steel Curtain was
boss, and Terry Bradshaw was an afterthought.

Svigor said...

Excellent point about "scoring" Glaivester, I hadn't thought of that. The game within the game of building a drive.

Y'know I thought the sand suggestion was crazy talk. It's starting to grown on me. Heavy, coarse sand. Hmmm.

What are an American's options for watching Rugby, ARF, or other football-ish games? Can I get this stuff over the net?

Matej Chalupka said...

Intersting discussion. As European I do not care about about Americal Fotball, but I do understand, why Americans do not care about soccer. Anyhow, one question occupy my mind. Do you play Football after after you finish high school or colledge? One think, why is soccer so popular is, that many people plays even, if they do not watch games in TV. Like me. Just wondering...

candid_observer said...

"Christ, it's just sports. Football's transformation into gridiron football in the U.S. is just a historical happenstance. The truth is, it could have been soccer here that took off here, just as easily as it happened elsewhere. Attaching some sort of overarching binary cultural analysis to it all is kind of precious."

It's just not obvious to me that that's so.

Some sports pretty well ruin one for other sports. I think that this is one prominent reason that American baseball has been in decline relative to American football. One is simply more exciting to more men than the other, after years of exposure to both.

The real obstacle to the adoption of American football elsewhere is the considerable learning curve involved in getting to a point of real appreciation of the sport. (All sports present a learning curve problem, but that for American football is the highest.)

There is considerable inertia in a given culture to the adoption of a new sport for this reason. The popularity of soccer elsewhere no doubt owes much to its "first mover" advantage.

But the real test is how various sports fare in popularity in cultures in which they each have some real presence. Certainly these days soccer has gotten enough of a foothold (heh) in our culture that some kind of comparison can be made with American football.

And soccer isn't winning.

Svigor said...

Re: concussions - it's the helmets. You can make all the rules you want, but as long as you wrap a player's head in an over-engineered helmet, concussions will be a feature of the game.

Yeah the impression of concussions is they're named after your brain slapping up against the opposite side of your skull; your brain is driven up against your skull wall. So the more armor people get to their heads the more force they can lend to the concussions, which is the only thing that really matters until they start putting armor inside the skull.

Anonymous said...

When have sports not been about gladitorial(sic) entertainment?

Even students at Oxford and Cambridge get bloodlust when their respective rugby teams take to the field.

angel cake, like entertainment, like music - it can have a positive or negative effect on character. Observe the nice white girl who starts listening to rap and is influenced by MTV garbage and ends up .. well like a lot women now.

"Sex and the City" has had an utterly devastating effect on western women -Paul Wolfowitz was right, this stuff can be satelite beamed into enemy countries as a weapon.

So it is with sports, darling. It helps create society mores and metaphors. Once colleges showed they were more willing to 'win' than have real student athletes, once they allowed thugs to terrorize campuses (I went to a big ten school where this happened) they helped lower the moral standards of society, sweetheart.

My father went to a very well known prep school - one year (this was in the fifties) another school had a football team that looked like 19 year old steel workers - the rest of the conference told them that if they did it again, they were out - if only colleges had been able to maintain those standards the way the maintain a cartel on high tuition.

Sports are 100% expendable - they are of no use to society - and in fact, in their current state, they are a detriment.

Anonymous said...

Deserves a repost::
I am a thorough believer in vigorous manly out-door sports, but when they become, instead of a pastime, a permanent business, or whenever they interfere with serious work, then they are a sure sign of decadence.

Theodore Roosevelt

Anonymous said...

The linemen have next to nothing to do with the concussion issue. The skill position players are the ones at risk, and DBs/LBs being unschooled in the Art of Tackling, as the trained monkeys on Showtime's Inside the NFL pointed out last week, are more the issue.

Sherman, set the Wayback Machine to 5-10 years ago, and we can see the ESPN-led Ebonization of Sports Coverage had Monday Night Football showing and lauding the top five crippling shots delivered in the weekend NFL games, with Tom Jackson and Michael Irvin (speaking of trained monkeys!) screeching "Jacked Up" after every hit. Testosterone Uber Alles!

Now, with the specter of expensive torts hanging over the NFL landscape, such features and commentary have faded away. The league has pretty much legislated away the most dangerous play, the kick return, by moving the kick up to the 35-yard line. I don't see much else to do that won't change the nature of the game.

I don't think the casual (and foreign) commenters get how big these guys are. The "little guys" in the defensive backfield usually go about 6 feet and 215 lbs. Those "320" pound linemen are in reality about 360-375; c'mon, they list Vince Wilfork at 323! I was a 275 lb. two-way lineman in high school, and there was a hierarchy of contact. Line play had us smacking helmet-to-helmet on almost every play, and I didn't see any serious head injuries in my 4 years. I occasionally lined up in the backfield on short yardage, a la the Fridge, and the extra 4 yards head start led to some memorable shots, including the first time a kid that I had hit needed to be carried off. Kickoffs were the only plays I worried about serious injury. E=mc squared!

Anonymous said...

Soccer is America's sport of the future - and always will be.

Anonymous said...

TD, Frank DeFord (sic) was absolutely correct. If you looked at who the American soccer players first moving to the superior European leagues were, you'd find that they were goalkeepers. Why? Natural hand-eye coordination and dexterity sharpened by growing up playing baseball, football and other "hand" games as well as soccer.

Gene Berman said...

Svigor:

Yes, checkers vs. chess is an apt comparison, 'cept I'd take it a bit further and say it's checkers vs. "three-dimensional" chess.

Another thing that is at least somewhat routinely characteristic of NFL football is the number of times, even in otherwise less-than-important games, that spectators are treated to one-off exhibitions of extraordinary athletic ability (and even artistry). People expect
excitement, get it, and it's gone; but special, unique performances are an "extra" of which enduring memories are formed (and worth big bucks).

The "chess" aspect isn't limited to what takes place on the field, either. Coaches make real-time decisions as to play (and also as to substitutions and "challenges") often critical to outcome.

Anonymous said...

I mean, the entire basis of the game hinges on a random measurement -- "10 yards."

Welcome to earth, where we use base 10 units.

0osvaldo Mm.

M Fawful said...

It is interesting that there is this big sports dichotomy between the US and Europe. Soccer seems boring as hell to me, and also largely random.

For example, the awful US team often defeats or ties high profile European teams like Portugal, England, Italy, etc., only to lose to Ghana or the Czech Republic.

I realize most of the fun of sports is getting drunk and screaming with friends, but can't the game be a bit interesting as well?

trey said...

I think the main factor in boxing's decline was probably the emergence of pay-per-view fights. I was a kid from a sports-centric house during the second phase of Ali's career. I remember watching on broadcast TV several exciting fights of his and developing a general affinity for the sport that way. As far as I can tell, that pathway to fandom hasn't been available for the average kid since the 80's.

Also, on football: over the Christmas holiday, a TV set tuned to sports was the centerpiece of the family gathering and I honestly found myself way more interested in the NBA games and some podunk college basketball games than the NFL. Maybe I was suffering from a surfeit of football or the NBA had especially interesting matchups for Christmas, but I think the NFL is vastly over-rated as an entertainment product and probably like TD suggests above that its vast popularity is due to a good deal of dumb luck and the tendency for a culture to want to focus on one entertainment purveyor (since most of the utility of spectator sports is its role as a topic of small talk.)

ironrailsironweights said...

The other big problem I have with the game is that you can't even theoretically get a bunch of people to a field somewhere and play something resembling what you see on TV ... with football its either touch football or bring out the pads, helmets, and so on. I suspect that this is why American football became really big with the TV era and never had much success in spreading beyond the U.S.

It's also the reason why almost no one past college age actually plays football. While football is America's favorite spectator sport, as an adult participant sport it probably ranks below curling and squash.

Peter

Tired of It All said...

Does your team reflect the personality and qualities unique to your region? Players are fungible. How many players play for their hometown?
Nothing more enjoyable than listening to sports cliches delivered in broken English. My favorite sport, baseball is the worst offender. Soccer would follow suit, if it ever becomes popular here; expect a lot of translators and don't expect to see your local team heroes play for team USA.
Sports is a tax on White vicarious excitement. Let's strip them of all reverence, allow the players to roid up to ridiculous proportions and admit that what they do is a spectacle like pro wrestling but without the authenticity.

Anonymous said...

Other football codes are not immune from rule tinkering. Rugby, football and Aussie Rules have had yearly refinements to the rules; typically aimed at rewarding more attacking play or reducing safety risks.
Also, these other footballs have trended away from specialisation and towards your standard issue athlete in every position. Soccer started this when Holland's 1974 world cup side astonished with its notion of 'total football'. These days, chubby rugby forwards, strong centre halves with poor fine motor skills and lanky Aussie ruckmen who can't kick are confined to the amateur leagues.
Gilbert Pinfold

Evil Sandmich said...

Some good ideas. The NFL should run with them during the meaningless preseason to see how it works out. After all, no one wants to even risk anyone getting injured in those games (same goes for the Pro Bowl).

josh said...

Re Truth:""...these guys get paid millions and you get paid by the hour." Not the hour...by the bushel basket.

Anonymous said...

svig What are an American's options for watching Rugby, ARF, or other football-ish games? Can I get this stuff over the net?
you just missed the every four years rugby orgy - the world cup
espn two etc, occasionally runs stuff, I have seen some online
http://espn.go.com/watchespn/index/_/sport/rugby/channel/espn3

Whiskey said...

Football became "America's Game" when after reforms by TR, the game became far less violent and brutal, and more "Americanized" with various innovations and schools like very (at the time, no more) Catholic Notre Dame becoming leaders in the sport. Knute Rockne, All American? Win one for the Gipper? Compared to European soccer with barbed wire and riots, American football has a hold on the American popularity. Baseball declined because steroid use so widespread eroded its traditions which is what really defined the sport.

Football does have a Blackness problem. Too many, a totally Black sport ala the NBA and you are looking at NBA style revenues, roughly 1/4 of what the NFL currently brings in. Blackness is probably a barrier for expansion into Asia and Europe for both sports, the NBA notably failing in China. White fans like White stars, not Black ones. Its just simple human nature.

Truth -- Lawsuits against the NFL hurt Black players more than White ones. Hence a reluctance to launch them. Matt Ryan or Drew Brees won't be hurting, but Adrian Peterson will, under lawsuits (who will see salary cuts, star White QBs or disposable running backs?) Just like the media actually has a code of conduct not to identify Black or Hispanic criminals, less people get "the wrong ideas." Anytime you don't see any explicit identification therefore it is a slam dunk the criminal comes from one or the other group.

AmericanGoy said...

How about having more than 11 minutes of action in a 3 hour commercial fest?

Anonymous said...

" They sprint at each other for ten seconds and then stop for three minutes. BORING. You claim that soccer has too little scoring to be interesting, an incredibly bizarre critique."

I agree. I never watched soccer until a few years ago and it is a really good game. There is much more skill involved than football. I don't watch sports the way I used to, but if i could only watch one sport it would European football(soccer). However, there are way to many foreigners in the European leagues now. Way too many Brazilians, Africans, Argentinians etc.. That doesn't even include nonwhites who play for England, France etc..The needs to be a max of 3 foreigners per team. I don't mean starters. I mean total on the team.

AmericanGoy said...

A very big thing which everyone is missing re:soccer in the states is the popularity of the computer game FIFA (FIFA 12 is the current incarnation).

The clear majority of gamers play this game on consoles (and somewhat on PC's) and are introduced to the sport this way.

For the record, I only learned about baseball when I downloaded a demo of a baseball computer game and finally figured out what a ball, out and steal was.

I think only cricket is a more boring spectacle than baseball... like pulling teeth.

Truth said...

"Too many, a totally Black sport ala the NBA and you are looking at NBA style revenues, roughly 1/4 of what the NFL currently brings in."

There is no totally black sport, not even breakdancing is totally black, Sport. The NFL is currently 2/3 black, and the NBA makes more money than hockey, soccer, or tennis.

"Blackness is probably a barrier or expansion into Asia and Europe for both sports"

Oh, that's why mostly white baseball is so popular in Europe and Asia...oh wait, strike that.

"the NBA notably failing in China."

Dude, would it be asking too much for you to research something once...JUST ONCE...rather than pulling it out of your ass?

http://www.businessweek.com/globalbiz/content/oct2007/gb20071023_180498.htm

White fans like White stars, not Black ones. Its just simple human nature.

Oh, so it's black people that make Kobe's 27 million dollar salary possible?

Truth said...

"Truth -- Lawsuits against the NFL hurt Black players more than White ones. Hence a reluctance to launch them."

Whiskey, now try to follow here:
Only an INJURED party (literally or metaphorically) can launch a lawsuit, therefore, the plaintiffs in concussion lawsuits will be EX-PLAYERS; so who has a "reluctance to launch them?" The black ex players, the white ex-players, the lawyers who stand to make millions, who? Please, Whiskey, I'm trying to be on your side here, but this is why you spend your entire life being ridiculed.

Matt Ryan or Drew Brees won't be hurting, but Adrian Peterson will, under lawsuits (who will see salary cuts, star White QBs or disposable running backs?)"

So the only players being unhurt by lawsuits will be a handful of starting white QB's?

OK, I'm done.

RKU said...

Hmmm... A long, detailed post about the Housing Bubble which caused the near-collapse of our financial system and led to a gigantic worldwide recessive generated 84 comments over the last six days. Meanwhile, a short post about football strategy generated 92 comments in just 24 hours.

Methinks I understand how our country got into such a terrible mess and why it isn't too likely to get out of it...

Anonymous said...

There would be fewer serious concussions (I imagine) if they played without helmets and shoulder pads. Players wouldn't run into each other with such abandon.

That's sort of what happened with boxing. Before gloves, boxers sometimes got their faces cut up and teeth knocked out, and their hands broken from striking the forehead, but there were fewer drooling brain-damaged old-timers. The invention of big padded gloves made boxers throw and take a lot more punches to the head, resulting in lots of brain damage sustained over the course of a boxer's career.


I will actively discourage my boys playing football, and would do everything I could to keep them from boxing. That squshy gray stuff in the bone box on your shoulders is you.

Smart move. I boxed for a little while. One of the things that made me get out was looking at the drooling mush-mouthed old boxers who still got in the ring and sparred like it was a championship fight. I felt bad knowing that the hundreds of stiff jabs and overhand rights I was hitting them with were causing even further damage to their already scrambled brains. It wasn't a pretty sight. Boxing is a useful skill to know, but just learn the fundamentals of it and get out quick. Only an idiot would stick around for years soaking up punishment to the brain.

Tired of It All said...

Football is a television sport. The more you see the better. The physicality and strategy can both be appreciated-focus on what interests you.
Baseball is a terrific radio sport. Day games could be heard in the background at diners, delis, small stores, cabs, delivery trucks and construction sites. Children could listen while outside playing stickball. You have to wonder why baseball was so foolish to abandon its time slot to talk radio. Rush Limbaugh is not complaining.
Soccer is lame on TV. Only a gifted poet could make it bearable on radio. "He's running with the ball, he's running with the ball, he's running with the ball....."

boxingfan said...

The boxing organizations, brain injuries and corruption aren't helping boxing, but they aren't really anything new either. Past stars of the sport have been widely publicized as having mental problems following retirement for more than a century now. And you don't really need to be on the cutting edge of neurology to figure out that having your head knocked around isn't good for you, anyway.

So I don't think that boxing's problems are necessarily due to any breakthroughs in the public's understanding of medical science.
What I personally think is one of its biggest problems is the lack of places to learn it or knowledgeable people to teach it in the US anymore. In the past, boxing was just a ubiquitous skill (the old saying is that boxing is a skill not a sport) that American men ought to know. Sugar Ray Robinson for example learned to box at a gym in his local catholic church's basement. When it stopped being a given that boxing was a skill that boys should learn, it's only natural that the sport would decline as well.

And it's not like American boys stopped learning to fight circa 1960. They just transitioned into other stuff that didn't have the baggage associated with boxing. Boxing, like a lot of other things,
just sort of got left behind when the white ethnics moved to the suburbs. You can see the proof for this in MMA, where a significant portion of the American competitors have wrestling backgrounds.

boxingfan said...

Steve, you seem to think to think that stuff like boxing and football are basically in the realm of low iq lunks who can't clearly assess the risks and benefits involved. This is tunnel vision on your part. I don't think that you understand high testosterone types. There are actually no shortage of people who love boxing who are simultaneously aware of the fact that it's not great for the brain or is perhaps even one of the stupidest things on earth that human beings willingly engage in. I'd point you in the direction of your bosses and former boxers, Buchanan and Taki, by way of example.

Anonymous said...

Just play rugby union in rugby kit, but without the obstruction law and allowing forward passing.

League is the only proper form of Rugby.

Anonymous said...

'Does your team reflect the personality and qualities unique to your region? "

Athletic Bilbao is about the only team in the US or Europe that has alllocal players. They take all their players from the Basque region.The have relaxed it a little because players can now be from the teams academy.


From Wiki" Athletic official policy is signing professional players native to the greater Basque Country, including Biscay, Guipúzcoa, Álava and Navarre (in Spain); and Labourd, Soule and Lower Navarre (in France). Still, in recent times, this policy has been somewhat relaxed and players with direct Basque ancestry or with no Basque ancestry but formed in Basque clubs have played for the team. "

Anonymous said...

"as an adult participant sport it probably ranks below curling and squash."

Squash is cool. I wished I had played that as a kid. I just started to play it, but it is quite difficult.

Anonymous said...

"For example, the awful US team often defeats or ties high profile European teams like Portugal, England, Italy, etc., only to lose to Ghana or the Czech Republic."

It's actually not very random. Man United has dominated the BPL for years. If it were random, one year they might finish first and the next they might be 18th. The same goes for Real Madrid and Barcalona. Any one game a lesser team can win, but there are upsets in college football and basketball too.

Anonymous said...

I think Whiskey touched on the problem.

Ben Roethlisberger got a 4 game or quarter season ban for violating a rule one time too many.

Compare this to Roger Clemens answering a question by saying the first thing he would do was to bean Mike Piazza.

The first pitch he threw he beaned Mike Piazza and the umpires did nothing and the commissioner did nothing and then when Clemens threw the broken bat at Piazza in game one of the World Series the umpires did nothing and the commissioner again did nothing.

If that does not say that those running the sport do not give a rat's ass about it I do not know what does.

Jack said...

The NBA is back. If a true white American star developed it would overtake the NFL. Of course that'll never happen.

NFL is most popular because it's the best sport to gamble on.

Anonymous said...

I echo the other commentors who are favorably inclined towards rugby

It's interesting that the Anglosphere nations gravitate to somewhat violent team sports, like American Football, Rugby, Australian Rules, English Soccer Riots, and the like. Though the Afghans do play Buzkashi.

Are there any other regionally popular, contact team sports, aside from the ever-popular "let's go burn the other guy's village?"

Matra said...

I believe football has overtaken all other sports due to scarcity in an age of saturation TV coverage. With only 16 games they all matter. A botched snap resulting in a missed field goal in November could be the difference between a team going to the playoffs or going home. In the NBA, NHL, and MLB each team is playing just about every night for over half the year - all on TV. The games in those leagues are de-valued. In the NFL the season is less than half the year and your team plays only once per week thus making each game an occasion.

Soccer seems boring as hell to me, and also largely random.

For example, the awful US team often defeats or ties high profile European teams like Portugal, England, Italy, etc., only to lose to Ghana or the Czech Republic.


Even in international soccer it is hardly random but in club soccer especially nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps there should be a moratorium here on anyone who has only seen international soccer discussing the sport. The quality of soccer played week in week out by Barcelona, Real Madrid, and the top teams in England, Germany and Italy is far superior to what you'll see when countries play each other at tournaments like the World Cup. No one who has watched the current Barcelona team could possibly believe that what they are seeing is random.

Anonymous said...

"In basketball, all players need to be able to pass and shoot."

You're not kidding, are you? You know very little about basketball, at all levels.

Anonymous said...

I wrestled and played football in high school.

Then when I was in the Marine Corps infantry, I boxed a little - back in the day, we used to have inter-regimental/battalion bouts or matches between us and ship's company when we were out at sea for a while.

IMO, while wrestling/football can be tough, physical, violent, they pale in comparison to the absolutely raw atavistic nature of boxing.

Boxing is now just too visceral and primally violent for the increasingly tender American/western sensibilities. Even MMA has a significant skill/martial arts aesthetic component.

Anonymous said...

The soccer fans never quit do they? I've been listening to them for 30 years. Always selling;

Soccer is so complex and subtle.

You just don't get it, you need to watch the world Cup. You just don't get it,you need to watch the best pro teams.

Wow, did you see that 1-0 win by Dallas over Seattle?! Man that was one crazy game. Dallas got ahead 1-0 by halftime. It was thrilling to see them run out the clock for 45 minutes. Such great passing! It was like watching Chess with a ball on a grass field!

Stop, please. Soccer is boring to watch on TV, period. Even people who play it as a kid don't watch it.

Reg Cæsar said...

Though the Afghans do play Buzkashi.

How does buzkashi compare in popularity with pederasty? I would imagine the injuries concentrate in different parts of the body.

You could combine the appeal of the two pastimes by replacing the headless goat with a pantless boy.

Reg Cæsar said...

I'm just amazed at the sheer perseverence of the football bigots and the soccer bigots in saying the other sport sucks. You'd think one side or the other would have prevailed long ago, but no, each side counters with new depths.

Admit it, guys: baseball and soccer are more boring than football and basketball because white guy s can still play them. You've just kissed Truth's ring.

Was the crippling of Darryl Stingley a bug, or a feature? I ask, because that was about the time football started to eclipse baseball.

Daniel said...

As a lifetime fan of both pro and college football, I think that pro football has never been more entertaining. I've shed about every other single source of mass-culture crap in my life (excepting the occasional Law & Order rerun on a late Tuesday night), but I'm still addicted to the NFL.

It ain't broke, so don't fix it!

Daniel said...

Also, regarding race: all NFL defenses are primarily black. There are a few white safeties, and some very good white defensive linemen (including elite players like Jared Allen of Minnesota and Justin Smith of San Francisco). There are some other great white defensive players (Clay Matthews of Green Bay comes to mind), but by and large defenses are black. For instance, ALL starting (and maybe even reserve? I am not sure) cornerbacks are black. Corner is probably THE elite athletic position in American pro sports. Playing good corner is VERY hard. You have to be faster than receivers, and receivers are FAST.

But, coming to offenses: the best offenses in the NFL this season are mostly white. Green Bay, New Orleans, and New England have by far the most potent offenses in the NFL, using any measure you care to suggest (total yards, points scored, wins, etc).

All three have white quarterbacks (Rodgers, Brady, and Brees, who are already legends in their own time). All three have majority-white offensive lines. Green Bay (Kuhn) and New England (Woodhead) have white RB's they use with some frequency, but their main runners, and all the runners of New Orleans, remain black.

It's the white receivers/tight ends of these three teams that really stand out. Jordy Nelson (GB), Wes Welker, Julian Edelmann, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez (NE) and Jimmy Graham (NO) are all either totally white (Welker, Nelson) or very light skinned (Hernandez, Graham). Put them together with their white QB's and white OL and you have some very white offenses.

I actually wonder if you can get white players (especially unknown guys like Nelson and Gronkowski) for much cheaper than equivalent black players, because of the perceived superiority of black players. That is, smart teams like Green Bay and New England go out and sign these undervalued white players and they become the racial NFL versions of Billy Beane.

Daniel said...

Actually, I'll go one further and suggest that maybe the reason the NFL is so insanely popular in the US right now is that it's somehow managed to find a smart balance between black fast-twitch athleticism (which is thrilling to watch) and white endurance- and intelligence-based athleticism (which is more engrossing to watch and debate with your friends).

There is no position in any sport that is comparable to quarterback in American football. Not even starting pitcher in baseball, not striker or keeper in soccer, not point guard or center in basketball. Quarterback is EVERYTHING in American football. And yet, if a quarterback doesn't have a good defense manned by elite fast-twitch black athletes, he's toast (see: Marino, Dan). But a fantastic defense full of great black athletes will also fail if they don't have a Drew Brees or a Tom Brady on the other side of the ball (see: Minnesota Vikings of the last 15 years).

Sure there are exceptions, like Doug Williams (black) and Trent Dilfer (white), but don't they just prove the rule?

I'd put $1000 down right now that either NE, NO, GB, or PIT will win the Super Bowl this year, and they all have black defenses and white-dominated offenses (PIT less so, but still.. they have Rapelisberger)

jody said...

professional boxing is bigger now than it's ever been.

the pay per view model played a role in removing it from network television in the US. but in addition, because boxing is bigger now than ever before and the talent pool is bigger, black americans don't win as much. sometimes they lose badly. american television producers don't like to show that.

nor do they like to show two non-americans boxing for a title. american sports spectators are pretty much garbage from that perspective. "No American in this? I don't care how good they are" is the general rule here for all sports. there are by-the-event exceptions from time to time, but that rule is a pretty solid bet for television producers, who have to take ratings into account when thinking about the bottom line.

so if it's one of those two scenarios, it's much less likely to be on network or even cable television in the US.

jody said...

amateur boxing is relatively safe. in professional boxing, the only major safety related rule change made in the last 30 years was to reduce the longest round count from 15 to 12. this happened after ray mancini essentially killed a korean boxer in the ring in 1982. by 1989 the WBC, WBO, and WBA had all reduced maximum rounds to 12.

although i would say, it appears referees are now instructed to sometimes stop matches before one guy gets knocked out and completely taken off his feet, and to award a TKO instead while the guy on the losing end of a steady beating is still barely standing.

by the way, NCAA boxing was deactivated in 1960, after a guy died. i'm not sure what the particpation rate was though. but there used to be college boxing. NCAA wrestling however, as always, was the dramatically bigger sport, and wrestling remains much bigger worldwide than boxing, in participation rate and talent pool size.

i'm not sure why they saw fit to deactivate NCAA boxing over one death, when NCAA football players die at a regular rate. but it is what it is. maybe NCAA football players weren't dying back then like they do now.

Anonymous said...

Football is great because it builds almost perfectly like a drama. Got enough scoring that most wins feel convincing (there are very few 7-0 games, equivalent to 1-0 soccer scores and those usually feature a dominant performance by one side) nor too much scoring (such that only the last few scores matter). I'm sure it doesn't hurt that because scoring can be very quick, few leads can be considered truly safe.

Aaron Baugher said...

"The clear majority of gamers play [soccer] on consoles (and somewhat on PC's) and are introduced to the sport this way."

That non-sequiter deserves some kind of prize. Gamers of my generation played a lot of Doom and Quake, but not many of them went out and bought shotguns and headed into the sewer. Playing a computer game is nothing like the real thing, especially a sports game. It's a little like coaching, but nothing like playing. No one's going to develop a desire to kick a ball around because he watched his 'players' do it on the screen while he tried to beat the computer's strategy.

"Really, [soccer] is an exciting sport? Or even a sport? It's like a game invented by 7 year olds with ADHD to play on the street."

That's funny, because in the US, it's a game that parents have their ADHD-afflicted kids play while they sit on the sidelines and chat with their friends and be seen doing the appropriate parenting thing. It's cheap -- all you need is a ball and a couple of goals and some open space -- and it's simple enough that any kid can get out there and play. The more talented kids will still dominate and score the goals, but even the clumsy kids can chase the ball around and get in a kick once in a while. They all get exercise. Send a bunch of kids out to play football or basketball, and it'll turn into a game of catch between the two tallest and fastest, while the rest watch.

Saying that it's stupid that football linemen aren't allowed to catch passes is like saying it's stupid that the king in chess can only move one spot. Wouldn't it be more exciting if he could move all the way across the board to escape? And what's with those knights, with the weird 1-up-2-across moves? And the rooks are practically useless until late in the game, stuck in the corners behind those forward-moving-only pawns. Too much specialization!

I think the complications of football are actually one reason for its popularity. It's just complicated enough to make the average recliner-bound fan feel smart for understanding it. He can stand by the water cooler the next day and show off his knowledge of formations and strategies, and explain to his less clued-in buddies why it was okay for a lineman to catch that one pass (it was tipped), and be the smart guy of the office for the day.

Anonymous said...

Are there any other regionally popular, contact team sports, aside from the ever-popular "let's go burn the other guy's village?"

You forgot the other mostly-Anglophone country: Canada, with ice hockey and lacrosse. Our neighbors to the north have the reputation of being so "nice" but manage to have two national pastimes that are incredibly violent.

Anonymous said...

How about mixing football with MMA?

Anonymous said...

You forgot the other mostly-Anglophone country: Canada, with ice hockey and lacrosse. Our neighbors to the north have the reputation of being so "nice" but manage to have two national pastimes that are incredibly violent.

Ice Hockey and Lacrosse aren't violent.

ironrailsironweights said...

professional boxing is bigger now than it's ever been.
the pay per view model played a role in removing it from network television in the US. but in addition, because boxing is bigger now than ever before and the talent pool is bigger, black americans don't win as much. sometimes they lose badly. american television producers don't like to show that.


Conventional "wisdom" holds it that a sport which is popular in the rest of the world is meaningless unless it's also big in America. In some ways boxing is like soccer, a sport that's much bigger overseas than it is here.

As for pay-per-view, as much as I loath the whole concept I also have to (very grudgingly) admit that it makes sense in certain circumstances. There just aren't many opportunities to show commercials during a fight - a maximum of 11 one-minute spots in a 12-round fight, and of course the fight can end early.

Peter

poolside said...

Much of the criticism of soccer in the U.S. is generational ... kids today not only play soccer but they also follow the sport.

Yes, people have said for years that American soccer was the "next big thing" but that was before we had a well-managed, well-funded professional league or access to telecasts of the Premiership, Champions League, MFL, etc.

MLS will never surpass the NFL or NBA but the people who predict its demise are going to be sorely disappointed.

Anonymous said...

I would like to see a study comparing the blood alcohol levels of the average NFL fan in the stands with the average Euro soccer fan!

Svigor said...

Methinks I understand how our country got into such a terrible mess and why it isn't too likely to get out of it...

...because sports are easier to understand than the real world?

Corner is probably THE elite athletic position in American pro sports. Playing good corner is VERY hard. You have to be faster than receivers, and receivers are FAST.

They can't catch for shit. If they could, they'd be receivers. I'll leave it to everyone else to judge for themselves whether butterfingers and ham hands = pinnacle athlete.

Anonymous said...

As a lifetime fan of both pro and college football, I think that pro football has never been more entertaining.
precisely. ENTERTAINING. decadent societies look at sport as entertainment. Healthy ones look at it as character building and re-enforcing morality.

Anonymous said...

Admit it, guys: baseball and soccer are more boring than football and basketball because white guy s can still play them. You've just kissed Truth's ring.
..and rugby, buttercup?
Eliminate substitutions and timeouts and blacks as a % of top players would diminish to soccer levels.

Anonymous said...

Most fans care most about passing and open field running


No, most fans care about big hits - about seeing some guy get hammered into the ground.

Anonymous said...

Ditka was quoted saying, "I said a long time ago if you want to change the game take the mask off the helmet," he said. "It will change the game a lot. If you want to change the game and get it back to where people aren't striking with the head and using the head as a weapon, take the mask off the helmet."


Better yet, take the helmets off entirely.

Anonymous said...

Soccer seems boring as hell to me, and also largely random.


For example, the awful US team often defeats or ties high profile European teams like Portugal, England, Italy, etc.


The US often defeats defeats or ties high profile European teams like Portugal, England, and Italy?

I guess one reason soccer seems boring to you is that you know absolutely nothing about it.

Aaron said...

You have to care about something to be disappointed about its loss *or* gain. I don't think soccer will ever gain much popularity here, but I won't mind if it does. I played it in high school (intramurals), and it wasn't terrible. Probably not in my top ten favorite sports to play, but not as boring as it looks either. I know the rules, and can appreciate good plays and strategy and defense. There just isn't enough of that to balance the tedium for me, but if others like watching it, good for them.

None of the kids (or adults) I know follow soccer. (Hearing that someone I know "follows" soccer -- actually has a favorite team and knows the players and their schedule and the latest injuries and so on -- would be like hearing that they "follow" horse racing or competitive backgammon. Nothing wrong with it, but unexpected, certainly.) The kids I know play soccer because it's available and their parents suggest it, but they also play baseball, basketball, volleyball, etc. in their seasons. They'll play whatever their parents will pay for and haul them to, basically. As these kids have gotten older, they've tended to gravitate to one of the other sports, usually baseball or basketball (most of the schools here are too small for football). I'm not sure I know a kid over the age of 12 that still plays soccer. Maybe that's just me.

Chris McFarland said...

Americans find incomprehensible... in a loop for apparent emphasis

Not all Americans. I used to watch football every Sunday. Absolutely loved it. However, I got introduced to futbol via a World Cup and have hardly been back to football since. In a way, everything you say about futbol is true. It is slow, although somewhat constant. Diving is pathetic but a part of the game that is not going away. The biggest tournament in world often has some of the worst futbol quality. Club level is much better. And highlights show many missed chances because the sport is friggin hard!

But the sport still converted me away from football over the course of a couple years. Here is why. Most will dismiss these reasons as silly but I've heard the same from other converts so there is something to it. This is all at the club level. As I mentioned, I'm not a huge fan of the internationals. I follow the EPL but only because I only have time to follow one league. Germany and Spain are also excellent.

1. The season means something for almost all teams for the entire season. European tournaments are available for the top seven or so teams. The first place team wins the title. The bottom three teams face relegation. So much better than watching Indianapolis play for the first pick in the draft

2. One player doesn't dominate the game. In football the QB has a huge impact. Yes, it can be fun to watch one player dominate. But it gets boring. I much prefer watching a team work together to dominate

3. Ties. Yes, I actually like them. Do you remember that feeling you get when teams have played each other to a standstill but one gets some BS field goal at the end of the game to "win"? Bitter. Why not reward a team for playing to a draw? Better yet, the sum total of the available points for a draw is less than the total for a win, so the number of available points to the league as a whole changes each season, depending on the number of draws.

4. Action. Yes, the action can feel meaningless at times. Sometimes it even is meaningless. But there are constant individual battles taking place across the whole pitch. I find this more enjoyable than watching a play, then twenty replays. And the NFL has more than its share of meaningless action too, coupled with many many commercials.

5. Shorter games. I can watch a game in 90 minutes. I can watch a football game in about three and a half days. Or so it feels like. However, I LOVED NFL shortcuts the year I had it. That was the way to watch football. If anything would get me back into the NFL, it would be widely available NFL shortcuts.

6. Personalities. I get to know the players in soccer because I can see them in many types of situations over 90 minutes. I can see their faces and their body posture. I know which ones are whiners, fakers, studs, assholes, etc. In football I get to see skin tight pants, bulky padding, and helmets. Polamalu is famous for his hair sticking out from under his helmet (besides being a good player). I find knowing the player's personalities makes the game more interesting to me.

7. The eternal season. August to May but games are not every day. Perfectly balanced so you don't get sick of the sport without waiting a full week to watch your next match. Not 80 some games like NBA or NHL, or, god forbid, 162 for MLB. But not 16 like the NFL. Perfect.

Enjoy!

Anonymous said...

With so many players out with concussion people are asking whether it was the speeding up of the game that is responsible.

Anonymous said...

"The NBA has gone downhill ever since they allowed Michael Jordan to travel with the ball. Now they all do it."

Reason for NBA's decline according to a poster on the Gruden Pereira disputethread.

Jordan tracvelling allowed it greater popularity but when Jordan retied for good .... .

Anonymous said...

Daniel, Gronkowski and Hernandez were the #1 and #2 rated tight ends in the 2010 draft.

Anonymous said...

baseball and soccer are more boring than football and basketball because white guy s can still play them.


I guess that just proves that sports are as subjective as music and art. Personally, I think that American football is about as interesting a "sport" as professional wrestling.

Anonymous said...

During my career, I was given EXACTLY 490 Darvon by our team doctors. How do I even remember this? It was TWO for each game I played (and I started in all 245 games!).
.
Sorta numbs concussions, don’t ya think? Maybe we could ask some of the other guys how their team doctors took care of concussions.
.
Gregg Bingham
Houston Oilers
1973 – 1984

A former NFL on his treatment for concussion.

The question is to how seriously the issue is being taken?

Colt Mccoy went back into the game against Pittsburgh and there is a question as to whether that was the right decision.

Anonymous said...

>football is traditionally built around huge interior linemen colliding, but only the more knowledgeable fans watch line play.

We need to get the martial arts geeks interested in line play. If one of those incredible hulks started claiming he was doing Taiji 'pushing hands' stuff, the Journal of Eastern Martial Arts editorial heads would explode. And if some UFC guys started using Reggie White's 'Club'? He'd overwhelm the (thus-far, craptastic) sparring skills now milling around the loctagon.