Tuesday, October 19, 2010

IT WILL RUIN THE GAME!!! (panic panic panic)

The concern over monstrous hits took center stage after this week's trifecta of Harrison on Cribbs / Robinson on Jackson / Meriweather on Heap crime. While the NFL clarifies suspension policies, it's decided to dole out fair warning to players rather than suspending them immediately for those violent hits. And with those hits, the chatter about being forced to take action came on strong.

Patrick wrote a quick article about one potentially aggressive, but simple and workable solution. Others have advocated similar aggressive solutions. This morning Steve Czaban suggested banning hitting on his Sporting News Radio program, which prompted me to email him, and got the blog mentioned on the show (thanks Czabe! Podcast available for download).

And with that began the cries that doing so would ruin the game! The media backlash is immense! Okay, well maybe not the media backlash...But the media is saying the fans won't take it! They don't want their product hurt! Okay, I don't know where they're getting that...But the media thinks the fans will react, and they'll shout about it! Meanwhile, lost is the reality that if you outlaw hitting and force open-arm tackles, it won't diminish the game we love, it will in fact enhance it.

The reasons are very simple, and almost inarguable. However, like any good Devil's Advocate, I want to start with the reason NOT to ban hitting.

"It will take away those OH MY! hits, which we as fans love and make us love this game!"

Well, really there isn't much arguing that it will largely take those away. And those hits really are cool to watch. But how many people really love this game only to see those OH MY! hit moments? Would you stop watching football if they didn't exist?

Maybe there are a few that would. But I believe the vast majority of fans wouldn't. And more to the point, for as much as I - as a fan - get charged up seeing those hits, I come down very quickly and get depressingly calm as I see the aftermath of the hit...a man lying on the ground, immobile.

The two reasons in favor of banning such hits? They both revolve around not diminishing, but enhancing the game. Patrick touched on the first in his article.

"Forcing open arm tackles forces players to play fundamentally better football."

For every bone-jarring hit out there, there are five more where the player launches himself at a ball-carrier, only to either miss or bounce off relatively harmlessly and watch the ball-carrier gain another 10, 20 or more yards because they simply failed to wrap him up. Forcing football players to make good tackles makes them play better. Football players playing better improves the product the NFL is selling. I would rather watch well executed football than players on a mission to kill each other.

"Reducing the number of crushing hits keeps players healthier, and keeps starters on the field rather than replaced with second-tier players thanks to injuries."

This is simple. No one here wants to watch UFL players playing NFL football. The better players we have on the field, the better the quality of the games we watch. Okay, Mohamed Massaquoi isn't reminding anyone of Jerry Rice. But is anyone going to argue that it's better to see Chansi Stucky or Carleton Mitchell out there in his place? And DeSean Jackson is certainly one of the better young receivers in this league, an absolutely electric player to watch. It will be a less fun game to watch next week with him on the sidelines.

Bottom line, taking aggressive action won't ruin the game we love, it will make it better. The NFL should strongly consider it, to continue the theme of protecting players, as it's done recently by protecting their quarterbacks by making blows to the head and below the knees illegal. They shouldn't just look to protect the guys under center, they should be protecting everyone, and this is a simple, easy and most importantly positive way to do it.


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