Everyone’s raving about the Broncos/Cowboys game. How exciting it was. How “entertaining,” to use a word that’s been bandied about zillions of times already, it was.
Meh, if scoring touchdowns is the only thing that excites you about football.
And while I understand that some Cowboys fans might be saying, “But it was such an entertaining game!” to themselves to mask the pain of losing yet another heartbreaker, I have to say that scoring is not what football’s all about. In fact, rampant scoring is almost anathema. In no universe is 51-48 a “good” professional football game. It’s Oregon-versus-A&M. Or flag football. Or basketball in cleats.
“Oh, shut up, old man,” I can hear you saying. (I can.) “Why don’t you go back to 1977, when players ate dirt for breakfast and stuck nails in their J Pads. Grrr! Smashmouth football! Grrr! Eat dirt!”
Fine, but that’s not what I’m kvetching about. I admit, there’s nothing better than watching your favorite team jam the ball down the other team’s throat or your defense stuff an opponent’s ground attack, but great throws and catches are mind-blowing and damn near edifying in their grace and power.
It’s just that 51-48 is not good or, to me, even “entertaining” pro football.
And there’s been more of it now than ever, with the 2013 Broncos on pace to top 600, possibly even 700 points themselves.
All of this offensive ejaculating probably owes to collective bargaining. Thanks to the deal struck by the league and the players’ association in 2011, NFL players hardly ever practice in pads in-season (just one day a week), which isn’t a big deal for offensive backs and receivers and defensive backs –– they don’t need pads to practice. All they have to do is run around and play catch and/or keep-away. Offensive and defensive lineman and backers, on the other hand, do need pads to practice –– their livelihoods consist of running into opposing players at high velocities. Furthermore, while offensive linemen spend most games passively getting in other people’s ways, defensive lineman and backers are constantly fighting through blocks, constantly fighting for ground, constantly swimming upstream. Without padded practices, without upper-body cardiovascular conditioning, defensive lineman and backers get soft, and a soft front seven –– plus well-oiled quarterbacks, receivers, and running backs –– is a big explanation for 51-48 and other gross bastardizations of everyone’s favorite sport.
You’d better believe the NFL wants more garish Broncos/Cowboys scores. As if the league doesn’t already generate enough money ($9 billion annually), commissioner Roger Goodell wants more, and he knows that to compete in the global marketplace, one ostensibly obsessed with soccer, the NFL must begin to create new fans. Goodell’s looking at you, recent immigrants. Some easy ways to snare football newcomers include offering them extravagant (or “suburban movie theater-esque”?) stadiums, extravagant (or “dumb and annoying”?) halftime shows, and oodles of touchdowns. Constantly clicking scoreboards can be directly linked to the commish, whose heavy hand has forced refs to throw flags at defenders with the gall to even breathe on quarterbacks or tackle ball carriers with anything resembling genuine malice. As Jason Whitlock once wrote, “The rules of the game are tilted way too heavily in favor of the quarterback. There’s going to be a moment in the next year or two in a very big game where the league jumps the shark, loses credibility with ‘real’ football fans. Some of us don’t play Madden anymore and don’t want to see it on Sundays.”
There’s no indication that the big O trend will continue. Pass-happy teams don’t win many Super Bowls, and if winning a Super Bowl is the crowning achievement of any NFL franchise, then you can expect the smashmouth spirit of ’77 to hang around a bit longer.
But maybe only a bit.
If Peyton Manning wins the Super Bowl this season –– and against another golden arm like Aaron Rodgers or Drew Brees or even a double-threat like Russell Wilson or Colin Kaepernick –– the game we all know and love may be no mas.
“And with their first pick, the Jacksonville Jaguars select … Johnny Football!”