The National Football League’s 32 owners just decided that what it needs is to be more like soccer.
Yeah, this’ll play well in the hinterlands.
The owners decided to introduce a two-unsportsmanlike conduct ejection policy (as opposed to, say, personal fouls, which would have made it the Aqib Talib Rule) – and though they stopped short of making it an actual yellow card/red card proposition, it didn’t stop that short of it.
The “card” system had seemingly been rejected a day earlier, but Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, whose father believes that one aspirin a day was the last real medical advancement (we kid, but screw it; Jerry did say some stupid things Tuesday), told reporters at the owners’ meetings in Luxuria Heights, Narnia, that the rule had been okayed on a provisional basis.
What we are now going to be treated to, then, are few weeks of players trying to bait other players, officials catching on to the ruse and then no longer calling unsportsmanlike conduct penalties – simply because they’re too much of a PITA in a league where ejecting players is considered beyond the last frontier of discipline.
In fact, the only way to get players and coaches to understand how the rules work is to use ejection as the teaching tool, but trust us, that won’t happen. When it comes to things like addressing the sport’s culture, the talk is much more impressive than the walk.
Now it will be fun to hear Al Michaels or Jim Nantz, Troy Aikman or Jon Gruden to come to grips with concepts like, “Oh, he’s on a yellow, he needs to be careful here.” It will stick in their craws. It will lead to fevered punditry about the Europeanization of the Great American Collision Festival. It will lead to Richard Sherman speaking, as he already has.
Now the third one, I’m good with. He should be the league’s only spokesman, frankly.
But with the fiddling about with the kickoff rules and the elimination of the great old American tradition, the chop block, we are going to hear a lot more players say, “I don’t know what I can do any more. I don’t know what the rules are.”
Of course, the logical response to that would be, “Then learn them and apply them, or watch someone else do it.” But the NFL doesn’t do that, because players get paid, and getting paid while idle just doesn’t fit the paradigm.
So we end up with the next stage in old weird football. Personal fouls now cost, and the next thing to come will be a limit on accrued personal fouls leading to a suspension. Chop blocks, long worshiped as the secret to a proper running game, will go only at great dual risk to the chopper (chop and get flagged, or don’t chop and get fired). And the slow-motion beatdown on the kicking part of football continues with the latest kickoff adjustment (touchbacks now come out to the 25 as the next step toward eliminating the kickoff altogether).
And after Tuesday’s flurry of new rules, thus making the annual owners’ meetings more than just a St. Louis hangover something the legion of authority-junkie football media must pay attention to lest it be caught behind the times as defined by Boss Twitter.
(Speaking of St. Louis, the Rams not only got saddled with “Hard Knocks,” HBO’s training camp cliché factory with liberal F-bombs for authenticity and spice, but have to play a regular season game in China in 2018 because what good is an athletic virus if it can’t find new hosts to infect?)
In short, the suits are redefining the workplace again, which is news, and you know what the workers think about that, which is also news. It’s the circle of life, as life is defined on a planet with methane rather than oxygen and molten lead rather than water.
Kind of Flint, Michigan, if Flint got to borrow the Lions while the Chinese get to borrow the Rams.
The Chinese, in their turn, will see a game that will look to them like large colored robots running about for a few seconds, then seeing a rag thrown through the air, followed by a ritual throwing of the arms into the air in bafflement and exasperation, and then endless conferences between officials to make sure they did what they saw, saw what they did, and that it all passed muster before the great god in the replay booth who may or may not be paying attention.
It will be the next example of how the game is being repackaged to meet the moods of those who go to owners’ meetings to the utter confusion of those who coach and play it.
And maybe it has to be that way, if only for the league to figure out how to lower its expenses, especially its liability in CTE and CTE-related cases – because I’m pretty sure Dr. Jerry denying that football is contraindicated for brains is not on the cutting edge of medical thinking here.
That’ll be for next year’s meetings, though, the new topic is why so many players used the new personal foul rule to sharpen up their diving.