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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Wolfman-Arent: How Roger Goodell Burned Baseball, and Buried the Past

The day I stopped gambling was the day I stopped watching football.

Mark it down, carve it in granite, encase it in flowing eulogies.

On July 25, 2011 the National Football League finally laid baseball to rest. Not only did players and owners agree to a new collective bargaining agreement, but they did so with emphasis - as if to prove one last time that football, not baseball, is now America’s game.

Whether it was a power play or mere coincidence I do not know, but it is clear the timing of the NFL agreement savagely undermined the usual excitement surround Major League Baseball’s trading deadline. During the last week of July, in a period of summer doldrums usually dominated by baseball news, the NFL announced a triumphant conclusion to their very contentious and public negotiation.

What’s more, the announcement set into motion the most volatile and consequential period of player movement in NFL history. This immediate onset of manic transacting quickly buried the baseball buzz machine, relegating MLB’s quaint-by comparison trade rumors to the back pages.

The visuals provided by SportsCenter contain all the necessary evidence. As I write this, baseball highlights cower in the corner of the screen, barely visible next to the massive and constant NFL team profiles inhabiting the network’s sidebars. Even on a day that saw a no-hitter and a major deadline trade between two historic franchises, Baseball Tonight anchor Karl Ravech admitted that the day’s headlines had been dominated by football. The boys of summer lost out to the boys of fall…during summer.

Repoz Posted: July 28, 2011 at 04:08 AM | 121 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: rumors

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   101. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:35 PM (#3888148)
Football people are fond of making it seem complicated but it's really not.


There's a possibility that these same people might regard tying one's shoe as complicated, too. And probably it is if you've been brain-damaged from one (thousand) too many hits to the head.
   102. A big pile of nonsense (gef the talking mongoose) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:37 PM (#3888151)
If this fact bothers the football fan, figure out how to play more than once per week.


It's definitely occurred to me that a sport that can be played only once a week, & that more likely than not leaves its participants crippled & facing an early death, is somehow ... I dunno ... inherently flawed. Sort of like boxing. Or jumping out of plane without a parachute.
   103. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:48 PM (#3888158)
America loves baseball. Attendance is higher than ever. People still talk about baseball as a romantic game, with nostalgia and history. We pass it on with our kids. We go to games on dates with our significant others. We go with our aging dad. You could never make a movie like "Field of Dreams" about football. It brings out all the best aspects of America - community, sense of history, leisure, conversation, open spaces.

America lusts after football. It is its secret mistress that brings out the worst in America - violence, gambling, overindulgence in alcohol, fighting, bureaucracy, time management, rivalries.

This is why steroids bothers people in baseball, but not football. You don't mind if your mistress gets a ridiculous boob job, but you don't want the wife you love to get one.
   104. Dale Sams Posted: July 29, 2011 at 01:51 PM (#3888160)
I used to like football


I used to like football then:

Expansion and teams moving destroyed continuity for me. I still can't get used to the idea of Baltimore Ravens, St.Louis Rams, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars...

...and my team (The Raiders) took the 'malcontents' thing too far.

Besides, football would be nothing without that NFL Films music and slow-motion. You know the music..."dutdutdut dut dut dut dut dut duttutututututut tut tut tut tut duttttt"
   105. Jolly Old St. Nick Is A Jolly Old St. Crip Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:16 PM (#3888169)
America loves baseball. Attendance is higher than ever. People still talk about baseball as a romantic game, with nostalgia and history. We pass it on with our kids. We go to games on dates with our significant others. We go with our aging dad.

I guess you're not acquainted with too many alumni clubs or homecoming weekends if you seriously think that team loyalty isn't passed down over the years. And on the pro level, you've got season ticket holders whose seats have been in the family in some cases going all the way back to the 1930's, and often back to the 50's.

You could never make a movie like "Field of Dreams" about football.

I'm much more of a baseball fan than a football fan, but I'd take Rudy any day over that maudlin James Earl Jones piece of schlock.
   106. Conor Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:24 PM (#3888179)
NFL fans are incredibly insecure.


I think a lot of baseball fans are as well. You've got a lot of people who can't wait to tell you how much they don't like the NFL in this very thread.

Take Belichick's decision a couple of years ago to go for in on 4th and 2 deep in his own territory late in the AFC championship game


Minor correction; this wasn't a playoff game. Regular season game.
   107. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:30 PM (#3888185)

I guess you're not acquainted with too many alumni clubs or homecoming weekends if you seriously think that team loyalty isn't passed down over the years.


Yes, I'm talking about the pro game. College athletics is a different animal for several reasons.

And on the pro level, you've got season ticket holders whose seats have been in the family in some cases going all the way back to the 1930's, and often back to the 50's.


Sure, a few people for a few select teams. I don't think that translates to how the general population feels about football. And look, I'm not saying football doesn't have any sense of history or is not passed on to subsequent generations, just that it doesn't happen near as much as baseball. Look, I've taken my three year old kid to several MLB games already. I would never in a million years take him to an NFL game until he's a teenager and subject him to those displays of public intoxication and rowdiness (not to mention seat prices!). Baseball is a kid's game. Football is a man's game.

NFL fans are incredibly insecure.


I think they're honestly the least insecure out of any fans. Baseball fans are IMO because baseball used to be king, and isn't anymore. And I say that as an insecure baseball fan.

Soccer fans are probably second since they get bashed so much.
   108. Conor Posted: July 29, 2011 at 02:32 PM (#3888187)
I think they're honestly the least insecure out of any fans. Baseball fans are IMO because baseball used to be king, and isn't anymore. And I say that as an insecure baseball fan.

Soccer fans are probably second since they get bashed so much.


I also think you can put college hoops up there. I post on a Syracuse board, and any time the NBA is brought up, you're sure to get multiple people mentioning how much they dislike the NBA, how unwatchable it is, they haven't seen a game in forever, it's not as good as college hoops, etc.
   109. Eddo Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:01 PM (#3888211)
NFL fans are incredibly insecure. Baseball still gets more people out to a game than football (football/hockey/basketball combined actually) and it's not even close. If this fact the football fan, figure out how to play more than once per week. Tough ####.

Hilarious that this appears in a thread in which baseball fans can't wait to tear down the NFL.

I'll say it again: I don't care if people do or don't like football. It's a matter of preference - neither football nor baseball (nor soccer nor basketball nor bowling nor golf nor hot dog eating) is inherently better or worse than any other sport.
   110. CrosbyBird Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:45 PM (#3888237)
Moreover, if you don't know any better, listening to the commentators might fool you into thinking that it was actually complex. I could learn an NFL playbook in a day. Plus, because of all the stops these plays are very easy to execute. Soccer and hockey both have complex systems that are more difficult to execute precisely because the play never stops whereas football is an endless procession of set plays. What could be simpler?

Learning the plays isn't complicated. Designing the plays and implementing an appropriate game strategy is incredibly complicated.

I think the soccer/hockey comparison shows the piece you're missing: soccer and hockey have chaotic systems that are impossible to execute precisely. They are improvisational sports. Football (and to a lesser degree, baseball and basketball) have ordered systems that are generally executed with pinpoint precision (only possible because of the incredible talent; certainly no normal person's definition of "easy").

The complexity in football is not from the individual components of a particular play, but in the anticipation and combination of those components. It's not about the complexity of options, but the complexity for the defense anticipating which option they need to be working against. There's a great quote in this article (which is itself an excellent read):

Klosterman on Football

There is this inherent myth about football that suggests offensive success comes in one of two ways: You can run a handful of plays with extreme precision, or you can run a multitude of different plays in the hope of keeping defenses confused. The Green Bay Packers of the Lombardi era embraced the former philosophy (they rarely used more than fifteen different plays in the course of any game, but the fifteen they ran were disciplined and flawless), as did the straightforward running attack of USC during the 1970s and early '80s4. Two modern coaches (Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer) have both found success at the talent-rich University of Florida, seemingly by never running the same play twice. But the inverted thinking of Mike Leach allows Texas Tech to do both: If Texas Tech focuses on only fifteen different plays -- but runs them all out of twenty different formations -- they're instantly drawing from a pool of three hundred options, all of which could still be executed with the repetitive exactitude of the Packers' power sweep.


At any individual moment in a game of go or chess, there are very few reasonable options, but each of those options opens up a different set of possibilities that create incredible complexity. That you might be able to "learn an NFL playbook in a day" doesn't mean that the game isn't complicated. I could teach someone how the pieces in chess move in perhaps fifteen minutes.

Bridge bidding has a remarkably small vocabulary. There are the numbers 1-7, which are combined with one of the 4 suits or the absence of a suit, and three other words: pass, double, and redouble. There are 38 possible phrases that you can utter to represent your bid, and yet countless books have been written on nothing more than bidding systems.

I have no problem with someone who prefers improvisational sports, but frankly, I find them to be less interesting to watch and infinitely less interesting to dissect after watching.
   111. smileyy Posted: July 29, 2011 at 03:52 PM (#3888242)
[94] (b) was of no surprise to me. However, I think his rehabilitation is valuable in the elimination of dogfighting.

(a) however, has turned me off the sport completely. At least in the gladitorial colosseum, you're forced to watch the guys die in front of you, instead of a few years later, out of the spotlight.
   112. Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:10 PM (#3888255)
Two modern coaches (Steve Spurrier and Urban Meyer) have both found success at the talent-rich University of Florida, seemingly by never running the same play twice.


This is my frustration with football. I think this is a subset of the Ecksteinization of sports. The "talent-rich University of Florida" is about a thousand times more important than the fact that they run 85 different plays in a game. Football coaches and diehard fans try to make things like "scheme" seem ultra important when to my eye it all comes down to execution.

Obviously there is an aspect of planning involved. But just as a pitcher can choose to throw a curveball because it is the exact right pitch selection but he doesn't execute and it hangs and lands in the upper deck in left field so too is football going to be about getting the job done. You can pick whatever play you want but when the defensive end destroys the offensive tackle and sacks the quarterback before he has time to even survey the field it doesn't matter.
   113. JJ1986 Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:40 PM (#3888279)
Football coaches and diehard fans try to make things like "scheme" seem ultra important when to my eye it all comes down to execution.


There are teams like Hawaii, Nevada, Navy recently, that get by entirely on scheme. They can't recruit the players that other scheme teams like Georgia Tech or Florida can, but they still win because of their offensive system.
   114. Dan Evensen Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:48 PM (#3888288)
I'm with those who want to see less specialization in football, and less of the passing game (i.e. shorter game times). It's not going to happen, of course.

I'd much rather watch soccer than American football, just like how I'd much rather watch hockey than basketball. Overall, hockey is currently the most satisfying non-baseball viewing experience, in my mind. I can't keep my eyes off the screen if a hockey game is on; if it's football, I can barely keep my eyes open.

I don't think you can say that one sport is somehow inherently superior to another (well, except baseball, of course, but that's a given). I do agree, though, that football strategy isn't all it's cracked up to be. Plays aren't that hard to learn, and game calling strategies are not fundamentally different from simplified tabletop games like Strat football (or more complicated than pitch calling strategy, for that matter). Some think of it as a chess game, but the modern, passing-centered version is more like a chess game with only 5 or 6 pieces that actually move -- and even then their movements are predictable. Take away the ridiculously lucrative passing interference rule, take away the unlimited substitutions and bring back the option game and blocking to open up holes, and you've got a different story.

I also want to note that soccer strategy is far less chaotic than some of you think. Try watching a game live, or (if possible) from a fixed overhead camera angle. Barring that, go out and play some Football Manager and see for yourself. As is the case with hockey (and once was with basketball), the real sport happens away from the ball.
   115. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:51 PM (#3888291)

I'm with those who want to see less specialization in football, and less of the passing game (i.e. shorter game times). It's not going to happen, of course.


Why less specializzation? More specialization arguably leads to better execution.

This is why I like the DH.
   116. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 04:53 PM (#3888295)

This is why steroids bothers people in baseball, but not football.


The reason steroids bother people in baseball, but not in football, is that steroid users in football are punished, and steroid users in baseball are not punished. Simple as that.

In 20 years, once the current crop of steroid superstars have faded away and made it into the HOF (or not), and assuming that new players found using continue to be punished, the attitude of the casual fan will be the same towards each sport and PEDs.
   117. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 05:00 PM (#3888301)
The reason steroids bother people in baseball, but not in football, is that steroid users in football are punished, and steroid users in baseball are not punished. Simple as that.

Ha ha ha ha ha.

Guys suspended for steroids have made the Pro Bowl. Entire playoff teams have been juicing with team supplied drugs.

The reason fans don't care about steroids in the NFL is b/c the players are mostly disposable, and the NFL/fellating media complex, have convinced them the NFL is tough on steroids, when it's policies are really a joke.
   118. Alex meets the threshold for granular review Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:09 PM (#3888398)
You could never make a movie like "Field of Dreams" about football.


Boxing movies are where it's really at, though.
   119. smileyy Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:17 PM (#3888405)
Its funny, because the proliferation of size of guys in the box has made football a less diverse game.
   120. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:20 PM (#3888410)

Guys suspended for steroids have made the Pro Bowl.


And you argue my point. They were suspended for steroids. They were punished. Even if you feel their punishment was inadequate, it is vastly different than in baseball, where star players used steroids and didn't miss one game or lose one dollar of their salary.

If Clemens, Bonds and A-Rod had been suspended for 50 games at some point in their careers, and had been fined, say $250,000, the whole PED thing would have blown over.
   121. Slivers of Maranville descends into chaos (SdeB) Posted: July 29, 2011 at 06:23 PM (#3888416)
Some think of it as a chess game, but the modern, passing-centered version is more like a chess game with only 5 or 6 pieces that actually move -- and even then their movements are predictable.


Football is a game where one offensive lineman taking a first step two inches to the right instead of four inches can make the difference between a held block that allows a play to go 20 yards and a 10 yard sack. That's sufficiently detailed to me.
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