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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was the MVP of Super Bowl XLVII. (PHOTO: Action Sports Photography / Shutterstock.com)

Was the Super Bowl the last true football game we'll ever see?


It's hard to tolerate the extreme sadness about the great Super Bowl game played Sunday when the Baltimore Ravens held on to beat the San Francisco 49ers.

I'm sad because it could be the last real football game any of us ever see.

Listening and watching weeks of pre-game coverage, the top story was the Harbaugh brothers. But in second place was talk of how dangerous football is and how it can be made safer.

Players, executives, commissioners and even the President of the United States all talked about how dangerous the sport is. The two weeks between the end of the season and the actual game was filled with comments and analysis about how horrible it was that people had gotten seriously hurt and that some players had concussions and that a couple of players had killed themselves.

And now we have the big ball rolling downhill, gathering speed with every bump along the road headed toward a serious revamping of the game loved by more Americans than any other game except eating chicken wings. The two are tied together, however.

There are lots of proposals out there.

The NFL is partnering with GE to look at the problem and design ways to alleviate some of these serious injuries.

They are talking about new helmets. They are talking about new rules. And this whole things is going to get absolutely ridiculous. I wouldn't be surprised to see the following rules changes:

  • The defense has to count to three before rushing
  • The defense can only touch an opposing player with one hand at a time. No simultaneous touching
  • Any player who bends at the waist when making a tackle will be penalized 30 yards
  • Once a player is on the ground, no other player can touch him
  • Any player running faster than two miles per hour will be ejected. We will use radar guns and retired police for this one
  • Offensive linemen can't get down in a three-point stance. They must stand up straight with hands on hips until the ball is snapped.
  • Wide receivers and cornerbacks may only skip
  • Once a ball is in the air, all players must stop where they are. If they can intercept it or catch it where they stand, fine. Otherwise it's an incomplete pass

You see where we are headed?

They are going to take this great game and turn it into a some kind of sissified backyard recreational sport.

Football is supposed to be tough. It's played by tough men. People get hurt, and it's part of the game. Pain and football go hand in hand.

The single most courageous athletic feat I've ever seen happened when a player was hurt.

The Packers spent a week in Palm Springs before a game against the Rams in Los Angeles. During the week, the best player on the team, James Lofton, could barely walk with an ankle that was almost twice its normal size. But he played and he caught a touchdown pass. He grimaced every time he moved.

Change this game and you eliminate courage as one of the things you look for in a football player.

What we'd be left with is a game that is about as exciting as Jarts or croquet or badminton.

I don't think you can make a helmet that will keep everyone safe, unless you make one weighing about 30 pounds. And think how that would change the game.

If they really want to keep the essence of football and make it safer, I've got another idea.

Take away all the padding. Helmets, shoulder pads, knee pads, all of it. Make them play in shirts and shorts. Keep all the same rules. About the only thing we won't do is change the name of the game to rugby.

Talkbacks

blurondo | Feb. 5, 2013 at 11:48 a.m. (report)

The story on this subject on NPR was more focused on the multiple law suits that are being filed due to injuries suffered by NFL players. By the time these cases are finalized, the "N" in NFL will stand for the NO Football League.

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AndrewJ | Feb. 5, 2013 at 10:23 a.m. (report)

I can't WAIT to read your take on this same topic when the lord and savior casts his thunder bolts down on the game from the White House. What say you then? Because those storm clouds are absolutely brewing after he came out publicly and said football was too dangerous. We should have a "Football Czar" by late 2014.

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Photodavie | Feb. 5, 2013 at 7:33 a.m. (report)

SO 3 player deaths this year is "part of the game"? Players are getting stronger and faster every year. Without rule changes to protect those players the next death will be on the field. I credit the NFL for trying their best to slightly alter the game to keep our players safe while maintaining the entegrity of the game.

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