* Don’t you imagine NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is squirming a lot these days.
First, replacement officials are threatening to damage the credibility of the 2012 season – or are they? More on that in a bit.Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey gives a thumbs up to the Raiders crowd as he leaves the field on a stretcher Sunday following a big hit by the Pittsburgh Steelers.But secondly, players are throwing themselves around with reckless abandon, despite Goodell’s pleas for safety. Vicious hits are the norm and several players had to be carted off the field during Sunday’s games. Violence in the NFL, I fear, cannot be controlled. And it could threaten the long term health of the game because as hard as Goodell has tried, he can’t make the players smaller and slower and he can’t take the aggression completely out of the game.
Then it wouldn’t be a game.
As we were watching football in our basement yesterday, I told my wife that football as we know it wouldn’t be around in 20 years. She gave me that look that wives give husbands. I explained in more detail what I was talking about and she nodded in agreement.
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Houston Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said he had part of an ear taken off by a wild hit in a game against the Denver Broncos. Oakland receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey was unconscious before he landed on the turf after being mauled by Pittsburgh safety Ryan Mundy. Every week there are 10 to 12 hits that make me cringe. The human body obviously isn’t built to withstand this kind of abuse, which has jumped exponentially because of the increase in passing.
There is a bloodlust to get to quarterbacks and if they’re fortunate enough to have time to throw the football, then defensive players are looking to level shots on receivers. Play on the interior line has also become more dangerous because of the sheer size of the linemen. It’s good that Goodell wants flags thrown for the cheap hits, but there are so many hits that border on vicious that it’s difficult to know where to differentiate.
Meanwhile, the lack of institutional control from the replacement officials not only enhances the opportunities for injuries, it makes the games look amateurish.
The NFL is on display to the nation every Sunday – and these days every Thursday and Monday nights – and I can’t believe the image that is being portrayed this season hasn’t forced Goodell to get a deal done with the regular officials, who are on strike.
Then again, does the general public care? The media cares. The coaches care. The players certainly care. But is there an outrage among fans, outside of the ones in Baltimore last night who without a shadow of doubt let everyone know what they thought of the way the game against the New England Patriots was being officiated.
But I’m not sure the group of people watching on Sunday afternoon while they grill hamburgers cares who officiates these games. I think America is so immersed into the NFL and all of the social togetherness it fosters that officiating isn’t that important to people. Nor are injuries. The general attitude of fans, I believe, is that if a player gets hurt there’s always another one to replace him.
Now, if one of the players on your fantasy team gets hurt, that’s a different matter. The concern there is legitimate, if not pointed in the right direction.
Anyway, the NFL marches on in a country that can’t get enough. The real refs will be back on the field soon, we assume. As for safety? We hate to see a player get injured, but that’s just part of the game.