In the aftermath of the Super Bowl, it is perhaps salutary to take stock of professional football and to suggest a few reforms that might make the game more wholesome.
First, let me say that in my humble estimate, this past season was, if not the best in my lifetime, surely one of the best. To be a mediocre player in the NFL today is to be a marked man among giants. Then, too, there is another point to be made. Someone failed to pay the electric bill. It was sobering to be reminded that even the NFL is not so powerful as to intimidate a Louisiana utility company. Next year, I suggest that the NFL’s hierarchy see to it that all bills are paid before Super Bowl Sunday. What if Beyonce had gone on strike or refused to sing one of her trademark songs with their dirty, albeit moronic, lyrics? Or what if she had dressed in a burqa? Actually, I would have found that last gesture amusing and sophisticated to the utmost, though the perpetual teenagers in the audience would probably not have shared my amusement.
I cannot remember ever seeing so many great quarterbacks in the league at one time as I did this season. They can all pass and run superbly. Weight training is paying off for all the players, especially the receivers, who grab in their powerful fingertips what once they had to embrace with their whole upper bodies. They leap through the air defiant of gravity, as do their attendant safeties. Blockers and tacklers could have stopped oncoming trucks. The many gifted runners seemed capable of switching gears as they rush downfield, slithering through crowds of defenders and cutting to the left and the right with abandon. As I say, this season I suspect was the greatest in NFL history, and it was due to powerful men on the field and to very cerebral coaches on the sidelines.
Yet there were also the injuries, and they were terrible. Concussions were so prevalent that even Hillary Clinton got one. I suspect it was a sympathy concussion from watching her New York Giants too intently. Then there were the numerous joints that were damaged severely. For instance, the splendid Robert Griffin III of the resurgent Washington Redskins had a knee injured that will heal only with divine intervention, a matter I think that this exemplary Christian athlete is attending to. Yet his recovery will be dicey. It was a horrible season for injuries.
Now certain public-spirited citizens are speaking out. They want adjustments made. Helmets can be revised. Rules reinterpreted. More rules prescribed. Gun control can — drat, I got carried away. Though I note that the same mentality that is in a pother over gun control often is aroused by football violence. Well, on gun control they are wrong. In a country with more than 280 million guns in circulation and a Second Amendment in place, they will get nowhere.
Yet with rule changes in football, they may have a chance. Frankly, I see the public-spirited reformers of professional football coming out for ending those ferocious tackles and propounding the implementation in the NFL of touch football or, possibly, flag football. Imagine Adrian Peterson running 15 yards for a first down before Ray Lewis tags him in an utterly civilized lunge or snatches the flag from his rear pocket with style. If the NFL were to replace tackle football with touch or flag football there would still be dangers. Those helmets really can hurt. Perhaps they could be replaced with funny hats lined with cushioning. Elbow and knees can cause a lot of pain. Again, thick cushioning could be prescribed. There are many alternatives that can be employed against brute force.
Actually, there seems to be a movement led by the athletes themselves in this direction. The artistic demonstrations after a mighty tackle or an overpowering touchdown run have been an innovation that must have warmed the hearts of many reformers. Those elegant dances are very tasteful, and in the Super Bowl this year I even detected routines employing the hands that showed real artistic taste.
So maybe the time is ripe for the reformers to make a move against tackle football and in favor of modern dance on the gridiron, as it is called. Maybe it is only a matter of time before the halftime entertainment overwhelms the game — Beyonce appearing in a chorus line with beefy linemen and even coaches. Call it the ongoing feminization of America. I would not be surprised.
R. Emmett Tyrrell Jr. is founder and editor-in-chief of The American Spectator and an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute. He is the author most recently of “The Death of Liberalism” (Thomas Nelson, 2012).