Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Wussification of Football

I've written about this before, but I'd like to expound on this subject—and take to task one Frank DeFord of Sports Illustrated. Here's Deford a few weeks ago.
No -- the championship must be exported to more benign latitudes, leaving January to do its mischief to temperate America without tarnishing the gridiron game and forcing team season-ticket holders to venture out into an ugly second season. In 1967, Rozelle's first Super Bowl was played right about now, in mid-January. This year, it will go on three weeks later: Feb. 6, with playoff games scheduled all January, in places like icy Massachusetts and suburban Lake Michigan.
Seriously? Football should only be played in sunny warm climates where everyone is comfortable. Who came up with that silliness?

Apparently the came up with it. This is what they wrote just last week.
Football was not meant to be played outside in February unless it's indoors or in South Florida or Southern California.
Even football players—supposedly the toughest people on earth, are catching the fad to complain about cold wet field conditions. Players have complained so much about field conditions (go Google "Heinz Field" or "Soldier Field" and "turf complaints") that now before games, football announcers will update—for us fans—the conditions of the field: Is it muddy? It it cold, etc. How do the players feel?

Really? See I thought the football players players. Big tough guys. Can take anything. Guess not. Here's a part of a complaint titled "Our Field Is Terrible" by Bears TE Desmond Clark from his blog.
"Did you guys take a good look at our field. If you did you had to be disgusted...Some of our opponents comments: "yall play on a cow pasture" "this is the [worst] field in the league" "what the hell is going on with this field". These are a few comments that come to mind. What the hell is the park distict of Chi cgo doing when it comes to taking care of this field. They have to resod the whole field before we play Pittsburgh, which will lead to loose turf.
Here's Rodney Harrison on playing in a cold weather Super Bowl:
"Part of the reward for getting to the biggest game of your life is the beautiful warm weather or the climate-controlled atmosphere," he said. "Players would hate playing in cold weather."
Players wouldn't like playing in the Super Bowl? Because it's cold? Good lord. Dick Butkus, Mike Singletary and every player from the Ice Bowl must look at these modern football players and wonder, "What the heck is wrong with them? They play a bunch of their games either in a dome or in sunny climates on artificial turf and sometimes they have to Buffalo or Pittsburgh or Kansas City in January, and the field gets all muddy and get cold and wet and all uncomfortable. Poor babies."

Football was born in Connecticut and grew up in Pittsburgh. It became popular in places like Minnesota and in colleges like Harvard, Yale, Michigan and Northwestern. It was a violent game played in the cold. The game was played in the winter of the North, in the mud, without pads. On grass. In the cold.

But nowadays we have people saying things like "Football was not meant to be played outside in February unless it's indoors or in South Florida or Southern California." Or this: "The quality of the game would also go down because players would barely be able to move, and should anyone score, the cheers would be muffled by all those winter facemasks fans would be wearing." The quality of the game would go down?" "Should anyone score?" For reals? Has anyone seen the Ice Bowl? Or the Giants-Green Bay NFC Championship game of a few years back? Or the Freezer Bowl in Cincinnati in 1982? Or The Greatest Game Every Played in Yankee Stadium in December 1958? Did they not score in those games? Were they not fantastic games? Would any of those games have been better in Florida on AstroTurf? Please.

What about Canadian football? Up in Edmonton, they play outdoors year round. For those who don't know, the average temperature in January is 10.0 F. They average 50 inches of snow a year. In Montreal, it averages around 14 degrees F and they get 86 inches of snow annually. They play outdoors.

To the contrary, football was exactly meant to be played in the mud in the cold. That's how it was born. That's how it developed and was enjoyed for decades. But now, poor shivering journalists want to play golf on Super Bowl week and players want to beach it up, the internet is swelled with articles how the Super Bowl in the cold is a ridiculous idea.

Because to host a Super Bowl in a place where winter weather can be cold and windy and snowy (see: blizzard conditions) is ridiculous. 
A certain new Super Bowl record — most cups of hot chocolate sold. Limos sharing the parking lot with salt trucks. Something new to see for a $1,000 lower deck ticket: Your breath....Choosing New York was lunacy. Not only does the location rule out "optimal" playing conditions, it gives teams who are used to cold weather a huge advantage. Sure, "playing football in lousy weather can be memorable" — but there is "no reason" to do it "if you don't have to.
Bringing the Super Bowl to New York would be dumb on steroids. First off, in January and February it is cold here. Secondly, in January and February it is freezing here. Thirdly, in January and February it is arctic here. Absolutely, positively arctic.
Is it fair for teams to potentially alter their game plans dramatically in the face of wintry conditions?
It's a gamble. It's roulette. However, one wants to characterize it, Goodell's vision of putting the game in parts of the country in which an unexpected blizzard event or cold weather event can take away from the NFL 's ultimate game should be grounds for Goodell's dismissal. 
It's as if no one remembers that that's how the game has been played for decades. Where did Jim Brown play? Did Gale Sayers not run on Soldier Field? Did Bart Starr not throw for 2 TDS in the Ice Bowl? Did Ken Anderson not throw the ball a lot? And where did these guys play their championship games before the NFL decided it had to make sure everyone was comfy? They played them in the Polo Grounds, Cleveland Municipal Stadium, Detroit's Briggs Stadium, Comiskey Field, Lambeau Field. In December. And I doubt the reporters whined about how cold it was. Fans didn't.

And the fans today don't either. In a recent ESPN SportsNation poll, 67% of the fans want a cold weather Super Bowl. So if fans do, why don't the journalists? Why do they say a northern Super Bowl would be bad for the game (sanctimonious bull)—that, indeed the weather shouldn't be a factor in the game. Well, fans say...why not? Here's Jeff Pearlman of
For the game itself, meanwhile, cold weather is a killer. Does the NFL really want its calling card matchup to be plagued by, say, snow-caused sloppiness; by passes slipping out of the hands of quarterbacks; by halfbacks and wide receivers pulling off pratfalls atop the ice?
Jeff. I love your writing, but this is not about the players playing in cold. Players know football is a winter game and has been forever. They can still play the game. Aaron Rodgers throws the ball a bit, no? Can Tom Brady handle the weather in New England? What about Jim Kelly in Buffalo? Gale Sayers ran on Soldier Field and John Riggins in the mud of RFK Stadium. The cold weather hasn't stopped free agents from signing in New England, Chicago or Green Bay. Player will go where the money is and where the best chance to win is—and if that's the case in Chicago or Cincinnati or New England over places such as Houston or Tampa Bay, then cold and mud doesn't seem so bad.

And games played in New York, Green Bay, Baltimore and Pittsburgh are packed, so fans don't seem to mind all that much. So then what's the problem with a cold weather game?

This is about the journalists not wanting to go to a game in the cold. You said it yourself earlier, Jeff, in that very article: "I haven't attended another cold-weather NFL game. Never, ever will I ever attend another cold-weather football game."

Pearlman continues on why the Super Bowl in the northeast is a bad idea.
But, well, the weather. From start-to-finish, Super Bowl weeks are meant to take place in warm environments. Miami. San Diego. Arizona. The parties should involve fountains and beach motifs and Kardashian sisters in embarrassingly skimpy outfits. The media days are required to occur beneath a bright sun, so that questions like "How long have you been a black quarterback?" won't reverberate off the steely walls of, say, the Javits Convention Center. The rest of the nation is supposed to watch enviously from afar, jealous over the tans and the convertibles.
Kardashian sisters? Fountains? Media Days in bright sun? What the heck do I care about that? Isn't this supposed to be about football? I want football. I want hard-hitting football played in a hailstorm by huge men with grass stuck to their helmets. I want the breath of linebackers coming out of their helmets like raging bulls. I want mud-stained uniforms and snow-splattered grass fields.

I want Jack Lambert and and Alan Page and Jerome Bettis and Mike Singletary and Greg Pruitt and Mark Bavaro and Jamal Lewis and Ray Lewis and Jim Brown.

I want Emmitt Smith running for 168 yards and catching 10 passes with a separated shoulder because the Cowboys had to beat the Giants to win the NFC East. They did. I want Jack Youngblood playing in the Super Bowl with a broken leg because that's how much he cares about the game.

I want guys who want to play football because they love the game and want to win. And not care about where its being played. If the Super Bowl was being played in in a bus station parking lot in Butte, Montana in February, I want players who want to be there. And I don't want whiny reporters and million dollar athletes complaining that the field is snowy or that its cold.

It's what I want. It's what the fans want. So to the athletes and reporters. Cowboy up. Don't make our game wussy.

1 comment:

blmeanie said...

Seriously, you've become officially old. I agree, part of the wussification of sports in general. I bet there is a day not too far down the road when they "cancel" a game because of too much rain or snow (like baseball which I get by the way).