Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Story of Football, America, Rules, and Laws

I just watched Monday Night Football.  (I'll miss the rest of the Packers' games because they'll be playing when I'm deer hunting. deer > football)  If you look you could find all sorts of problems and symptoms of problems with our society.

It was good to have Hank Williams, Jr.'s opening song to start the night.  The show's start seems stupider and blander without it.  He's no longer doing the intro because he was fired for saying something politically incorrect.

The big issue in the NFL today is the strike of the referees.   They are on strike because they want more benefits.  (And, I hear, pay for the games they didn't work while striking.)  We could talk about that strike and how it relates to all other strikes but I would rather focus on the rules the striking officials are supposed to officiate.

The Packers' just lost the game, in a large part, due to bad officiating.   But if they can't overcome bad officiating, then maybe they did not deserve to win.

(For the record I would have stopped watching in 2010.  I did not watch a game until the playoffs when the Packers started rolling.  And I only watched about 3 games in 2011 and 2012.  I watched only because the Packers were the best team in football.)

Let me tell the tale of football.  (And make my first attempt at writing something that means something else.)

The Story of Football, America, Rules, and Laws


Once upon a time football was a game that was becoming more and more popular.

Gradually new rules were added, and old rules were changed to promote the goals of the people who run football.  The fans wanted more scoring, so the rules were changed to promote scoring.  The players want more safety, so the rules were changed to make the game safer.  Every year we get more new rules and more rule changes.  We want more scoring, more safety, and to correct the flaws in our old system.

All along, as we are adding new rules, and changing the old ones, there are problems in football.  Bad calls are made by officials and teams win and lose because of the people calling the rules, not always because of their own effort.  Some rules are unclear.  A catch requires: possession, two feet in bounds (a knee equals two feet), and a "football move."  Year after year we change the rules to make them clearer.  Year after year, we add new rules to promote passing, scoring, and safety.

More and more rules.

We have so many rules we require highly trained and specialized officials to decide who is following them and who is not.  They make bad calls and we add coaches' challenges to have the officials review their work and to correct themselves if they are wrong.

We change our minds each year about what officiating calls can be challenged.  We make limits on when the challenges can take place.  We add third parties to challenge the plays during certain times of the game.  We decide that challenges can only occur so often and intermix the coaches' challenge rules with the rules of the timeouts.  We add new rules for when timeouts, and challenges, can be used with player injuries.

The people say, "we are tired of the challenges interrupting the flow of the game."  We respond, "no challenge break shall last more than one minute."  And, of course, we allow the officials to spend more time than that when they want.  We them to get the call correct, of course.

During the games some are officiated tightly and some more loosely.  The players and coaches change the way they play in order to put them to their best advantage with the officials.

Games are played.

Some are won some are lost.

Somewhere along the way we reached a point where even the people responsible for relaying the games to the fans do not know what all of the rules are.  Somewhere we got to the point where we have rulebooks hundreds of pages long, with technicalities and loopholes.

But the problems don't matter.  All that matters is that we continue to get the people to participate.  They keep showing up, so it doesn't matter if our game is as good as it could be.  It doesn't matter that the game is not as good as it used to be.

We need more rules to advance our goals to make the game better.  Never mind, the fact that our new rules don't achieve their goals.  That just means that we need more and better rules.  "We've learned from the mistakes of the past," we'll say.  "We're just not making the same mistakes again."

At some point the people say, "I've had enough.  I liked the game but I don't even understand the rules anymore.  I wanted to follow along.  I wanted to support my side.  I was willing to buy tickets and special TV packages.  I was willing to play fantasy football.  I was willing to buy the football video games.  I was willing to schedule my time around yours if that was what you wished.

But, that was the last straw.

I liked the game.  I wanted it to work.  I hope that it will again.  But I've lost hope.  I've lost hope that the game will return to a time that was simpler.  I've lost hope that the game will return to the game that attracted me in the first place.

Turn back, it may not be too late.

Turn back to a time when the rules were simple and fair.

Turn back to a time when you were not trying to promote an agenda.

Turn back to a time when the good of the game was your goal.

Turn back to a time when the rules were simple enough that anyone can referee, and there is minimal need for training.

I want the game to survive. I want it to prosper.  I hope that it has great success.  But too often you make the game worse in an attempt to make it better.  One too many times I've seen my team fail.  Not because they were bad.  Because they did not adapt as well to the rules and officials.  Because the rules and officials are different all of the time.  Because the rules are too much to handle.  And despite preparing for your rules and specific officials, they don't know what your rules mean when we head out to play.

Turn back before you've lost it.

You've just lost me."

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