The thing that separates two of America’s biggest sports is the level of aggressiveness. Football is known to be more hands on, aggressive, and rough; while basketball is about making plays, being accurate, and remaining competitive. Currently, Football can be argued to be America’s biggest pastime, but too many changes can easily change societies opinion on the game itself. Bryan Armen Graham, author of an article titled “Football will No Longer Be America’s Favorite by 2050” says “Let’s be real: Fans are drawn to football for the bone-crunching hits and high-speed mayhem. But the efforts of the league to clean up the game have softened the violence central to the NFL’s appeal. The players certainly aren’t behind it.” This idea that changing the NFL, yet damaging the nature of the game is something that I would completely agree with. The NFL and NCAA are both focusing on different changes to the game “to protect their players”; however, it is an idea that goes against Edmund Burke’s theory that argues against radical change.
Another statement by New England Patriots owner, Bob Kraft, said “This sport is about controlled violence. It’s about an abundance of oversized men with ridiculous strength, speed and quickness crashing into each other during a 60-minute game. Injuries are going to happen in that kind of arena. It’s the willingness of these players to compete with that risk that makes the sport so compelling in the first place.” Currently, the NFL is trying to change the game of football around, which can take away both the competitiveness and aggressiveness of the game.
The only competitive nature of this game is the celebrity addition to the game.
As we read in the article “NFL Changes: When Is Football No Longer Football?” some changes that are being considered include kickoffs, ball carriers lowering their helmets, and tackling in the preseason. I figured, what would be a better way to see how people felt about this situation to hear from players themselves. Maurice Ways, Freshman WR at the University of Michigan, said “Being a WR my job is to catch and avoid getting tackled, so yes I would still play but I would miss the physicality aspect of the game. It would no longer be football. It would be flag or two hand touch football, something like the high school powder puff game I coached you in last year. It was cool, but you have to admit it was nothing similar to your typical Friday night game. One thing I would change about the game though is that once a player has hit the ground he can’t be hit again.”
On another note, I had the opportunity to speak with rookie CB for the Buffalo Bills, Ross Cockrell as it is his job to participate in kickoffs and tackling. Growing up in little league, watching his sisters play powerdpuff, playing two hand touch on the beach, and playing professionally, Ross has experience in different aspects of the game of “football”. Ross said “Football, especially at the professional level is known to be an aggressive game. The toughness and grit are critical attractions for the game, so if you ban things like tackling and kickoffs, you chip away at what makes the game so popular. I would still play, but I doubt the game would remain as profitable if too much is taken away. One change that could happen to benefit the game and keep its traditions the same is more protection granted to all the players not just field not specific positions.”
When Ross mentioned profit and safety, I automatically thought back to a couple of seminars I sat in this past Friday in a conference titled “The Values of Colleges Sports”. The first one was “Reclaiming the Educational Mission of College Sports” by Amy Perko. Perko spoke on the idea that college sports teach humility, teamwork, perseverance, patience, and how to enjoy success and accept faille. At the same time, they help bring together school spirit and raise the the profile of the university. She focuses on different principles that help build student-athlete’s educationally and through safety. Cockrell himself created a legacy on and off of the field during his five years at Duke University. He graduated with a degree in political science which shows he focused on academics, led his team through five years on the field from being to being 5-7 in his freshman year to 10-2 in his final season, and cared about his safety as he suffered a crucial head injury early in his career. However, it isn’t everyday where teams focus on building athletes that can be an athlete before being seen as a professional. In 2014, Northwestern University tried to create a union for its players creating them to be professionals rather than student-athletes. The second one was “Minds and Madness: Thinking About College Sports” by Taylor Branch. He made a powerful statement that “Sports are good athletically and academically, as every sport is a mixture of art and war”. He followed this statement with a question, “What is the relationship between violence and power in sports and our universities?”.
In my opinion, the NFL and NCAA are focusing on changes that don’t benefit the players. They emphasize safety and academics (in the NCAA), but want to change rules that affect the game. There need to be more rules implemented on how to promote safety while keeping the game aggressive and how to promote “violence” in the game rather than in real life so that we can avoid situations such as what is going on with Ray Rice and Frank Clark. Additionally, if the NFL wants to change aspects of the game they need to enforce college degrees as the game itself is going to lose a lot of its meaning and in the years to come will be both less profitable and meaningful causing players to find back up professions to make their revenues from.