Thursday, Aug. 12, 2010
By Joe Collins
The lead up to football season kind of reminds me of those chocolate calendars that circulate around the holidays. Anybody ever see those things? As a kid, I remember that I would open up the December 1 tab, and it would always have a ridiculous eyedrop-sized piece of chocolate. And it was usually stale. But hey, it was still chocolate. Day by day, the chocolates would get bigger. The Super Bowl of that chocolate calendar would be opened on December 24th. It was usually a bulky, warped, half dollar-sized chocolate Santa Claus, which looked more like David Crosby than Kris Kringle. It was still stale, but given the fanfare around the holiday it tasted pretty good.
Football training camp would be tantamount to, say, the first week of December of that calendar. We get a little taste of what lies ahead in the preseason, regular season, playoffs and all of the sweetness that makes up the Super Bowl. And even though the chocolate still tastes stale at times, we still eat it up like were at a Vegas buffet. Certain parts of the NFL have become stale, too. I dont want to rock the boat too much, because a bad day with football is usually much better than a good day without it. But there are a few items in the NFL that are facing 4th and long. Its time to drop back and punt a few of these annoyances away:
Just Get Rid Of Two Preseason Games Already: As we know, each team gets four preseason gamesusually two on the road and two at home (or one at a neutral site). NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has already gone on the record in favor of the 18-game schedule, saying by taking one of the home preseason games and converting it into a regular season, youre improving the quality of what youre doing. Thats value. Some critics oppose, saying that an 18-game schedule could open the door to more player injuries and a diminished product later in the year. Pssh. Come on. With all of the new rules, like no horse-collar tackles and other rules that protect the quarterback, I dont buy the injury argument. Players are treated like glass dolls today. Come on, this is football. An 18-game schedule would bring more fan interest, increased ratings, and thus, more moneysomething that the NFL likes to make out with all the time. Get it done.Do What College Football Does About Overtime: We all know that football revolves around big TV ratings, big dollars and big hype. Why not take a page out of college footballs scrapbook and put their overtime procedures in place for the NFL? Each team gets a possession at the 25 yard line. You keep going until one team scores more on their possession than the other. Imagine the hysteria on a Bears-Packers game that is in the 4th OT with the score tied at 55. Heck, you would even draw in the figure skating viewers from other networks. Plus, it eliminates the clammy tie games that gunk up the playoff scenarios towards the end of the season. Stop Giving Raiders-Chiefs Games To Gus Johnson: Im not exactly sure why CBS puts Gus Johnson, one of the most exciting voices in sports, on the fourth-tiered (or lower) game of the week. Seeing Gus Johnson broadcast a game between a couple of 3-10 teams is like listening to a Master Of Puppets-era Metallica play in a mall food court. Sure, its still Metallica, but everything else around it just reeks of bad cheddar. Forget network seniority. Give this man the microphone in a game that means something. Wait, now that I think about it, Gus can make a Raiders-Chiefs game sound like the Super Bowl hopped up on Jolt Cola. Might have to rethink that one a little.Give Coaches A Pulse: The NFL is great, but its getting way too Wal-Mart-like: too much sterility, not enough personality. End zone celebrations are penalized, taunting is penalized and cookie-cutter, cyborg-like personalities are welcomed. And damage control is a core class in the NFL school of higher learning. The majority of NFL head coaches today are far too sensitive in their appearance and demeanor, especially in press conferences. Everything is squeaky clean and by the book. Just once, I would like to see a coach go on a postgame tirade and start throwing chairs like its a Maury Povich show. Then, the camera can follow the coach away from the podium for a during the break reaction. Fun! Best of all, promise the coach that he doesnt have to produce a mundane, forced apology the next day. Wouldnt that be a nice change of pace?The Pro Bowl: Footballs version of an all-star game is like Thanksgiving at your Aunt Sylvias. The sly ones that arent there turned in their get-out-of-jail-free cards weeks in advance. And the ones that are there are mailing it in more than the U.S. Postal Service. We all go through the motions in fake-liking holiday parties. The athletes in the Pro Bowl are no different. But can you blame them? This game is played by junior high football rules (no blitzing, etc). And putting the contest a week before the Super Bowl isnt going to help draw much more interestfrom players and fans alike. Heres a crazy idea: put the Pro Bowl on the same day of the Super Bowl, with the winning Pro Bowl team securing the coin-toss win for their representative team in the Super Bowl. Think about it, your Super Bowl pregame show loses the sappy 11-minute feature stories and gets legitimate interest. Only issue would be that if the site happened to be an outdoor facility, and it were to rain, the field would get ripped to shreds for the real game hours later. Orjust get rid of the Pro Bowl entirely.Look, the NFL is still 98 fun to me. But Piniella-isms aside, a few changes can make the league even sweeter.
It might even taste as good as that chocolate at the end of December. Especially if the Bears win a few games here and there.
Or something like that.