Monday, November 29, 2004

Football Fundamentalism

My Dad once called those who enjoy sporting contests fans... which in his book was short for fan-atics. This, coming from a man who rarely missed a Jets game and never failed to pour over the sports section over morning coffee (or tomatoes covered in salad dressing, a peculiar predilection of his...) in Newsday, Long Island edition.

Maybe that's why I've always been a little bit neurotic about my own enthusiasm for sports. I enjoy sports -- especially football and basketball (I even played rugby for an exhilarating/brutal 18 months in college... good source material for Possible Ends, the novel-in-progress) -- but have never wanted to be accused of being like my brother, who would carry a crappy portable radio about town (or down to the pool, or to the tennis courts, and on and on) to listen to Mets games and bang the fake wood panel on the wall of the basement on Sundays, yelling J-E-T-S.

All of this is strange prelude (and perhaps an apology for including a first ever sports-related post in Dumpster Bust?) to a few ideas I had this very evening while watching Brett Favre (Fav-reh to all you There's Something About Mary fans out there) in his 200th start for the Packers on Monday Night Football. Fun stuff: Favre at Lambeau Field, turning the Rams into his plaything, John Madden gushing in that unique and enthusiasm-inspiring way of his (say what you want about Madden, but the Michaels/Madden pairing makes MNF seem like MNF again).

But was I focusing on all of that? Kinda, but not really. I was thinking up some new rules that would really spice up the game. Maybe that's what makes me me. Or strange. You, the readers of the mighty mighty Dumpster Bust, may choose.

I started thinking about the two-point conversion, which was instituted about five years back. It's an interesting edition to the game: after a touchdown (6 points) the scoring team has the option of going for the 1-point kick, which has been around forever, or the 2-point "conversion," a one-play chance to score from the two-and-a-half yard line. Statistics will prove out that 1-point extra points score upwards of 95% of the time, while two-point conversion are successful about 50% of the time. The two-point conversion makes games more exciting at the end as a team has more options when trying to catch up with the opposition.

All well and good. However, I started to think: why have the 1-pointer at all? Why not just eliminate it and leave the two-pointer as your option. The 1-pointer is almost automatic, therefore it's boring and irrelevant. Can it.

Okay, now we have the two-pointer. Let's go further. How about instituting a second option, worth an additional four points. After you score, you get the option of the two-point conversion, or you get the ball at the opposition's forty yard line. You get four plays to score and that's it -- no first downs or anything (except by defensive penalty). There's no clock -- just four plays, forty yards. I think that would be pretty exciting, and make a blowout much more interesting. For example, a team losing by 20 points with five minutes to go would have a chance to win. Maybe the four-point option would kick in only with five or two minutes left in a game.

Then, I went further, because I had to -- Green Bay was kicking ass and I certainly didn't want to start my assignment that's due at midnight tonight. The field, I thought -- why not make it bigger. When there's a breakaway for a touchdown, we want to see some serious running, not this namby pamby 80-yarder crap. Let's make the field 150-yards long, and add the width to 75-yards for good measure (from the current 50). Now there's some action for you.

Now, on a slightly more serious note -- the time between plays in a football game kills me. Sure, some games have tons of action and are engaging from start to finish, but many are grind-it-out snoozers. In fact, some teams are built as Ball Control Teams... which means their entire reason d'etre is to sit on the ball between plays as the game clock winds down. Keep Away ball, in other words. Boring.

Currently, the "play clock" runs about 40 seconds, which means the offensive team has that long to snap a new play after the previous ones. If someone runs out of bounds with the ball, if there is an incomplete pass, a scoring play, or a time-out called, then the "game clock" stops. However, if the ball stays in bounds -- both clocks run. Therefore, you get dozens of plays each game where both teams stand around for 30 seconds with the precious seconds of the game -- perhaps the one you waited all week to see while alphabetizing crap and making new and pretty piles of crap at your crappy job -- melt and melt away.

This is silly. These guys are professionals, and can handle more plays, more action. I know all of us can too. The solution -- the clock always stops after a play. No matter what. No more ball control. More action. I can dig that.

Maybe all of this makes me crazy. Maybe it even makes me a fan. Who the hell knows?


The Sore Loser said...

Oh Eric. Can't you think outside the box? Why stop at getting rid of the extra point when the problem is really so much larger? We must eradicate the field goal altogether. What's the sense in having 22 guys beat the crap out of each other only to have some scrawny, effete European decide the game with his foot? If it's fourth down and you're on the opposing team's twenty yard line, just go for it!

Eric Berlin said...

My friend, is it you or I who is not thinking outside of the box? The question of whether or not to keep the field goal could surely be the subject of another column, but I presented, among other things, a four-point conversion. Outside the box more than a little, I think!

But you are starting to think in the right direction: the field goal's time has come and gone, I should think. One way to perhaps dilute the relative power of the field goal would be to allow it to continue to score three points from, say, forty yards and beyond, but decrease its value to two points from twenty to forty yards, and a paltry one inside the twenty. Of course, this would drive teams that are making a comback nuts in perhaps trying to stall their offensive progress to a certain point when trying to cover a late two or three point deficit, but more likely it would place the emphasis where it should rightly be: on touchdowns... people want action, baby!

Another idea, as you suggest, is to simply can the field goal. What would really be fascinating would be to scrap the one-point extra point and the field goal, with a two- or four-point conversion after touchdowns in its place.

I think that we should get a petition ready for the next crappy "X-treme" football league that comes to fruition... these ideas could be worth billions one day...

And all thanks to the mighty mighty Dumpster Bust...