NFL Rules Committee: The Evisceration of the Game, Formerly Known as Football, Continues


March 18, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a press conference at the annual NFL meetings at the Arizona Biltmore. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

Evisceration: To disembowel, gut or remove the entrails. Yes, my words are carefully chosen and meant to conjure up a certain vision. The NFL’s leadership is not killing the NFL quickly or mercifully, but rather in a slow, methodical and painful way. I fear for the future of the sport I love so much.

After thinking about the latest rules committee incarnation (RB can not lead with their helmet), I couldn’t help but envision opening day disaster for teams and fans everywhere. Imagine on opening day…say the Bears are playing the Superbowl Champion Ravens in Chicago. It is now the 4th quarter in a hard-fought defensive battle and the Ravens are leading 17-13 but the Bears are within striking distance in the waning minutes of the game.

The Bears are now 3rd and goal at the one yard line. The Bears send Michael Bush off Tackle and he meets the linebacker in the hole and buries him for the go-ahead touchdown. Soldier Field erupts in cheers…then we all see the yellow flag. Bush is flagged for leading with his helmet; 15 yards and now it is 3rd and goal from the 16. Bears lose on a Jay Cutler interception trying to force the ball in the end zone.

Yes, I know this is the stuff of speculation and fantasy at this point. Save this article in your archives as it will play out for someone at some point in the year. As a sports fan, I am a fan of the objective, not the subjective. I enjoy scoreboards and absolutes…not judges determining winning and losing based on style points. Where will it all end? I can not say, but this I can say…we are on a slippery slope that I do not see ending happily for fans. The rules committee is turning the NFL in to an American Idol-like contest as they remove the objective nature of the rules and replace them with impossibly complex and subjective rules that can not be clearly interpreted or consistently enforced. The officials should be renamed and referred to as “Judges”.

Player safety has become the mantra of Goodell as he tries his best to manage the image of the NFL and the league’s intentions. When a person talks player safety being number one, I can’t help but think that the safest thing for players is to not be players. To stay home and seek employment elsewhere, seems much safer to me. So then, I see no player is staying home and relinquishing the opportunity at fame and fortune. Roger Goodell is pulling in millions. The owners are making money and all of the businesses surrounding the NFL from merchandising, to TV Networks, to gambling are all betting that somehow, we can manage our way through the carnage and the contradictions the Goodell is creating with his words and actions.

Now put lawyers into the mix. Legal clarity may follow at some point in the distant future. The game that the NFL has become is truly the goose that laid the golden egg. Everyone associated with the NFL is cashing in too…except ex-NFL players who no longer enjoy the fruits of the harvest and have paid a huge price in their health as a result of their playing time….and that is the real story.  How to maintain the cashflow while mitigating risk and exposure is the concern of the current stakeholders.  Well fellow fans, expect the NFL continue to become less physical and more subjective as we move into the future and our legal system begins to become entrenched in the innards of our great game.  The entrails of our game being removed, sacrificed one at a time for some stated noble purpose.  I care about the dignity and humanity of players past, present and future.  Enough with the posturing…make the game as safe as possible and take care of those who paid a price paid for in blood.

There is no doubt that I have a cynical view of Roger Goodell and the competition committee.  This rule, combined with the awful kick-off rule last year do very little to protect players or promote player safety.  It does create an illusion of action that may be important at some point in the distant future in a courtroom.  I do like the idea of changing the fundamentals of tackling so as not to use the crown of a helmet as a weapon.  I do not like the idea that you can not hit a receiver coming over the middle in a physical way that has a chance to dislodge the pass.  The physical nature of the game IS the attraction for many fans.  Every one of these subjective, judgement rules that take the physicality out of the game act as termites to the foundation of our great game.  I wonder if an exterminator is available?

So Bear fans…what do you think of the path and trajectory the league is on in terms of striking a balance between safety and entertainment?