The NFL Stinks

Aquarian Weekly 1/12/05 REALITY CHECK

THE NFL STINKS What in the Name of Chuck Bednarik is Wrong with Pro Football?

Overrated Peyton ManningThree years ago former NY Giants quarterback Phil Simms told me the National Football League was “rule crazy”. He used those words more than once in an interview I did with him for a national magazine and was reminded of recently when a young woman writing a book needed permission to quote it. She wasn’t interested in the “rule crazy” part per se, but rereading the piece got me thinking about my love of pro football since childhood, then my love of gambling since later in childhood, and then my love of sports writing from my youthful reporter days. All of which has waned considerably.

Simms went on to say that this over-officious jostling of the NFL rulebook was more damaging than over-expansion or free agency or anything sports writers and gamblers are always whining about. I listened to him say it, and say it again, and when I transcribed the thing I more or less ignored it as the ravings of an ex-player, or more precisely an ex-quarterback who could not enjoy the advantages of the fascist penalty restrictions on defensive backs that make nice signal quarters like Peyton Manning get laughably compared to giants like Johnny Unitas or even an incorrigible madman like Injun Joe Kapp, both of whom would have thrown 70 touchdowns in this era.

As it is Manning broke Dan Marino’s single-season mark of 48 with 49 touchdown- passes this season, while his insane offensive brethren trashed half the NFL record book in the gaudy process.

All this complaining by Simms seemed silly in 2001, when defensive backs actually had a point of being on the field, and defensive ends and linebackers could still maim QBs as a job description. Even though when Marino was running amok in the early 80s’ the restrictions on defenses were a joke. Lord knows if Joe Namath’s receivers could run free with no fear of someone like say Jack Tatum paralyzing them for life, he would have thrown 100 TDs in 14 games in the mid-60s’.

Of course, I abstain from comparing Broadway Joe to these milquetoast wanna-be’s today. Namath was a god and the coolest man on the planet. A nerd like Peyton Manning and that Neanderthal behind center for Pittsburgh couldn’t shine Joe Willie’s white shoes or maintain his kind of Herculean liquor consumption while throwing for 4,000 yards in a wind tunnel like Shea Stadium with sadistic beasts like Ted Hendricks and Bubba Smith trying to gouge out his eyes and snap what tendons he had left in his knees after 40 or so operations.

I always promised my contemporaries that I wouldn’t end up being one of these old-timers that wax poetic about grid iron heroes like Frank Gifford, who was also once portrayed as the coolest guy on the planet. He was the 1950s’ All-American poster boy before his unceremonious beheading by a homicidal lunatic called Chuck Bednarik, who late one Sunday afternoon committed one of the most heinous crimes of assault on a playing field in American sports history at Yankee Stadium with my father in attendance, who swore with many of his friends that day a motionless Gifford lie dead on the frozen turf.

Lord knows if Joe Namath’s receivers could run free with no fear of someone like say Jack Tatum paralyzing them for life, he would have thrown 100 TDs in 14 games in the mid-60s’.

But Gifford was not dead. And neither is Peyton Manning the best quarterback ever, regardless of what these hipster comedians at ESPN’s Teenage Boy Central scream. And, by the way, apparently I lied about not complaining that “in my day” blah blah blah.

After awhile everyone who once loved the purity of sports learns that the blindness of point spreads is severe. Paying attention to the nuances of the game, the little things, this “game of inches” these vacuous suits are always wailing about in the television booths are lost on the hard-core gambler. For years I was one of them. I hardly noticed the quality decline of overall play. I paid attention to the numbers, the dollar signs. This year I decided to lay off the action. Be responsible with my money and spend it on booze and antique furniture.

This was a mistake.

It’s not unlike the Grateful Dead fan who had stopped doing acid long enough to realize the band sucked or people suddenly seeing Paris Hilton as an insufferable dummy.

Reality bites. I heard someone say that on a subway once. It wasn’t Phil Simms, and it damn sure wasn’t Joe Willie.

But the fact is the NFL is damn near unwatchable.

Did you know that defensive players could no longer hit another with their helmet? Or smack a quarterback in the head with any part of their appendages? Did you also know that covering a receiver downfield means merely running alongside of him until he burns past you with ungodly speed and scores another in a long series of touchdowns that break every record imaginable?

Americans love scoring, sex, violence, and fried food.

Sigmund Freud said that. It was either Freud or John Poindexter, who was Reagan’s national security adviser and a huge pro football gambler. He was well known for jacking off to Washington Redskins broadcasts. This was the 80s’; the Skins were good and rich guys masturbated hourly. Poindexter used football axioms to smear all sorts of trouble on The Gipper. But Reagan survived to play another down, because Poindexter was a team player and spent six months in prison for “defrauding the government”.

Poindexter and Freud were well aware of human nature and big-time pro sports. But they didn’t respect the game. The vile, pointless beauty of the game. Not this video game, flag-football, beer-keg version the suits on Park Avenue tell you is the NFL.

This is bullshit, like the replay rule or the two-point conversion, which has rendered NFL head coaches impotent and silly. They don’t have enough to worry about? They have to be mathemeticians and officals? Meanwhile we sit and listen to John Madden describe the same images over and over again like the denoument of Chinese Water Torture.

And what the fuck is this 8-8 teams winning divisions? I know we celebrate the mediocrity of our presidents in this country, but pro teams coming in at even get to call themselves winners? Total, umitigated bullshit. And I won’t accept it. I don’t have to accept it. Our boys are dying in Iraq for this?

I’ll wager on it.

But I don’t have to like it.

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