One To Rule Them All

Allison Joyce

Rules are destined to change, but like anything, there is a right way and wrong way to alter the game we love.

Athletes have outgrown the rules to their sports. The guidelines put in place by the founders of our modern sports were designed to keep an orderly contest between mostly men who were generally below six feet tall and under two-hundred pounds. Now any man who enters a football stadium of that size is either blazing fast or can kick a ball a great distance. Otherwise, they're dead meat.

Because of the modern athlete's size and speed, the antiquated rules have been pushed to its limits. Larger, faster players incur too much damage upon one another and new applications of rules have been put into place in the name of player health and safety. NFL commissioner, Roger Goddell, admitted how terrified he is that someday soon a player will be killed in action.

Some of the new rules are impossible to accurately judge, and silly to even have in place if one is to call themselves a tackle-football league. Leading with the helmet makes at least some sense. For defensive players, it's been called spearing for ages and has been illegal for just as long. I also think that a defense has too many potential violations compared to the offense and deserves a bit more fairness in the balance of the rules. The defenseless receiver rule, though, is far too subjective, has no clear language in regards to the interpretation of the rule, and is rarely called correctly.

I do think that football is going generally soft and that someday tag or flag football is not out of the realm of possibility, but I also think we will still watch and pay millions to prop up the sport even without the hitting. Or, if we don't, another league will start up with less safety regulations and take over as the more intriguing spectacle.

I do not like rule changes based solely on safety, though I understand them. I also don't like rule changes in regards to season format, whether it be added playoff contestants, added games, or in some sports, more interleague play.

I do like rule changes that make the sport more exciting though. I for one love the idea of doing away with the kickoff. Like almost everyone, when I first heard Greg Schiano propose the fourth-and-15 idea, I balked. I have some strong traditionalist streaks. Then, I started thinking about how much I value the act of a kick-off and quickly realized just how boring they've become.

Even a kickoff returned for a touchdown is basically a very fast man running in a straight line through a lane which his blockers have cleared. And now since the kickoff takes place five yards further up the field, hardly any result in a return of any kind.

A punt return, however, is rife with drama. A punt is harder to catch, for one thing. I believe the verb "muff" is used 90 percent of the time to describe a dropped punt. Bill Parcells used to value a punt-returner's ability to catch a punt more than many other facets of his football team. Phil McConkey became one of his favorite all-time players for that attribute alone.

A punt returned for a score usually necessitates some shifty elusiveness to allow the returner to break it in the first place. Unlike the straight-line run that a kickoff promotes, punts require jukes and broken tackles and are much more impressive feats once the endzone has been reached.

For those who point to the possibility that some teams would never relinquish possession and go for it on fourth-and-fifteen every time, think about how often that happens in the game's current form. Even with the most risk-taking team, no one goes long with that down and distance on their own 30-yard line, so why would Bill Billicheck of anyone else start now because of a rule change. Gaining 15 yards on one play is hardly a gimmie. I agree at first such a dramatic change would feel gimmicky, but I don't think it would immediately revolutionize the game into something foreign or extreme.

The NFL has the perfect balance of number of teams, number of playoff teams, and number of games. Their format is in harmony with the sport. The safety element should be more emphasized on equipment rather than rules. Referees are already asked to evaluate the impossible on a nanosecond basis and by refusing to challenge bad calls; the league has made them into the scapegoats of the sport. It seems completely backwards and unfair to coach players throughout their lives one way and then demand they change their game into something else once they've refined their skills to a professional grade.

In the end, Roger Goodell will be blamed for football devolving into what the Pro-Bowl looks like today if things continue on their current path. Rather than make changes that make the game more exciting, he and his administration are working the other direction by cultivating a culture that keeps the players afraid to mess up rather than just play the way they've been coached. Some conflicting reasoning is brooding within the league office and the long-term future of the sport is in jeopardy whether the league wants to admit it or not.

Mojokongs-an ape of many rules and customs.

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