As far as American sports go, the National Football League is and has been king of the mountain for some time. The game is a great spectacle for television and the fact that it tends to lend itself perfectly to other extracurricular activities (i.e. fantasy football, betting, etc.) only makes the allure that much more potent. Given it’s popularity and undying fan support, it seems that the only thing that can stop the NFL is…well…the NFL itself.
One frustration with the league is the fact that it continues to tinker with it’s product. For example, rule changes have been made in recent years that are starting to change the very fabric of the game. In one instance, the NFL has worked very hard to make the game safer for it’s participants by deeming certain hits illegal. In theory, that is a good thing as far too many retired players have had health issues that stem back to their time in football. However, while a safer sport is a positive thing, we’ve seen time and time again that it leads to officiating that is inconsistent and confusing.
While the NFL has to address the officiating issue somehow, it’s understandable that rule changes made to help with safety may be necessary and are probably not going anywhere anytime soon. What is not clear and extremely frustrating is why the league feels like it needs to change the way the game itself is played.
The latest example of this is the NFL’s attempt to make the extra-point seem more “relevant.” NFL kickers converted the extra-point 99.6 percent of the time in 2013. To make the play more of a mystery, the league’s competition committee announced that they are exploring the option of 42-yard extra points. That would make the kick less of a certainty and certainly make it a more exciting event. The issue with it is that it’s absolutely ridiculous.
First of all, commissioner Roger Goodell has previously suggested that the extra-point be taken out of the game entirely, and teams would just receive seven points for scoring a touchdown (the team still had an option for an eighth point, but if they failed the score would drop to six). This approach would make for one less play which would be one less chance a player has to get hurt. This idea is also absurd (albeit a little less so than the 42-yard attempt) and is the complete antithesis of what the competition committee is suggesting by moving the kick back. Do they not talk to Goodell? Was moving the extra point back 23 yards brought up to the public so “the automatic seven points idea” would look better?
In addition to further inconsistencies and a decrease in player safety, moving the extra-point back to 42 yards creates an uneven playing field for teams. What does this mean? Well, teams playing in domes have an advantage over teams who play in open air, cold weather stadiums. Do you mean to tell me an extra-point in Pittsburgh in December would be the same as an extra point in Indianapolis? I realize that they are still dealing or not dealing with the elements and shape of the field on a 19-yard attempt, but there is a lot more margin for error with those extra 23 yards included. Also, if you want to move the kick back, why not try a 30-yard attempt and see how it goes? That would make the kick a little more difficult but not unbearably so.
In the end, I think the NFL is just talking here and the likelihood of a 42-yard extra point attempt being the new norm is slim. That doesn’t make where the NFL is headed under Goodell any less worrisome. From inconsistent officiating, to eliminating kickoffs, to changing the extra-point, it seems there is no end to the tinkering and movement within the rules.
The game is great as it is Roger. Leave it alone.
Follow Al on Twitter @AlSacco49
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