Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Any Given Sunday

...your heart can be broken. Or filled with joy.  That's the beauty of sport, and well, so many other things, but I believe I have recovered enough to talk a moment about football. 
So, I recognize that I am terribly unforgiving about receivers who, you know fail to receive (yes, I have been known to say that's your whole job dude, even though I know that there are many factors involved in catching, and that despite their job title it isn't entirely their whole job, just, you know, a really big portion of it and no, I am clearly not still over that year we had that supposedly lauded receiver who could not catch) and yet I often feel really bad about kickers.  Partly it's just the nature of the thing, any game that is hanging on the outcome of one final field goal has already had a few ups and downs and some missed scoring chances by all those other folks wearing the same color, and yet, the kicker gets picked on.  And look, I am not suggesting that kicking isn't, you know, a really big part of being a kicker, because it absolutely is, I just feel like we expect a ridiculously high amount of accuracy from kickers compared to other players on the field.  (And death threats, people.  Really?  Even in jest, that's not funny.)
Interestingly enough, the folks at Grantland have an interesting note on how icing the kicker never works, but people do it because it's a low risk/possible high reward situation. And the folks at Deadspin have a nice analysis of how rushing a kicker might result in over-rotation like some folks watching this weekend might have seen.
Now, I want to point out, that while I certainly haven't read all the coverage of the games, it is my understanding that the folks who made the last errors in each game that sent their team home to rest up for next year were all apologetic, didn't try to pass the blame to anyone and said they were sorry they couldn't do better for their team.  So, gracious.
Perhaps the training they may or may not have had (I personally think everyone should watch that scene in "Bull Durham", but that's just me) would have been well spent on some of the players from one of the winning teams. Of course, this is not to imply that I am for dishonesty, but I think if you don't see anything wrong with saying we just figured he was so concussed all it would take was another hit or two and he'd be done, well, hopefully someone will sit you down and explain that. 
And don't get me wrong, if the player in question was in fact concussed, then he should not have been playing.  But, as the folks at ALOTT5MA helpfully pointed out, that doesn't mean you want to be the guy who tries to sweep the leg.  Given football's ongoing concerns with the long term results of brain injury, one would hope people wouldn't be attempting to concuss their fellow players.  I have a cousin who suffered a mild concussion banging his head getting out of a car, and I am certainly not advocating that the car was at fault here.  Sometimes things happen.  Football is a contact sport.  But, there is a critical difference between people being injured as a result of play and people being injured as a result of their fellow players attempting injury. 
Now it's possible, that we're over-interpreting what the players meant.  They might have meant, he got up slow, so we figured, he was hurting and another tackle or two and he'd be out.  And certainly, I understand that any play in football where you have the ball, makes you a target.  (And no, I haven't forgotten the linemen either.) But man, does it break my heart to hear players using past incidences of concussions to try and psych themselves into tackling another player. It's stuff like that that makes it hard to justify the entertainment value exceeds the risk of long term injury to the players. Football is already at risk of losing future generations as more and more parents dissuade their kids from participating in the sport until the concussion issue can be better addressed.  Players hoping to bang the brain of a fellow player one more time, will do nothing to assist this.

h/t to ALOTT5MA for the links