The NFL held its Pro Bowl weekend, diving into the entertainment theme that has always been there for everyone in any sport. It used to be that players didn’t mind a free trip to Hawaii, but when they needed it, everyone could easily afford a trip to Hawaii which somehow lost its charm. So the NFL turned this one into a one-week carnival in Vegas, and it was met with mostly positive reviews from players and fans.
There are those who would have you believe it was a test of what football might look like one day, when the league loosens its grip on what player safety actually looks like. They are probably the same ones who complain about every personal foul and targeting call and use words to describe it that they associate with the female anatomy.
The NFL doesn’t care that much about player safety
There has always been a school of thought that if the NFL, and football as a whole, were truly committed to player safety, they would remove helmets and pads. To make the sport more like rugby, which is not without its problems with concussions, but not quite on the scale football has seen. Removing all that protection would force players to not throw themselves at each other the same way the violence they had before, and they would have to tackle each other instead of hitting each other.
Maybe maybe not. It would be hard to know without testing and experiments like we haven’t seen before. The real question is whether fans will accept such a version. The urge is to say that it wouldn’t. The game thrived on collisions and the inherent danger of the sport. We all hit the right notes and say our rehearsed sentences when something truly awful happens to the player, but that doesn’t mean the vast majority want to see a big change. It’s all part of the dance.
While football relied more and more on skill (and it became about passing and players running freely)it is unlikely that he could be forced to completely transform into something new.
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Fans wouldn’t react to the sound in the same way. There is no squealing of pads, no clattering of helmets, no sound of contact, it would be too inconvenient for the fans, even if it were safer. No threat of big hits or real stuff at the line of scrimmage. It wouldn’t fly. The fact that the game teeters on the edge of insanity, and sometimes spills over, is an unspoken appeal to most.
Removing pads and helmets can actually be safer. It wouldn’t hurt for the fans to actually see the faces of the players either. Even more freedom for skill positions can be fun. But deep down, safer is not what the fans and the league really want, deep down.
Lou Lamoriello must be fun to play for
The NHL managed to release some news All-Star break, with Bo Horvat signing an eight-year extension with the New York Islanders after being traded there from Vancouver. And boy, did Lou sound thrilled to lock down his new #2 center!
It’s no secret that the game got past Lamoriello. He previously complained that there were no contract length limits or salary caps, and openly resented having to pay players more than canned food. His refusal to allow facial hair on players or for anyone to wear a jersey number above 40 is an anachronism.
But mostly the Islands failed under his watch. The Isles blundered through one 100+ point season with a roster that wasn’t built by Lou and some Barry Trotz magic, and that was it. They haven’t been close since, and if The Bubble was their recent record it would have looked even more disgusting. They are only two points away from a place in the playoffs, but everyone around them has fewer games.
Nobody made Lou pay a career second-league center first-line money. But he did, and he’s already trying to make everyone feel crappy about it. Must be the right gas for him.
At least one hockey player gets it
In a sea of players who live not to rock and have nothing to say about anything, at least the Canadiens can boast one who gets it: