Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bountygate & the Future of the NFL

In a game predicated on violence and toughness it seems odd that the NFL would punish an organization and players as hard as it did the Saints for coaches and  players allegedly pooling money to incentivize teammates to knock star players on the opposing teams out of games. Bear in mind that in one Superbowl Ronnie Lott actually lost the tip to his pinky finger when it got caught in an opposing player's helmet, went to the sideline and had the open wound heavily taped, and returned to the game the same quarter. This is but one of countless examples of a game in which fans pledge allegiance not to witness the intricacies of hot routes and adaptations of the cover 2, but rather to eat and drink in excess while watching players of supernatural dimensions collide at Ford Escort in third gear speeds.

Then why would the NFL make such a stink and draw unnecessary attention to itself over the bounty program? The NFL's popularity has reached a point that to express its relative popularity in comparison to the other three major American sports combined requires scientific notation. The NFL is no longer a fall and early winter sport. It is a year-round phenomena that's seemingly only problem is figuring out a way to get sufficient product to its massive jonesing fan base. In the animal world the NFL is the human--it experiences no threat from any other animal besides itself.

Thus, bountygate is not about penalizing questionable organizational morality, rather it's about self-preservation. Remember the only thing that can hurt the NFL is the NFL. Besides incidents of players colluding with gamblers, injuries--concussions, in particular--represent  the only self-inflicted wound that could fester and seriously compromise the well-being of the league. Roger Goodell gets this. As such he hands out Draconian punishments for head shots, late hits, and what supposedly happened in New Orleans. Because if it becomes evident that the NFL isn't in control of the well-being of its players then an external oversight body, like the US Congress (as it did with MLB and steroids), might intervene. (In other words, when private markets fail [Lehman Brothers/ NFL] government must step in [bailout/ Congressional hearings].) When an external body steps in--especially an exceptionally powerful and unpredictable entity like the Congress--the NFL loses control of its product, which then might suffer and compromise the league's ever-expanding possibilities.

So what can be done to protect the NFL? Pop Warner to the NFL would have you believe that technology is the answer. We're one product testing away from an ethereal material that protects from the thousands of pounds of pressure in any given NFL hit. But consider the logic to this argument. First, the desire for a competitive advantage has led to players demanding lighter protective material. Players, like Ed McCaffrey, even famously shunned leg pads to grant them greater speed. So the notion that players will opt for protection over performance should be rejected. Then what ultra-light weight material exists that offers such protection?  If it exists why isn't it used in more common protective environments, such as automobiles, which could prevent more injuries and save more lives? The answer is that none exists. The NFL's argument is--it will. While this may be the case, the reality is that NFL's immediate and potential long-term solution comes from science, just not in the form next generation products.

Having D-plussed high school physics and gotten nauseous at the intimation that he take it in college, saying that DBSF isn't versed in physics is a gross understatement. But a day one principle that comes up is: force equals mass times acceleration. Because there is no way to moderate the acceleration of athletes (i.e., what athlete is going to obey, much less be able to monitor, a rule that states that they cannot run more than X miles per hour?), controlling for mass is the natural solution. The way to control mass--and this association of mass and weight should exhibit DBSF's suboptimal grasp of physics--is to establish a weight ceiling for players. In the absence of as-yet-created technologies that based on the need for an ethereal yet incredibly absorbent and protective material will likely revolutionalize textiles, the only way to protect the relatively vulnerable human skull and brain is to mandate lower mass, which in turn decreases the force of career- and life-threatening hits.

1 comment:

  1. Read: DBSF wants height and weight standards so he can play in the NFL.