-Contributed by Mike Millis-CityofSports Blogger
Sports used to be exciting to watch because you never knew when that bone crunching hit was coming, you never knew when the pitcher would throw some chin music and the batter would rush the mound and punches would actually be thrown (although baseball does get credit for policing themselves during the course of a game), you never knew a smaller guard would be coming down the lane, and get pummeled by a center, leading to a fight (unless it was the Heat and Knicks, in which case you were pretty much guaranteed to see some fisticuffs). Now, quarterbacks are untouchable, when benches clear, it’s usually for a staring contest, and Ron Artest took things to the extreme on the hardwood, and ruined sports fights for everyone not in a ring or cage.
There used to be a time in the NBA, not so long ago, in which there was this term “playoff basketball.” This meant the referees tended to look the other way on touch fouls. Hell, they used to look the other way unless there were punches thrown. Teams used to have nicknames like “the bad boys” and were KNOWN for playing rough, maybe even a little dirty. That is, until the “Jordan Rules” went in to effect. This meant no touching the superstar. Anytime you even thought about so much as breathing on His Airness, the whistles were out. These rules are still in effect for the stars in the league, when I would argue the issue that needs to be looked at is all the flopping that has become rampant the past few years. It used to only be Vlade Divac. Shawn Bradley was terrible, but at least he had the decency to stand there and get dunked on. Instead, the league has completely cut off players from trying to persuade the refs, even in a nice way. There will be an all time high in technical fouls given this year. Write it down. You are no longer allowed to:
- Make aggressive gestures, including air punches, anywhere on the court.
- Disagree with the ref in an overt manner, the whole look of amazement genre.
- Run directly at a ref to complain.
- Drag out the postmortem of a foul call with continued questions, even if it’s done politely.
- Display any body language that indicates the call is being protested.
Kevin Garnett got a technical foul in the preseason for looking at a ref. Not saying anything, or making any aggressive gesture, for question the ref; he simply looked at the ref as though he had made a bad call. Where will David Stern draw the line? My guess is anywhere that increases league revenue.
Watching football this past weekend was entertaining for those who like to see points on the board, end zone celebrations (the ones that are still allowed), and quarterbacks smiling. Unfortunately, for those of us who like to see defense on the football field, new rules put in place have players scared of being suspended. Players are now terrified to lower their head and bring the pain, because the NFL, while having the players health in mind, is becoming more and more offensive minded, which means keeping offensive players on the field.
A few years ago it was made so that quarterbacks, as sacred as they are, became even more untouchable. These guys might as well not even be considered football players anymore. I could have sworn that these guys wear helmets and pads just like everyone else on the field. In fact, the quarterback wears a flack jacket, which is another level of protection that isn’t given to any other position player on either side of the ball. If it isn’t a penalty to tackle a running back who has the ball below the knees, then there is no reason the quarterbacks should be protected from that same hit. The NFL came out after week 6, in which there were a number of injuries caused by big hits, and said that players who lead with their helmet will face not only a fine, which they were already subject to, but a suspension as well. Games were undoubtedly affected by this new punishment. Sadly, it may be exactly what the NFL wants to see, and not just in terms of player safety.
The problem with the new rules lies in the clarity of them. There isn’t a clear definition for what a defenseless receiver is. Unless these guys are running around with no helmets or shoulder pads, I would argue they are not defenseless. James Harrison, who said he leads with his head to hurt people, not injure them (say what?), was seen giving up on plays in which he otherwise would have tried to cause a turnover. I remember watching Monday Night Football, and hearing Jaws say countless times, “You’ve got to keep your head on a swivel.” Well, Mr. Jaworski, that’s just not the case anymore. The sissification of the NFL is nearly complete, all that’s left is the uniform changing from pants to skirts.
My main issue with the commissioners of these leagues, besides turning our sports in to hugging contests and battles of good sportsmanship, is that they are putting certain players, or certain positions above the overall entertainment value of the league. Quarterbacks are not special. Kobe Bryant should get the same calls as Luke Walton. As long as certain players are treated as untouchables, sports as we know it will become more and more sissified.