Do you remember when football was as simple as going to the lamppost and turning around? When it was too cold to feel your hands but that didn’t stop the games in the street. It only ended when your dad called you in to watch your favorite NFL team. Those are the days that made me fall in love with football and now they’re the same days that make me hate it. An unfortunate reality we all have to face is that there is no force in this world more powerful than time. Even a force as powerful as love stands no chance against the effect of time. The goliath that is the NFL might as well be a David against time. Just as he takes the seasons, the moon, and the sun, I am afraid there will come a day when Father Time takes “America’s Game.”
If you live and die by Big Blue like so many of us in New York, it could not have been easy watching Governor Christie fondling Jerry Jones in his billion dollar play pin this past Sunday. While it kills me to say this, I don’t know if any man deserved that win as much as Tony Romo. The man has been one of the most ridiculed players in sports over the past decade. This season may be the one that finally removes the monkey from his back and sends him from zero to hero in Big D. But that is not the story today, the story is a group of middle aged men who dictate far too many outcomes in today’s NFL. When Brandon Pettigrew began to run his seem route up the left hash mark midway through the fourth quarter, he beat Anthony Hitchens at the line of scrimmage. Hitchens responded by grabbing the jersey of Pettigrew, which by rule would merit a five yard defensive holding penalty. Pettigrew responded by grabbing the face mask of Hitchens, which by rule would merit a fifteen yard facemask penalty. Hitchens then responded by running into Pettigrew, grabbing his left shoulder and never turning to locate the football, a spot foul defensive pass interference penalty. Then, New York’s favorite, Dez Bryant, ran on the field with no helmet to argue the call. For all you non-football fans reading this, that man does not play defense. So I just broke down four penalties on one play, but one was called and later recanted. On a stage like the NFL playoffs to simply change your mind with no explanation and no justification is not only wrong, it is criminal. What Pete Morelli may not realize, or rather may choose to neglect, is that he won and lost that game. It was not Dez Bryant or Tony Romo, it was 63 year old Pete Morelli from St. Mary’s high school in California. I don’t directly blame Morelli, as many disgruntled fans have done today. The blame belongs to the shield and in the back of Roger Goodell’s mind, he knows it. After the NFL’s lockout several years ago, the NFL made various changes to “protect” their players and conveniently increase scoring. Points per game averages are up almost an entire touchdown since 1993. We get a lovely commercial break after a touchdown, after the extra point, before the kickoff and then right after it. The NFL and the networks that air the games make millions of dollars per touchdown. Penalties and the increased frequency by which they occur are ruining the game for football purists like myself. In the glory days when we would see Jerry Rice line up across from Eric Allen, an official would not dream of throwing a flag like the one we saw in the game on Sunday. What happened to our best against yours and may the best man win? The pampered receivers of today’s game cannot go a single incompletion without turning around and looking for a flag. It is borderline pathetic. Us giant fans remember that Sunday night game when Jeremy Shockey lost his helmet against the rival Eagles but continued to barrel defenders for a first down. In today’s NFL, that is a fifteen yard penalty and that player must come out of the game. Oh how the times have changed.
The rules of the NFL are not designed to protect defensive players or lineman, they are made to protect the players scoring the touchdowns. If a defender can’t initiate helmet to helmet contact, then why is it legal for a receiver or running back to do the same? I bet you’ve never thought about that. It is a boys game, played by men, controlled by dollar signs. Passion is what makes football the greatest game in the world. The passion and the fight have been stolen from the lungs of this once great game.
I will remain true and blue until the day I die. The Giants will be a bond I share with my family no matter where the forces of time take us. Big Blue will always take me back to those Sunday’s in the street. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for the NFL as a whole. A league that preaches integrity and fines men for “conduct detrimental” keeps its popularity on the backs of bookies and illegal gambling. Would a Browns game interest me unless I took a three team parlay that included them covering fourteen points against the Broncos? Probably not. As these rules continue to grow and the role of the official becomes more prominent who is to say the money does not sway those men. We have already seen it happen in the NBA and the NFL’s time is coming. Was it coincidence that last year’s Heisman winner Jameis Winston channeled his inner Ryan Lindley in the first half of so many games this season? Florida State was favored by 14 or more points seemingly every week so he didn’t have to lose, he just had to come close. Am I accusing Jameis? Maybe, I don’t know, but it is interesting to look at. This may just be coming from a sour giant fan but I do believe that was Dean Blandino, the head of NFL officiating, walking off Jerry Jones’s team bus on Sunday. The same day we saw the officials call a blatant pass interference just to change their minds minutes later. But as Kermit would say, that is none of my business.
The real story here is not the call, not the conspiracy theories that will arise from it, but rather the changing state of football as we know it. Football is not a contact sport, it is a collision sport. Men giving up their bodies for the man next to them and for the city behind them. Some may call that stupid and barbaric but I find it beautiful. It is what makes football so great. No other game takes the physical toll on the body that football does as they sacrifice a lot. The mystery as to why football players sacrifice so much is what draws me to the game. It is what I have loved about it since I ran around the street in my Franklin brand 00 Giant Jersey. Unfortunately, businessmen and greed are taking the game we know and love away from us. Or is it simply time? Do all good things have to come to an end? Derek Jeter took with him my love for baseball. My love for basketball remains, but only in the passion of the college game. It saddens me to admit that old Father Time may be stealing football from my heart as well.
Article contributed by Tyler Byrne. If you’re interested in getting your article(s) in front of New York sports fans, read here.