Culbreath: That sad week in footballWritten by Matt 'Shaggy' Culbreath | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re in that sad week in the NFL Season between the conference championship games and the Super Bowl. The week where everyone starts to gather their office squares, the league pretends the Pro Bowl is cool, and we all wonder aloud if the big game has become such a spectacle, that it’s barely football. C’mon, be real, between halftime shows, and “didja see that ad!” and special guests, and pregame shows that are twice as long as the actual game… it’s not a game, it’s a celebrity event. You watch it because you have to, but really, the AFC and NFC Championship Games is the last bit of real football you get to watch for the year. If The Big Game is the Oscars, then Championship Sunday is Sundance.
This is also the weekend where Commissioner Roger Goodell gives his State of the League address. (Yes, that’s really a thing. No, we haven’t inflated the importance of football in our culture, why do you ask?) But I’d like to think he let us in on a little sneak peak of where he’s heading, when he told the NFL Network that they’re looking at eliminating the extra point from the game. He says it’s automatic and not exciting.
The change to fix it, he says, is simple: a touchdown counts for 7 points. If you want, you can choose to go for the two point conversion — make it, and you’re at 8. Blow it, and you drop back down to 6.
Boy, can I count the number of things wrong with this plan.
First off, did Goodell get picked on by a kicker as a kid? He’s done the second best thing to eliminating the kickoff by moving it up the field, and now he wants to do away with the extra point? The game is still called “football”, right? Don’t you think it should still have moments where you put a foot to a ball? Maybe he’s upset that when you sort player stats by points scored, literally the top 17 players this season are kickers: Jamaal Charles breaks up the logjam as the 18th highest scorer, and the next non-kicker is Jimmy Graham at 31.
Secondly, the sport is hard enough to explain to people who are just learning it. This is yet another complication. “They just scored, why are they playing again?” “Oh, well, you can try for 2.” “But it only gives you 1?” “Yeah, well, you used to kick for 1, but they did away with that.” You’ll have to change some of the glossary. You’re not really “going for 2” as you are gambling 1. Wait, that sounds awesome: The Gamble. I’m trademarking that. If the Candy Crush guy can trademark the word “candy”, then I’m laying claim to that. Pay me, Goodell.
Lastly, if you’re concerned that the extra point is so easy that it’s boring, why eliminate the play when you could make the play harder? You already pushed kickoffs ahead, why not push the extra point back a bit? Make it so it’s not so automatic. My favorite proposal came from Deadspin: since the extra point comes from football’s roots in rugby, why not take a couple of pages from their book? How about location: you have to kick the extra point from the same point on the goal line where the touchdown was scored. Yeah, the running back managed to stay on the right side of the pylon on the way in, but now the kicker has one monster of a chip shot. The more hilarious option: make the player who scored the TD kick the extra point. Could you imagine Ndamukong Suh returning a fumble for a score, only to have to kick the PAT?
The NFL has never been afraid of evolving. It moved the goal post to the back of the end zone in 1974. It added the 2 point conversion in 1994. Instant replay in 1999. Oddly enough, Tinkering is part of the league’s DNA, and is what helped it become the most popular spectator sport. So I’m not opposed to the league looking at ways at speeding the game up. But ask John Carney about the importance of a missed point after. As the announcers like to say, “That one could come back to haunt them.”