The NFL owns Sundays (why else would I drag my kids out of bed for 7:30 a.m. church service?!) and still has a good hold on Monday nights.
But there are flaws. Quirks. Head-scratchers. As Arsenio Hall might say: “Things that make you go, ‘Hmm.’ ” Five of them in particular, for me.
Five things I just don’t get about the NFL:
1. Timeouts before last-second field goals: Sure it’s legal. But stupid is legal, too. Coaches, this childish ploy doesn’t work. I cringed when Oakland Raiders coach Tom Cable called timeout just before the snap as the Jets lined up for a game-tying 52-yard field goal at the end of regulation last Sunday against the New York Jets. Of course, with crowd noise, the players didn’t hear the whistle, so the ball was snapped and kicker Jay Feely launched it, hitting one of the uprights. No good.
But it was like giving a mulligan. Feely got a chance to gain confidence that he had the leg to cover the distance. He could gauge the wind and any other factors. Then he nailed the do-over. Duh.
Thank Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan for this stroke of genius. He tried the timeout ploy last season against (ironically) Oakland. It worked. Raiders kicker Sebastian Janikowski nailed the mulli but then flubbed the do-over. So, of course, the timeout strategy became the copycat rage.
But get this, coaches: We’re not talking about freshman kickers here. They’re pros who get paid, too. They might miss FGs but not because they’ve been “iced,” especially when they’ve been given a free shot. The NFL rules committee should stop this trend before next season and spare us all the silly sight of grown men watching the clock as if they’re in Times Square on New Year’s Eve, then calling a timeout that doesn’t matter.
2. Part-time officials: It’s been awhile since I’ve seen NFL officials get hammered like they have this season. Then again, they haven’t been this bad in a while, either. They’ve blown game-changing calls and often look unsure and unsteady. Hey, people make mistakes, but when I hear about the “real jobs” NFL officials hold during the offseason I can’t help but wonder if they shouldn’t be spending that time going over film, studying rule changes, anything to become better officials! Frankly, they have other jobs because a) the gig (usually 15 regular-season games) allows them plenty of time to do so; and b) they only make anywhere from about $45,000 to $150,000 annually. Not bad at all for a part-time gig.
But far less than MLB umpires, NBA and even NHL refs, who are full-time refs. Shouldn’t the NFL splurge a bit and pay its officials enough so they don’t have to have another hustle? That way their offseason could be spent doing what the players do — getting better.
3. Dance penalties: This comes from the No Fun League files. Years ago, the NFL decided to ban “choreographed” scoring celebrations by more than two people because they indeed had gotten out of hand. You were watching a football game and suddenly Riverdance broke out. The result is a rule that itself is out of hand. Two weeks ago, Miami Dolphins Ronnie Brown, Vernon Carey and Ikechuku Ndukwe were fined $10,000 for their interpretation of the Cupid Shuffle, performed following a 5-yard TD run against San Diego.
First of all, go check out the video. Sure, this broke the letter of the “law.” But if there was any fine at all it should have simply been for bad dancing. (Of course the smartest guy on the team might be rookie tackle Jake Long, who, as you see in the video, started out like he wanted to “shuffle,” then ambled away in frustration when he just couldn’t quite get “to the left, to the left … .” With that move, the young man saved himself $10G.)
I am not encouraging a return to the days of “The Chorus Line.” But show some discretion, folks.
4. Early bye weeks: I get bye weeks: Players get a much-needed break from the 16-week grind. They heal. They recharge. They hug their kids. I get that.
What I don’t get are early bye weeks. In Week 4, the Lions, Colts, Dolphins, Patriots, Giants and Seahawks were on hiatus. After playing for less than one month! That’s like starting a new job, then going on vacation after you’ve filled out the new employee paperwork.
Whatever benefits that may have been derived by teams with byes in the fourth week of the season will soon be long gone. They’ll be at a disadvantage against teams who get their bye in, say, Week 10 — as do the Bengals, Cowboys, Buccaneers and Redskins. That’s a welcomed respite before the final push for the playoffs. I’m sure there’s some formula tucked away in a secret vault at the NFL offices that explains what teams are given byes so early in the season. But I have a feeling that even if I saw it, I still wouldn’t get it.
5. Sunday Ticket: I get NFL Sunday Ticket. At least I used to. My wife got it for me for Christmas years ago (although it was really for her because she’s the one glued to the tube all Sunday afternoon, even when it’s nice enough to, say, play golf).
It was great, except we didn’t want to give up our cable service for DirecTV satellite service (in a storm, satellite TV is test pattern TV), so for a couple of years we had both: cable and satellite. Well, belt tightening meant something had to go, and it was satellite because the only time we watched it at all was on Sunday afternoons in the fall.
I don’t understand why I can’t subscribe to some out-of-market service without having to pony up for satellite. As Minnesota representative (at least for now) Michele Bachmann would say, “That’s anti-American!” Of course the NFL has 700 million reasons per season why I have to do that. That’s how much DirectTV has paid for the exclusive rights to the out-of-market package through 2010.
I can’t even subscribe to Game Pass (NFL.com’s online package) and watch out-of-market games on my laptop because I live in North America! Now that is anti-American!